by Karen Fliedner, Managing Editor
For Christians serving in our nation’s Armed Forces, even when their active duty days meld into retirement, God’s call to serve Him remains evergreen, for in age’s autumn years “…they will stay fresh and green” (Psalm 92:14), still bearing fruit. Such is the extravagant generosity of so many throughout all the years of OCF, faithfully doing God’s Kingdom work, exemplifying the heart of OCF for a Lifetime.
It all started with an invitation.
And the ensuing ripple effect throughout the ages, from people affirming that original “come follow me” call from the Messiah, has helped build God’s eternal kingdom—His adopted family—one redeemed person at a time.
The Granville Sharpe family invited Kit Vaughn to an OCU conference in Germany, where Dr. Bob Smith’s salvation message there brought the high school sophomore to Christ. At Fort Lee, Virginia, LTC Dick and Brenda Kail invited Army lieutenant Joe Orosz, on his first-ever duty assignment, to a Bible study at their home. Newlyweds Jeff and Grace Silliman were invited to OCF’s Spring Canyon conference center by their Sheppard AFB, Texas, OCF leaders, and were spiritually impacted for a lifetime by much-beloved OCF Bible teacher C.N. Tokatloglou (Mr. Tok), “a living example of Christ’s loving person-hood” possessing a “rare combination of great intellect and biblical wisdom with winsome humility,” said Jeff.
The sharply pressed military uniforms Jeff Silliman, Joe Orosz, and Kit’s husband, Gwynn, once wore in their active duty days have hung in the back of the closet for years now. Retirement is in full swing. But in God’s economy, His call to serve Him never rescinds. It’s all about impacting future generation for Christ, and extending invitations to come along on the journey by declaring, “…Your power to the next generation, Your might to all who are to come” (Psalm 71:18).
Involved in OCF “everywhere we were assigned,” and starting an OCF “if there wasn’t one,” when the Vaughns located to Columbus, Ohio, they started an outreach to ROTC students at The Ohio State University. The OCF local leaders provide guidance for the student-led Bible studies-and an occasional home cooked meal- while also mentoring cadets and midshipmen one-on-one.
Gwynn Vaughn first heard of OCF while attending the Army-Navy banquet, and later led Bible studies as a West Point cadet, attended OCU conferences, and was at Spring Canyon’s first-ever summer camp season in 1962. The Vaughns also serve as Spring Canyon Advisory Council members.
Feeling “especially burdened for those in the military, ” over the years the Vaughns led chapel Bible studies, mentored couples and ministered to West Point cadets. “Both of us came from chapel-going families, but neither one of us really heard about Jesus there,” said Kit, a former Army nurse. “It’s easy to think you are ready for heaven, when totally blind to the truth.”
It was at a ROTC retreat once when a new lieutenant proudly said to a chaplain, “LTC Vaughan just commissioned me.” The chaplain at the White Sulphur Springs-hosted event laughed, “LTC Vaughan commissioned me too-forty years ago.”
Retreats, conference center ministry: so much of the life-changing transformation occurring through OCF for a lifetime sits squarely the acreage of its two conference centers, where the living water of Jesus Christ is continually poured into others’ lives.
As with so many others over the years, both Jeff Silliman and Joe Orosz and their families drank deeply from the conference centers’ spiritual well of programs and events. Serving in many OCF capacities along the way, both are co-labors with other committee members on OCF’s Growing and Building capital campaign-each member generously giving of time, talents and treasure towards more of God’s kingdom building opportunities being available to more people.
Joe’s task with the design and construction projects helped OCF identify the project requirements and select a design firm and contractor for the building of Hemingway Operations Complex, Heritage House, and Veterans Memorial and Fort Shine Lodges.
Jeff ‘s public relations chair duty literally has him getting the word out about the campaign’s progress, and especially “stories of the conference centers’ impact on lives.” said Jeff. One such story involves committee co-laborer Joe with his son, John, both of whom participated in this past summer’s Over the Top, an outdoor adventure fundraiser for Spring Canyon.
Joe and John’s father-son shared adventure, “a priceless experience I will forever cherish,” said Joe, was amped up several decibels from thrill to poignancy: last year John was severely injured in Afghanistan by a 107mm rocket blast that killed several of his soldiers, nearly amputating his right arm while shattering his left foot. Fifteen major surgeries and countless minor ones later, John has gone from “being unable to walk and even care for myself to going hiking and climbing in Colorado.”
“John has pushed himself through pain and agony that I have never experienced, “said Joe. “Seeing him do things such as rappelling, rock climbing and backpacking during this time of his healing motivated me to give up sniveling and to persevere.”
For Jeff Silliman, the personal joy of sharing with his mother “the impact of OCF’s ministry on our lives and also meet Mr. Tok” at WSS, is also a legacy to continue. “I want to be part of passing on what that great cloud of witnesses passed on to us,” said Jeff.
One of your ministry’s most moving moments?
Kit Vaughn: We mentored a couple having marital difficulties, inviting the husband to dinner and weekly Bible study. He came to know the Lord during the nine months of Bible study, and decided to go back to his wife and family. That was twenty-nine years ago—and they are still together.
Joe Orosz: We took time during meetings to pray for the designers and contractors who shared their lives—family members in the military, illnesses, etc. During Heritage House’s construction, we prayed for the superintendent’s family member during deployment to Iraq and prayed him safely home. The superintendent had never experienced that on any other projects.
Your advice for getting involved in the ministry of OCF?
Kit Vaughn: If you want to be an authentic Christian, your first priority is spending time with Jesus every day. Once you’ve checked in with Him, look for the people most open to a relationship with Jesus: the lonely, sad, new, sick or hurt. Progress gently, patiently. Be considerate of their school schedule. Ask how you can pray for them—then do it. Take time to be their friend, not just their mentor.
Jeff Silliman: Don’t hang back when ministry opportunities present themselves. Pray that you will do the right things in the right ways for the right reasons and press forward trusting God for the results.
Joe Orosz: Find and team up someone your age and with your passion, and start or further the ministry of OCF at a university’s ROTC or an installation with a need for OCF presence. Start with a Pray, Discover and Obey session.
John Orosz: With the way military life works—PCSing all the time, deployments, etc.—OCF provides a easy way to fellowship and provide familiarity in unfamiliar situations. Based on my experiences with my little Bible study at COP Wilderness, I know that if I’m ever at a location without an OCF study, I’ll definitely start one.
Kit Vaughn: Gwynn received Jesus while reading the Bible, but most of his growth in Jesus came through OCF. We have found OCF as a good conduit to bring others to Jesus and encourage Christians in their faith.
Jeff Silliman: With our military moves and varied church experiences, OCF was, for many years, our ‘home church’ whether we were worshipping in a community church, base chapel, or sharing with a local home group. Those OCF men and women who nurtured us in biblical truths and held us up in times of trials remain to this day our dearest friends and encouraging examples.
Joe Orosz: We have seen the conference centers equip us to serve. It’s so exciting seeing second generation OCF involvement in my own family, and with other families a third generation impact. That is priceless.
John Orosz: Even before everyone in my family knew what had happened to me in Afghanistan, my OCF extended family from senior staff and conferences was already praying for me. People in Germany who I didn’t know at all were coming to comfort me. I even had a friend from staff take almost every conceivable form of transportation to come from England and help care for me. That’s how the Body of Christ should work, and I’m so glad that there is an organization like OCF to support and strengthen leaders and families in our military.