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The Classroom that Became Holy Ground

By: President Matt Proctor

Would you help prepare a piece of “holy ground” for the next generation?

For Moses, it was a scraggly Sinai bush. For the shepherds, it was a Bethlehem manger, and for Paul, it was a dusty Damascus road. For me, it was an OCC library classroom.

I walked into that basement classroom at 7:00 a.m. on an August Tuesday in 1988. A university transfer, I didn’t know what to expect in my first Bible college class. Would the theological terms turn my brain to mush? Would the professor drone on about Greek words? And why so early?! (There are two kinds of people: those who love the morning and those who hate…those who love the morning. I did not love the morning.) “Not even God is up at 7:00 a.m.,” I thought. “How will I stay awake?”

The answer: Wilbur Fields.

I’d never met anyone like him. Brother Fields had the mind of a scholar, the heart of a shepherd, the imagination of a child, the vocal range of an opera singer, and the manic physical energy of Jim Carrey. He told Bible stories like he was on fire—flinging his body around the room, crackling his voice up and down five octaves, re-enacting biblical events. (Old as he seemed, was he actually reliving memories?) Wilbur hid in the Garden like Adam, hammered nails like Noah, blew trumpets like Gideon, slung stones like David, and I never fell asleep in that 7:00 a.m. class. (I can’t say the same for 1:30 p.m. World Geography class.)

In Old Testament History, Brother Fields turned that lecture hall into more than a classroom:

Within those four walls, we met God, and that classroom became holy ground (Ex 3:5).

If you attended Ozark, maybe you had the same experience. Maybe in those library basement classrooms, you finally understood Christ’s priestly ministry in Kenny Boles’ Hebrews class. Maybe you learned how to radically pursue Jesus in J.K. Jones’ Christian Life class. Maybe you wept at the foot of the cross in Matthew class with Mark Scott.

Over the years, one of my great joys has been seeing Ozark grads return to show their kids around campus. I see the emotion on their faces as they step back into L-13 or L-15. Sacred memories wash over them, and I’m sure their grade schoolers wonder, “Why are mom and dad getting weepy over a bunch of desks?” But for thousands of students, those ordinary basement classrooms became a place to “take off your sandals” as they found themselves in the presence of God. Would you help prepare that holy ground for the next generation?

This past May, Brother Fields went to be with the Lord, so a new generation of professors now stands in those classrooms. (Except for Mark Scott—he’s still going like the Energizer Bunny.) Teachers like Gerald Griffin and Bob Witte and Michael DeFazio still lead students into “burning bush moments” as they walk through God’s Word.

Playing piano and showing Holy Land slides, Wilbur made learning a multimedia experience, and these professors do too. But it’s time to update their teaching technology. The library basement lecture halls are the largest classrooms on campus, and plans call for each to get:

The cost to update one classroom is $38,000. Would you consider a gift to help prepare a piece of “holy ground” for the next generation?

Jesus used flowers, birds, coins, fig trees, fishing nets, and loaves of bread as teaching tools. The teaching tools in these classrooms are different, but the goal is the same: to grab students’ imagination and plant God’s Word deep in their soul. Someday those students will plant that same Word in the hearts of thousands around the world, so the $38,000 investment in these classrooms helps bring a global kingdom harvest.

We hope to make these updates to classroom L-13 over Christmas break, before classes begin again January 13, 2020. As you consider your year-end giving, would you pray about a generous gift toward Ozark’s mission of training men and women for Christian service?

This January, as we welcome new students, another university transfer like me will enter a library basement classroom, wondering, “What in the world am I walking into?” I know the answer. That room is a scraggly Sinai bush, a Bethlehem manger, a dusty Damascus road, and that student will walk out thinking, “Surely the Lord is in this place” (Gen 28:16). Thank you for considering a gift to help that future kingdom leader find holy ground. You can make your donation here.

P.S. We believe our partners can blow past $38,000! Anything beyond this year-end project goal will go to our need-based student grants—helping fill those classroom desks with young men and women ready to serve Christ. Thanks again…and merry Christmas!

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