Mark and Alanna Underwood moved their family to Oakdale in 2005 from Wilmore, Kentucky. Mark is our science teacher and a great participant in the Oakdale ministry. Like so many Oakdale staff members, Mark models an involvement in student lives that includes participation in student activities, leadership in their spiritual lives, and service to our broader community. Read Mark’s reflection on ministry below, and click on the image to hear his video introduction.

Just last week, I was giving career guidance to a student last week who shared about their desire for variety in their profession someday. As I reflected on that, I realized that I have been blessed with incredible variety in my own career here at Oakdale. But the source isn’t as obvious as it may first appear.

Mark Underwood Video

I teach about the tiniest building blocks of matter (chemistry) and the life that is so small that we can’t even see it (biology). I teach about our entire universe (earth/space science) and the laws that govern it (physics). I teach about how our own bodies work (anatomy) and how they are both similar and different from all the other kinds of life on Earth (taxonomy). I teach about the entire Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well. But the subjects that I teach aren’t the main source of variety.

I have the students come over for strategy games, and regularly coach them in the game of Redemption where our team competes at the National level. I play pick-up games of basketball, ultimate frisbee, dodgeball, soccer, and football. I host viewings of “Dr. Who” and join the students on “Lord of the Rings” marathons. I am the “One-Man-Pep-Band” at home games and I lead groups of students to conquer the hardest level of rock climbing at Via Ferrata. I eat meals with the students, and even worship in church with the students. But the activities that I do aren’t the main source of variety in ministry here either.

The true source of variety is actually from the students themselves. Each of them is unique as individuals, and each collection of them as a class or a team is unique as well.  Because of the small class sizes here at Oakdale, and because the ministry here is designed to be holistic, I am privileged to be able to truly connect with students on a deep level. They each have their own story about their past, and they each have their own dreams for their future. It amazes me how God weaves all of these varied people into the beautiful tapestry that is Oakdale.

As amazing as that is though, it is still too focused on ourselves. This year’s theme is “Beyond Ourselves”.  We are trying to look past individual desires to see the larger story.  God has a plan for each of our lives.  But on a larger scale, He has a plan for the whole world. Here at Oakdale, I am merely one of the tools that he uses to help the students to connect with Him and prepare for the future that He has called them towards. I have been blessed over the years to be able to lead a few of our students through the prayer of salvation, and those have been highlights of my ministry here. But God has brought hundreds of students closer to Himself during that time, and many of them have gone on to serving Him with their lives.

One of them is now serving here at Oakdale herself as a girl’s dorm dean. One of them is now in medical school preparing to become a missionary doctor. One of them is now serving the mentally handicapped. One of them is leading their youth group at their local church. There are countless stories like that, and these former students are the future of God’s work in our world. And that’s a lot of variety.