Have a conversation with Cadet Ashley Conrad, and it won’t take long to figure out that she has a heart for developing relationships with others and having real conversations about faith. “This is what I live for,” said the University of Mobile senior.
During her junior year, she began talking to other cadets about their faith and even invited a few to church with her. “I had some really interesting discussions about where they are in their faith,” said Conrad. “I noticed a lot of people would say they’re Christians—they believe in God—but they don’t really know what to do with that and what that means for their life.”
Bothered by the disconnect between faith and life among her classmates, Conrad was left pondering one question: “What can we do about that?”
After committing this question to prayer, the answer came when she got a call from her mom, who, during a conversation with a friend, found out about OCF. Her mom suggested that Ashley contact Hous Waring, OCF Director of Field Engagement.
“I talked to Hous for about 30 minutes, and it was, honestly, super amazing,” said Conrad, who admitted she had never heard of OCF. “Really, the mission of OCF—building Christian community, developing our faith with other believers, and having that community—I thought it was super cool and exactly what I wanted.”
Conrad would take the next steps by joining OCF and getting a small group started for ROTC at the nearby University of South Alabama campus.
“I felt like I was kind of going out on a limb in my faith, which is super exciting,” said Conrad. “I’d never led a small group before. It was all new to me. Sometimes you just have to go for it and step into it. And God gave me what I needed to start.”
Small group Bible studies like the one Conrad started for ROTC have been part of the DNA of OCF since the ministry began in 1943. Within these small groups, there is spiritual growth, an increased understanding of what it means to be a Christian, and a resilience developed for all of life, especially life within the military.
“Small group Bible studies have been the essential core gathering of OCF for more than 75 years, following Paul’s explanation in Romans 10:14–15,” said Waring. “It is in small groups that lifelong relationships are built. These are groups where food is eaten, conversations go deep, and we learn from one another how to put our faith into practice.”
If one were to compare an OCF small group to a community, one sees that these communities have their own unique way of doing life together.