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Life-and-Faith-Shaping Moments Around a Table

By: President Matt Proctor

I once heard a preacher say, “When I think about love, I think about a table.” In just a moment, I’ll ask for your help in protecting Ozark’s “dining table,” but first…

My wife Katie grew up in a large Missouri farming family. The Buntons are a big clan, and…how can I say this? They’re loud. They are passionate, joyful, opinionated, loyal, they argue recreationally, and they’re full of life. Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? That’s my wife’s family, and at the center of Bunton family life was Granny’s table.

As the family farm headquarters, my mother-in-law’s house was where Katie’s brothers and nephews (and our three boys) went to work every day. Our family dropped in often for visits or 4-H, and at some point each day, you ended up at Granny’s kitchen table. You’d come in, take a load off, drink a glass of sweet tea, and grab one of her rolls. When the family gathered for birthdays, Thanksgiving, or Sunday dinner, they congregated around that table.

And what a grab bag of people! Buntons were joined at the table by in-laws—Proctors and Hoevets, Dogotches and Branstetters. Republicans ate with Democrats, Ph.Ds passed potatoes to high school graduates, millionaires carried paper plates behind hourly employees, single career ladies talked with homeschooling moms, and Mizzou grads tolerated Kansas Jayhawks fans. Some were like Katie: an extroverted “salsa” who loves hot, spicy foods. Some were like me: an introverted “vanilla” whose two favorite spices are butter and sugar. So many kinds of different, but the table brought us together.

We dug into the food, and one big grandson ate three or four plates full. (Instead of “beast mode,” he called it “feast mode.”) We talked about hunting and theology, college majors and piano recitals, politics and sports, bushels per acre and Sunday’s sermon (5 stars, 3 stars, 1 star?). Funny stories sparked laughter, tender recollections brought tears, strong opinions stirred debate. Sometimes conversations got a little prickly, and the family tree started to feel like a cactus. But at the end of the day, everybody knew: if you’re at the table, you’re family.

At the table, good-natured ribbing and real talk built relationships. At the table, shared heartache led to impromptu prayer. At the table, kids overheard grownups and caught family convictions. At the table, toddlers and senior citizens were listened to. You might not be the richest guy in the county or the most popular girl at school, but at the table, you were valued, you were cared for, you belonged. When I think about love, I think about that table.

I also think about Ozark’s “dining table,” and to protect it, I’ll need your help.

The Bible begins in Genesis 2 with the command to eat freely, it ends in Revelation 22 with the command to drink freely, and Jesus knew there was something about a meal together that creates communion. Many of our life-and-faith-shaping moments happen around a table, and that’s certainly true at Ozark.

I’ve been eating in the OCC dining hall for thirty years, and I’ve seen a junior set a cafeteria tray down next to a shy freshman and make a friend for life. I’ve seen a guy strike up a first-time conversation with a girl and, fifteen years later, bring their kids back to eat at that same table. I’ve seen students get up from different tables, gather around a seated hurting classmate, place hands on her shoulders, and pray.

I’ve seen professors and students deep in conversation over chicken tenders and golden corn. Doctrines are discussed, guidance is given, encouragement is shared, and when they get up to take dirty plates to the dish room, I’ve seen a little extra spring in the student’s step. I’ve seen extroverts and introverts, Americans and Kenyans and Laotians, kids with new cars and kids with no cars, and just like at Granny’s house, the table brings them together.

When I walk into the dining hall, I hear laughter and stories and debates and songs, and I hear community being formed. Classrooms are where Christ is learned, chapel is where Christ is worshiped, but the dining hall is where Christ is experienced. There, at the table of this family of faith, students know they are valued, they are cared for, they belong.

But right now, Ozark’s dining hall needs some work. The roof has developed leaks, and as Physical Plant Department Assistant Director Justin Wilson said, “We’ve band-aided it as long as we can.” After a recent inspection, the professionals told us the threat of structural damage is real, and it’s time to replace the roof. We also need to replace a kitchen steamer. The cost to replace the roof, the steamer, and repair the water damage is around $83,000.

Would you consider a gift to protect the OCC dining hall as a life-and-faith-shaping place for the next generation?

We want to be good stewards of our physical campus. Ecclesiastes 10:18 says, “Laziness leads to a sagging roof; idleness leads to a leaky house,” and we don’t want to be lazy or idle.

But especially, we want to be good stewards of our students. God has entrusted hundreds of young men and women to our care, and we want to provide spaces where they can learn, worship, and build community. So many come from broken homes, and Ozark’s “dining table” is where they build—some for the first time—life-giving, Christ-centered relationships.

Would you give a generous gift to replace the OCC dining hall roof and steamer? Click here to donate now.

Thank you for considering a gift toward this $83,000 “dining table” project. When I think about love, I think about a table…and your partnership trains men and women who will invite a lost world to the communion table of Christ.

Yours in Christ,

Matt Proctor

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