by Karen Fliedner, Managing Editor
Every year the Reserve Officer Training Corps program launches several thousand newly commissioned officers into the operational military. Offered at over 1,000 college and university campuses across the nation, ROTC is also an incredibly lush harvest field for the Lord’s kingdom reapers. Whether working as OCF local reps or in partnership with CRU’s Valor program—and are largely volunteers—they faithfully serve the Lord of the harvest.
For over fifty years now, OCF’s conference center ministry—first at Spring Canyon in Colorado and later at White Sulphur Springs in Pennsylvania—has refreshed countless guests via activity-filled, Christ-extolling retreats and programs. The culmination of those things is a faith infusion, a reservoir of God’s truth meant to be spilled over into others.
Reaching future generations for Christ in the ripe-for-harvest mission field of college ROTC is where Rob and Chandra Enos and Tim and Penny Wiseman have taken the fruit of their respective conference center ministry experiences in service. Rob and Chandra are at Virginia Tech while Tim and Penny are at East Carolina University in North Carolina..
For Chandra Enos who “grew up OCF,” her Howard “Foot” and Louise Ingersoll parents sought out OCF small group fellowships at each new assignment, and the family forged “fond memories” from their vacations at both conference centers. Chandra and her husband, Rob, who also grew up in an Air Force family, spent “nine wonderful years of ministry” at White Sulphur Springs before taking “a huge step of faith to leave a life and work we loved” as well as the lifelong relationships formed there. “I mean, a farmhouse on 1000 acres with a pond for our three boys – who would leave that?” said Rob. Yet both sensed God “asking us to trust Him – and see how He could use our faithfulness.”
Passionate about a ministry to the military and investing in college-age students, their leap of faith led them to God’s open door of full-time staff with the Cru Military ministry’s Valor at Virginia Tech, ministering to “the 1000 cadets in the corps.” In partnership with OCF, Valor’s vision is reaching these “future military leaders for Christ, helping them grow in their faith to become disciple makers at their future duty assignments around the world,” said Rob.
Tim, a full-time ECU employee, is the OCF and Valor area coordinator and also devotes off duty hours facilitating an Army and Air Force cadet Bible study. While Tim’s OCF involvement ramped up when he and Penny were stationed in Hawaii—he later served as Bible study leader, area coordinator and on Council—Penny also “grew up OCF.” She regularly visited the conference centers with parents Fred and Ilene Stubbs, who also hosted neighborhood Bible study groups throughout their military days, and in recent years, served at the conference centers.
The same biblical principles Tim and Penny infused into their own children’s spiritual lives—and reinforced by conference center ministry—is what they as “pathfinders” pour into the lives of the ECU cadets, helping them to “follow Christ and integrate their faith into their academic and military aspirations.”
Whether mentoring or encouraging them in, or toward, a relationship with Christ, cadet ministry “is first and foremost about being genuine, transparent and relationship-oriented,” said Tim. “Our approach is to be gentle, but consistent supporters in the background, ready to help them be successfully find balance in their lives.”
He and Penny also host occasional dinners, help link up cadets with local churches and church services, and send letters to cadets during their stressful summer training events.
Rob says the VT cadets, always observing the ever-growing morally confused, anti-God culture around them, most often want to discuss topics such as “how to truly live as a Christian in the military, what they are allowed to share of the Gospel, and balancing military life pressures with their walk with God, and marriage.”
Rob, Chandra and staff all meet for Bible study, prayer and community time before mentoring the students, who in turn lead Bible studies or disciple others—and often initiate weekend events for outreach or just plain fun. We love the chance to be a part of those events with our family,” said Rob, who relishes the “forever friendships” that have been forged.
Seeing a cadet sharing the Word with his roommate at breakfast, or the “aha moment” look on a cadets’ faces they begin to understand God’s love and grace are among the pinnacle moments of ROTC cadets ministry, said Rob.
One of your ministry’s most moving moments?
Wiseman: There are many, but one of the most memorable was with ECU cadets at a regional retreat. One of the female cadets from our group openly and candidly shared why, as a single college student, she was maintaining her purity and devotion to the Lord. Her honesty and sincerity spoke volumes—especially since 80% of the attendees were males.
Enos: Immediately following morning formation, a campus dining hall is packed primarily with cadets for breakfast. Praying for an opportunity to share Christ with someone, He led me to a freshman, and we began talking. He was very open and completely engaged in the conversation, strongly desiring to talk about his understanding of God and about the good news of Christ. This “chance” encounter has turned into a weekly breakfast meeting.
Your advice for getting involved in the ministry of OCF?
Wiseman: Inventory your spiritual gifts, available time and resources, and what ministry activities are already in progress in your area. Then pray about how you might lead, join, follow, or stay out of the way, paying particular attention to areas you may be well disposed to go into. Be deliberate, intentional, prayerful and patient. College ministry has ebbs and flows, and it is easy to get discouraged, especially if you are a nose counter.
Enos: It’s so worth it to see how God can use your faithfulness as you give of your time, energy and resources to make His name known—even with late nights (and the grocery bills)!
Wiseman: If not for my association with fellow believers networked with OCF, I don’t think I would have come to the place I needed to be in my spiritual development to find my wife, and then lead and guide my family through the challenges of a military career over the years. OCF formed a foundation that remained constant no matter what my location or circumstances – connecting us with other believers striving for excellence in service to our nation and our Lord. And the conference centers’ ministry programs provided so much reinforcement to the biblical principles we tried to demonstrate and teach as parents.
Enos: It has been a blessing to be a part of a community of believers in the military, able to connect graduating cadets with specific individuals or fellowships at their first duty station. This foundation is a great launching place for new officers as they catch a vision of how God wants to use them throughout their military career and their lives.