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Pastoral Leave Program Welcomes Rev. McMullen

Pastoral Leave Program Welcomes Rev. McMullen

The Rev. Ian McMullen of First Presbyterian Church in Maxwell, Iowa, will visit University of the Ozarks the week of April 1, 2019, as part of the University’s Pastoral Study Leave Program. He will lead the University’s weekly Chapel Service at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2. McMullen is a second-career pastor who attended seminary after 15 years as a computer network engineer. A single father of 3 grown daughters, he has served the same Presbyterian church for 10 years. McMullen believes that Christianity is all about relationships and as such, leads his congregation in inviting people to know Christ rather than just attend worship. He has held most leadership positions in his regional governing body and also serves as a leadership development mentor for clergy and churches of many denominations in his home state of Iowa. The Pastoral Study Leave Program was established in 2005 by the late Rev. Dr. James R. Struthers of Stillwater, Okla., a long-time member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Struthers established the program to bring Presbyterian pastors to the U of O campus for personal and professional development

The Rev. Jessica Dixon, interim associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Norman, Okla., will visit University of the Ozarks during the week of Oct. 1 as a visiting pastor in the University’s Pastoral Study Leave Program.

She will lead the University’s weekly Chapel Service at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

Dixon studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., earning a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. She then went on to earn a master of divinity degree at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Ordained in the PC (USA) in 2015, Dixon has served as an interim pastor in Chicago and Oklahoma. She enjoys science fiction, comic con, TV and movies, knitting, food from all cultures, art, reading, social justice and people.

The Pastoral Study Leave Program was established in 2005 by the late Rev. Dr. James R. Struthers of Stillwater, Okla., a long-time member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Struthers established the program to bring Presbyterian pastors to the U of O campus for personal and professional development.

More than 25 pastors have participated in the program since it was established.

Former University of Maryland All-American and NBA player Adrian Branch will speak at University of the Ozarks at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the Rogers Conference Center. The event is sponsored by the University’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) as well as the athletic program. It is open to the public and there is no cost for admission. Branch was a two-time honorable mention All-American at Maryland and finished as the program’s third all-time leading scorer. He went on to play three seasons in the NBA, including on the 1987 NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. He has served in the ministry and as a television sports analyst since retiring from his playing career. Branch will speak on how taking life one day at a time in faith has assured him of being a “world champion.” Eight-time Grammy-nominated contemporary Christian singer and songwriter Matt Maher will perform a concert at University of the Ozarks on Friday, Sept. 22, as part of the university’s 2017-18 Walton Arts & Ideas Series (WAIS). The concert, which begins at 6 p.m. on the campus mall, is being held in conjunction with Family Weekend. The public is invited to attend and there is no cost for admission. Guests are encouraged to bring their lawn chairs. Get more information! Since his 2008 major label debut, Maher has become a staple in the artistic and songwriting community. He has garnered multiple radio successes writing and recording songs like “Lord, I Need You,” “Hold Us Together,” “Christ Is Risen,” “All The People Said Amen” and “Your Grace Is Enough.” Maher has penned songs recorded by Chris Tomlin, Crowder, Third Day, Matt Redman, Hillsong, Passion, Jesus Culture and Bethel among others. In 2015, he was presented Dove Awards for Songwriter of the Year and Worship Song of the Year. Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, Maher got his start in church music at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa, Arizona, while studying jazz at Arizona State University. He has written and produced seven solo albums, three of which have reached the Top 25 Christian Albums Billboard chart. Four of his singles have reached the Top 25 Christian Songs chart. Maher has written or co-written five No. 1 radio singles. In a 2013 career highlight, he performed in Rio de Janeiro before Pope Francis and a crowd of three million. In 2015, Maher was awarded his first RIAA Gold certification for “Lord, I Need You.” His latest album release in 2015, “Saints and Sinners,” is a call for social justice rooted in the work of historic faith leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa. Maher currently lives in Nashville with his wife and children. The theme for this year’s seven-event Walton series is Music: The Universal Language. The series is presented by the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.

Tyler Martin came to University of the Ozarks to play basketball and pursue a physical education degree. He left with a passion for God and a calling to serve Him through college ministry.

Martin, a 2014 Ozarks graduate, is currently serving a full-time, one-year internship with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. He is working to become a nationally certified U.S. missionary for Chi Alpha, an Assemblies of God Christian ministry for college students that is on more than 300 campuses across the country.

With the help of Admission Office Manager Emmalee Morrow, a member of the Assemblies of God Church, Martin started the Chi Alpha organization on the Ozarks campus in 2012 and watched it grow from about 15 students to close to 50 in the course of two years. Under Martin's leadership, the Ozarks chapter of Chi Alpha sponsored small group Bible studies and Monday evening services, both of which quickly grew in popularity.


After establishing the first Chi Alpha student Christian organization on the Ozarks campus in 2012, recent graduate Tyler Martin is pursuing a career in collegiate ministry with the organization.

"During my junior year I knew my basketball career was over and I was praying to God about what He wanted me to do on this campus," Martin said. "I was a little aware of the Chi Alpha group at Arkansas Tech, and I thought it might be a good organization to have on the Ozarks campus. I talked with Emmalee and we just started contacting people. It started pretty small and just gradually grew."

At UCA, Martin is involved in outreach efforts and leads a weekly disciple group, the D-Group, of about 12 male students "in their walk with Christ through life." He also helps organize the organization's weekly Monday evening service that includes live music and ministry. The first Monday evening service drew more than 700 students.

"It was pretty wild to see more students at the service than we had in the entire college at Ozarks," said Martin. "Chi Alpha is really big here. It's the largest campus ministry on the UCA campus and may be the largest in the state."

Martin said Chi Alpha preaches the importance and value of family, a lesson he learned first-hand on the Ozarks campus.

"I feel like I can talk about family because that's what Ozarks was to me," Martin said. "My heart will always be at Ozarks and it will always be a special place for me because it helped me figure out who I was and where I wanted to go."

Martin plans to pursue a career in collegiate ministry with Chi Alpha, something that would have seemed far-fetched when he enrolled at Ozarks.

"I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but I found Chi Alpha and everything changed for me," Martin said. "I discovered that I have a real love for this kind of work. My professional goal is to pioneer Chi Alpha organizations at other colleges and assist them in growing and reaching students.

He said there is a "real need for campus ministry in this country and in this world."

"Our college campuses are made up of every ethnic, cultural, racial, political, social, and spiritual group in the world. They are the future businessmen, teachers, lawyers, politicians, nurses, and most importantly, neighbors, mothers, and fathers. The future of our world relies on the success of these university students. Chi Alpha Campus Ministries serves to reconcile students to Christ and disciple them into transforming their university, the marketplace, and the world."

Over Spring Break, members from the University of the Ozarks' Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) teamed up with students from other area universities to participate in Mission Arlington, a non-profit mission organization dedicated to community service in Arlington, Texas.

The trip was organized by U of O BCM director Kaitlynn Williams and university staff member Vanessa Hollowell, who were happy to collaborate with other BCM chapters.


Nine students from University of the Ozarks' Baptist Collegiate Ministries were among the volunteers at Mission Arlington during Spring Break 2014

"Of the 17 students, nine were from U of O, six from Henderson State, and two from Arkansas Tech," Hollowell said. "We did community service projects during the morning hours, and led Rainbow Express, a children's outreach effort in area apartment complexes during the afternoons."

Andrew Cummings, a U of O senior from Mansfield, Texas, enjoyed spreading the word of Christ, while also helping the children and community members.

"Every day, we would have work projects around the community. It could be anything from picking up trash, to moving furniture, to delivering food; anything to help out the community. Then, we'd spend the afternoons working with Rainbow Express in the area apartment complexes, hanging out with kids from the area, learning memory verses, doing crafts and singing songs," Cummings explained.

This Spring Break marked Cummings' fourth trip to Mission Arlington, and he had a special connection with the work this time.

"I have always wanted to give back to the community," he said. "I know that I had it easy growing up, but I know that a lot of children don't have it easy. And, I wanted to help out in whatever way  I could and spread the word. However, this year I felt even more of a drive to help with Mission Arlington, because I feel like God is calling me into full-time mission work after I graduate."

Rebecca Phillips, a sophomore at University of the Ozarks, recently released her first self-published book geared toward helping young Christian adults navigate difficult decisions and deal with their inevitable mistakes.

Phillips, originally from Arkadelphia, Ark., is currently majoring in radio/television/video and strategic communication. She has been actively involved with the Methodist Church since childhood and decided to attend U of O to figure out how best to continue that work throughout her life.

"Because of my major, I have come to truly believe that communication can change the world; you just have to do it in the right and moral sense. One of my main roles on campus is being involved in the religious life. I'm the vice president of Methodist Campus Ministries as well as the media specialist chapel fellow," Phillips said.


Rebecca Phillips, a sophomore RTV and strategic communication major, recently self-published her first book, which is geared toward helping young Christian adults navigate tough decisions and deal with their mistakes.

Despite Phillips' spiritual foundation in high school, she struggled during her freshman year at college and found herself questioning the decisions she was making. Phillips began working on her book, "God Knows What Sex Feels Like," shortly after as a way of reconnecting with her faith and sharing her story. 

Phillips has received some criticism for the provocative title of her first work, but defends her choice, saying the book isn't about sex.

"It all started off as a joke with one of my friends. 'God knows what sex feels like' was advice that she told me to make a point that God understands everything, even my most intimate experiences," Phillips explained. "When I started to dig into scripture and discover things for myself, I realized that was true. Whatever experiences I was having, whatever choices I was faced with, God knew about them. And I knew that God wanted me to share that."

While Phillips never imagined that writing a book would be a part of her plan, she does plan to continue writing. Her priority now, however, is to finish her undergraduate degree.

"My goal is to graduate from University of the Ozarks. After that I hope to use the skills I learned to speak at churches, youth events and colleges and to continue writing books. Video ministry is something that I want to delve into as well," Phillips said.

For more information about the book or to purchase a copy, please visit

Debbie Sosa, a 2013 University of the Ozarks graduate, is using her education and psychology degrees to help orphaned children in Central America.

Sosa, who earned a double major in early childhood education and psychology of human behavior, is serving as a full-time missionary in Zacapa, Guatemala. She works for People for Missions (PFM) and Houses of Hope International, a pair of non-profit religious organizations that are striving to make a positive difference in impoverished areas throughout the world.

Sosa helps run an orphanage in Zacapa that houses approximately 30 children between the ages of 1 and 17. She serves a number of roles at the orphanage, but the one she is most passionate about is education.

"I believe we can really empower these children through education," Sosa said. "A long time ago, God put a special love and burden in my heart for the poor and needy, especially for children. I have come to an understanding that infancy and childhood are very decisive phases in a person's life. It is in those stages that lives can be easily molded and where learning becomes an inner part of the child."

Sosa, a native of Santa Tecla, El Salvador, said she believes that the one way to break the cycle of poverty is through education.

"We all know that children will eventually turn into a nation's present, and when this time comes, they need to be thoroughly equipped with a strong foundation in knowledge, values, beliefs, and life experiences," Sosa said. "This educational foundation will allow them to make the best decisions for their own futures and give them the ability to live in ways that enhance the lives of the people around them."

Though Sosa has been working for PFM/HOHI ministries for just a few months, she has found her work extremely fulfilling.

"Every single day has been a blessing," she said. "I thank God for the privilege that He has granted me of each day representing a new opportunity to help improve these children's lives and to minister God's love to them in every way possible."

Her background in childhood education and psychology has also been a blessing.

"My education at Ozarks prepared me wonderfully for this calling," she said. "I'm using what I learned in the classroom every single day when I work with these children."

PFM was established in 1986 to bring the light of the Gospel to rural communities.  HOHI was established in 1990 as an outreach ministry directed toward at risk orphans and abandoned children.  Currently, PFM/HOHI has international operations in India, Guatemala, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma/Myanmar, Bangladesh, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana. The purpose of HOHI is to provide at risk orphans and abandoned children with an environment where they can grow strong emotionally and physically, and become healthy adults and productive citizens of their nations.


Debbie Sosa, a 2013 Ozarks graduate, is helping run an orphanage in Guatemala as a full-time missionary for People for Missions and Houses of Hope International.

University of the Ozarks junior Patience Ozuru has a calling. She feels compelled to change the world in whatever small way she can. Now, thanks to funding by the Academic Enrichment Fund, she is getting the chance to spend 10 months in Uganda working with children as part of Africa Renewal Ministries (ARM).


Starting in July, Ozarks junior Patience Ozuru will spend 10 months in Uganda working with children as part of an internship with Africa Renewal Ministries.

ARM is a non-profit organization working throughout Africa to provide child development centers focused on Christian foundations. Ozuru, a political science and international relations major from Little Rock, Ark., knew this organization represented the perfect opportunity for her to offer her help and learn more about her own future.

"After graduation, I want to work for a non-profit organization that puts political pressure on corrupt governments. This internship will allow me to get a feel for how non-profit organizations work," Ozuru said. "I'll be in Uganda for 10 months. Six months will be spent in Gaba, then another four months in Soroti."

Ozuru will be working in two different sectors of ARM's child development centers.

"In Gaba, I'll be working in the early childhood development program. I'll be assisting the social workers to get the infants and toddlers adopted. In Soroti, I'll be working with older kids, teenagers, as sort of a mentor. It will be my job to build relationships with these kids to make sure they are receiving the education and care at home they should be getting," Ozuru explained.

Ozuru's internship has been funded by the Academic Enrichment Fund, a university award that was established to help qualified Ozarks students fund enriching educational opportunities.

"Funding from the Academic Enrichment Fund has been super helpful," Ozuru said. "It motivated me and inspired me to carry through with this. Once I was funded, I thought 'Wow, I can actually do this.' "

Ozuru will have to delay graduation for one year as a result of the internship, but she is committed to following through with this opportunity.

"I love interacting with people, and I love learning by interacting with different people. I feel like this will remind me of what I'm working for, why I'm spending so much time in college trying to figure out the best way to help people. This is the perfect opportunity for me to experience how a non-profit organization operates in a country like Uganda," she said.

Ozuru always knew she wanted to change lives for the better, and coming to Ozarks has helped her narrow that focus.

"Before I came am to Ozarks, I knew I wanted to help others, but I didn't know how I wanted to do that. I realized that studying politics could give me the edge to understand and hopefully change political policies that are negatively affecting people all around the world," she explained.

Another influential part of Ozuru's time at Ozarks has been her spiritual growth.

"I've grown so much in my faith since I've been at Ozarks," she said. "I've developed a personal relationship with God. I've been plugged into a community of believers that has guided me into realizing what I'm meant to do. When I researched a little about ARM, I was so moved by their mission. This organization is striving to educate these kids about how they can help change their country for the better. They are also giving them a Christian foundation to make them not only leaders, but leaders for God. That's really beautiful to me."

Ozuru plans to leave for Uganda in early July 2013 and will return the following spring. She plans to keep a detailed journal of her experience, which she hopes to turn into a book when she returns to the States.

Sometimes it is easy for people who have been blessed with abundance to forget that there are others in the world who haven't been as lucky. This year, students in Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM) want to encourage people to remember those less fortunate than themselves, and through a project called Operation Christmas Child, to give people an opportunity to share their blessings with others.

Operation Christmas Child is a project run by Samaritan's Purse, an international relief organization with one simple mission: to help those in desperate need wherever they are found. Through the Operation Christmas Child project, groups or individuals can collect Christmas gifts which will be packed into shoe boxes and sent to needy children around the world.

Kelly Gorny is coordinating the Operation Christmas Child project at Ozarks, along with fellow BCM members Jessica Temple and Karlye Tolley. Gorny said the idea started with the church family at First Baptist Church in Clarksville. BCM members decided to sponsor boxes of their own, and to help collect gifts from others who were interested in participating. The group has planned events in the various campus residence halls where people can donate items, pack boxes, and offer prayers for the children who will receive the boxes. Gorny says that this simple yet powerful project is one way members of BCM are promoting the giving spirit of Christmas.

Each shoe box will typically contain items for either a boy or a girl in one of three age groups: ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Common gifts are things like toy cars, bracelets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, marbles, jump ropes, footballs, Play-Doh, Christian coloring books and pop-up Christmas books. Gorny said many people also include a personal letter for the child who will be receiving the box. The destination country for the boxes varies from year to year; the Samaritan's Purse organization selects the area where they feel the need is greatest.

"I personally appreciate the opportunity to spread the love of Christ to children in need during the time of the year when love is most desired," Gorny said. "It is one small way to put a smile on someone's face and to know that you provided for a child when they might have not been provided for otherwise."

So far, BCM has organized collection drives in Smith Hall and in MacLean Hall, packing almost a dozen boxes. The group will continue to accept donations through the November 21 deadline. Individuals who would like to participate should assemble a shoe box of gifts for a boy or girl in one of the target age groups. Because the supply of boxes is very limited, participants should provide their own shoe box if possible, and are also encouraged to include a $7 donation to cover shipping charges. To donate to Operation Christmas Child, contact any member of Baptist Collegiate Ministries, or send an email to