‘OCF played a role in my Christian life’
The 75-year history of the ministry of Officers’ Christian Fellowship could very well be summed up as God working through men and women desiring to make an eternal difference, who reach out in faith to invite someone to a small group Bible study, retreat, or workplace breakfast—and forever impact a life. Below are memories and stories from those impacted by OCF.
Susie Palm Wort
My most impactful OCF memory was attending the 1961 OCU International Conference in Berchtesgaden, Germany, at age 13 with my parents Ira and Helen Palm. I remember being moved by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit among us—all ages, all nationalities—and by the beauty of God’s mountains around us, highlighted by verses from Psalm 121 in the front of our meeting room, “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (vv 1-2, KJV).
Paula Spoede Halvorson
OCF has been pivotal in my life. I was born into an OCF family, and my spiritual heritage has its roots deep in the organization. That is no doubt my greatest gain—the salvation of my parents and the subsequent teaching and discipleship in my life. But I began to wonder what the purpose of our organization was. Then at one of the retreat centers, as person after person from my life walked through the doors, I realized that OCF was more than a small group, it was my neighborhood. For a child growing up in a transient lifestyle that was of inestimable value. OCF is roots, both spiritual and relational.
OCF has provided both a guiding light and an incredible fellowship for both my wife Shelly and me, throughout a 43-year career that had numerous successes and trials in both peace and war. OCF’s values and principles are fundamentally based on biblical truths through the teachings of Jesus Christ, and they have been so helpful in the leadership we provided, the relationships we have made, and in dealing with both success and failures along the way. The fellowship of OCF believers has always been there, shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm.
I was stationed in Germany commanding a rifle company. I served as the chapel organist, but that was the extent of my involvement in military ministry. I was invited by a warrant officer to attend an OCU Bible study. That invitation led to my first experience in participating in a Bible study composed of officers and their wives. The fact that there were respected officers serving in critical assignments who openly acknowledged their faith was a great encouragement to me. My involvement with OCF drastically changed my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian officer in the Armed Forces, that serving as an officer and living a committed Christian life were not mutually exclusive.
My life is different because of OCF! My husband Paul established a personal relationship with Jesus Christ because of an OCF Bible study group. Our daughters began going regularly to OCF conference centers when they were infants. As teenagers, they served on the volunteer staffs at the conference centers. Now, my grandchildren have attended and/or served on staff. Observing and interacting with godly and accomplished OCF members in various venues has been an incalculable encouragement! Who can measure the difference that has made in our family!
Robert Van Antwerp
OCF has been my “life group” since receiving Jesus in 1977. In small group Bible studies, as a Council member, and at conference centers, I have been blessed by being in the Word, in fellowship, and mentored by those on a similar journey.
In Germany, a couple of lieutenants invited me to their home Bible study. They had a personal relationship with Him that I did not have. Since then, many mentors in OCF have encouraged my faith growth. Ray Porter and many others impacted my life, as well as my former boss Robert Van Antwerp, who has been a singular example of how to faithfully live out your faith.
When we think of OCF, Tami and I think of two things: the source of the friendships we built over the years via weekly Bible studies, and Spring Canyon—our family-chosen, grandparents-included vacation spot. There our boys grew into young men; we bonded as an extended family. But OCF is about the people, whether then-Major Tom and Jean Schmidt at Fort Riley, Kansas, in 1981, or the Goldsmiths, Oroszs, Prinzingers, and Bergers in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2018. It is knowing we’re never alone, always prayed for, and continuously blessed.
I joined OCF in 1965 after COL Warren Schilling took me from Fort Bliss to Spring Canyon Conference Center. I was on pots and pans duty there when my partner at the sink introduced himself as LTG William Harrison. OCF has been important in my life ever since, and I want to help the young officers and others meet Jesus and have the same good experiences I have had.
In a recent Bible study in 1 Samuel, we were asked, “How have you seen God’s protection in your life?” What came to my mind was our meeting Jim and Carolyn Groves in the first few weeks that my husband Woody was in the Air Force. Jim wasted no time in inviting us to join him in starting an OCF study when we got settled at Ellsworth. God provided us through Jim a strong biblical foundation, accountability, and a pattern to continue in our lives for the next 30 years through the Groves’ examples. We thank God for the OCF, Jim and Carolyn Groves, and all the many, many Christians who impacted and influenced our lives in ways too numerous to count over the many years.
I was called to active duty as an Air Force officer in 1952. Soon after that I saw Cleo Buxton, whom I had met earlier. When we met again, he immediately recruited me as a member of OCU and encouraged my wife and me to be active in starting Bible studies among fellow officers. Realizing there were other Christian officers in the military gave us a vision and a purpose beyond living for promotion and self-improvement. Almost without exception, wherever we were stationed we either started or attended an OCF Bible study. As I look back on 24 years of active service, I am thankful for the launch OCF gave me and my family into active ministry to peers.