This is the moment I've anticipated since that night seven years ago, when I accepted the call into ministry: it's the beginning of my final year as a student at OCC. In this place, I've been trained and equipped to live on mission for and with the Lord. In this place, I've come to know who I am because I know who he is. In this place, I've been challenged--in every sense of the word--to grow: in wisdom, in character, and in conduct (but unfortunately not in stature, for this 5'3" grad-to-be). When I consider the impact this place has had on my life, I'm overwhelmed. The books read, the words typed, the hours spent, the tears shed, the laughs shared, the fun had, the love found.
This place has given me the closest of friends--friends who know me and love me and challenge me to grow. They sit with me, cry with me, and pray over me when life's burdens are too much. They sing with me, dance with me, and laugh with me when life's joys overflow. My first semester at Ozark, I sat by a blue-eyed, light-haired girl in orientation. We both had upperclassmen for roommates, and by the end of the year we'd become best friends (and roommates ourselves). We've spent hours dancing in our room, jamming in the car, eating french fries, and staying up too late laughing. Now, we walk into our senior year together, and I can't believe how much I've learned about love from just one of many friendships made here.
This place has given me the opportunity to be mentored and trained by phenomenal ministry leaders. My freshman year, I sat in awe of the wisdom and grace I found in Dr. Teresa Welch. Now, we sit down over dinner to talk about life. This place has not only given me an extremely valuable academic experience, but an extended family as well.
As a 14-year-old girl, I dreamed about attending a "Jesus school," to learn from and serve with Jesus people. In all my dreaming, I never anticipated the rich blessing this place has been. God has grown me beyond what I could've imagined. "Thankful" and "blessed" don't go far enough to describe my gratitude for this place, this town, these people.
This place has taught me what it means to love God and love people and abide in him every single moment. This place is sacred to me--and to many others--because this is not just a school. This is home. This is OCC.