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My Favorite Day of the Year

By: President Matt Proctor

Do you know my favorite day of the year? It’s not baseball’s Opening Day, Christmas or even Easter.

My favorite day of the year is commencement at Ozark Christian College. On a Saturday morning in May, graduates gather in caps and gowns, and as they walk across the stage to receive their diploma, each graduate’s plans are read aloud. What a joy! Pulpit ministries, youth ministries, mission fields, public school classrooms, church plants—I love hearing all the ways our alumni will serve around the world.

That moment each May reminds me why our work here matters. Over the last 74 years, some 15,000 alumni have left our campus for the harvest fields—serving in all 50 states and over 100 countries—and that’s only possible because of friends like you. Thank you!

On May 21st, another 138 students graduated from OCC, and in case you couldn’t join me at commencement, let me share the stories of four who walked across the stage:

Drake Holderman – Owasso, OK
Bachelor of Arts, Student Ministry

As his high school graduation approached, Drake was planning to play college baseball and become a firefighter. But a youth minister sensed Drake’s ministry calling and challenged him, “You can save people from earthly fires or eternal fires. What’s it going to be?”

Drake enrolled at Ozark, and God has prepared him to rescue those in spiritual danger.  “My wife Andrea and I have grown so much during our time at Ozark. Through Gospel classes and Life of Christ lectures, my faith in Jesus Christ has been strengthened tremendously,” says Drake. “I am more convinced now than ever 1 Corinthians 15 is true: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.’”

An outstanding young preacher, Drake is this year’s class orator, and after Ozark, Drake will join the student ministry team at Christ’s Church of Oronogo, a congregation of over 2,000. “I walked onto the campus of Ozark Christian College four years ago to train for student ministry, and I am excited to start serving.”

John Riley Weaver – Indianapolis, IN
Bachelor of Arts, Bible & Intercultural Studies

You might not guess that a town named Plainfield, Indiana, is a strategic Muslim community. But the Islamic Society of North America—the largest Muslim organization in North America—is headquartered in this quiet suburb of Indianapolis.

It’s also where John Riley Weaver grew up.

So when Riley enrolled at Ozark, perhaps it’s no surprise what happened next. “Within my first few weeks, I was involved in outreach to Joplin’s Muslim community,” remembers Riley. “This led to ministry with international students at Missouri Southern State University here in town, conversations with an imam (a Muslim religious leader), and eventually an eight-month internship in North Africa doing evangelism to a Muslim people group.”

Riley was this year’s valedictorian, and now he's returning to Plainfield Christian Church for a year-long residency in their missions department. Riley ultimately plans to follow God’s leading to cross-cultural ministry in the Muslim world. His time at Ozark has prepared him well: “I loved how I could serve in ministry, talk about important issues and pursue Christ within such a great community.”

Elke Fallas – Mannford, OK
Bachelor of Arts, Administrative Ministry

Elke grew up surrounded by kids. Like, hundreds of them.

Elke just has one sibling—her sister, Erin—but when her parents became directors at Sunset Bible Camp, the two girls suddenly found their lives full of children. As Elke grew, she knew children’s ministry was in her future.

Elke also discovered she has the gift of organization, so she majored in Administrative Ministry at Ozark. “I like helping people be more efficient. I enjoy taking care of details so other people are freed up to use their ministry gifts. When a ministry event runs smoothly, I’m the one in the background, smiling.”    

Now Elke serves as the administrative assistant at Midwestern Interactive, a local business here in Joplin. “Without Ozark, I wouldn’t have the walk I have now with the Lord, I wouldn’t know how to communicate the gospel as effectively, and I wouldn’t have met my husband and ministry partner, Juan Carlos. I’m thankful to God for calling me to Ozark.” 

Matthew McBirth – Jeffersonville, IN
Bachelor of Arts, Student Ministry

Matthew McBirth loves basketball. So when he concluded the NBA was not going to be an option, he decided to become an athletic trainer. But God had other plans. Because of his youth minister’s encouragement, he ended up at OCC.

“I am so grateful for my time at Ozark,” says Matthew. “Ozark has helped me deepen my relationship with Jesus.

Because of a heart for underprivileged teens, Matthew thought he’d be an inner city youth minister, but again, God had other plans. Instead, Matthew and his wife, Allison, will begin an exciting new work on our campus. Matthew will help launch Ozark’s diversity department to help us recruit and retain a greater diversity of students and staff.

“The one thing I wished for as a student was more cultural and ethnic diversity on campus,” says Matthew. “I’m so excited to be part of the team that works to make that a reality.”    

Helping the Next Class of Students

I look forward to watching how God uses Drake, Riley, Elke, Matthew and the rest of the Class of 2016. I’m also looking forward to a new group of students this fall! 

Your prayers and financial gifts will play a huge role in their time at Ozark. At $355 a credit hour, a student’s average tuition cost per semester is $5,325 (not counting room, board or books). Without our financial partners, these students would see an immediate rise of 20% in their college costs, and their increased student debt load could hinder their ability to go wherever God leads.

With this in mind, will you give a gift toward student tuition?

Elke Fallas writes, “Your support has a tremendous impact—not only in helping us graduate with lower debt, but also in knowing that there are people we haven’t even met who are cheering us on in this venture of ministry.” 

Just as you’ve invested in Drake, Riley, Elke and Matthew, will you consider supporting our new class of incoming students?  

Because of your help, on some future May morning, this fall’s freshmen will walk across the stage to receive their diploma and head into the world with the good news of Christ (Matt 9:38). As I hear their plans read, I’ll know that friends like you made possible the kingdom footprints these graduates will leave. 

Thank you for your partnership in the mission! Click here to help students like these.

Matt Proctor

P.S. Drake Holderman writes: “Thank you! Because you trusted Ozark Christian College with your stewardship dollars, I am one more young man—one of over a hundred more men and women—working hard in the church for the good of the world and the glory of God.”

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