With approximately 20,000 students currently attending our five Wesleyan institutions, and a legacy of over a century of Christian education, there is an impressive throng of alumni making a difference in our world for Jesus Christ. Here are a few who were made new by God.
'01 and '10, Indiana Wesleyan University
Austin Bonds grew up poor in Marion, Ind., the child of parents who battled addiction. Years later, as he prepared for college at Indiana Wesleyan University, his mother was murdered.
It’s through these difficulties that Austin knew he wanted to make a difference in others’ lives. Austin is CEO and founder of Metro Relief, a non-profit organization that holds the mission “to mobilize, empower, restore, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed . . . these things we do, that others may live.” Metro Relief is based in The Colony, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, and through the ministry, residents in the community can receive food, shelter, clothing, and more. Austin and his wife, Darcy, launched Metro Relief in 2011.
Austin and his team go where the needs are. The team drives a ministry bus to neighborhoods full of those with the greatest needs. “The bus becomes part of the relationship with the people,” said Austin. “We build a bridge with the people through the bus. Once people get to the bus we try to help them. The resources we provide are what bring them to us so we can care for them.”
Austin’s love for missions began at the invitation of IWU faculty member Dr. Wilbur Williams, who took a team of students to New York City to serve short-term in 1992. He says it was the influence of Dr. Williams that compelled him to study at IWU.
Candace Hoyt Gregory
'87, Kingswood University
Before entering the social service and family ministry profession, Candace Hoyt Gregory was a successful businesswoman who launched and managed family-owned pizza restaurants in Canada. In 1995, she began working as a case manager for Open Door Mission, a gospel rescue mission that serves the homeless in Omaha, Nebraska. Nineteen years later, she is president and CEO of Open Door Mission.
“My first of many psychology and sociology classes were taken at Kingswood University, which sparked my interest in further humanitarian studies,” said Candace. “And my relationship with Jesus Christ became personal there. The discipline of studying God’s Word, personal devotions, and a prayer journal that I established in school has been a big part of preparing me for my ministry today.”
Candace has become an advocate for the homeless, both locally and nationally. She is frequently sought out for her experience in implementing community prevention programs that help end the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
'89, Houghton College
Judy Fox’s dream of starting a sports ministry came true in 2003. A walk-on volleyball player at Houghton College, she became an All-American. She coached volleyball in high school and then in college at the top level of NCAA Division I universities. Later, she founded Ignite International, a non-profit that uses sports to inspire and empower others in the U.S. and abroad.
It was after a short-term mission trip to Mexico that Judy felt led to make an impact for Christ through sports ministry. Ignite’s primary focus is to take college and high school athletes on mission trips to make Jesus known. Ignite has ministered in 12 countries and has played a key role in building bridges between Israeli and Palestinian teams. The Houghton volleyball team has traveled with Ignite to Nicaragua four times, the first U.S. collegiate team to ever compete there.
"WE DO OUR BEST TO BE CHRIST WHEREVER WE GO."
She attributes her passion for sports outreach to time spent at Houghton. “Everything that I do now–the countless lives that have been touched by Ignite–stems back to guidance from God to attend Houghton College. For that I am and always will be grateful.”
'88, Houghton College
Dr. Myron Glick, M.D., has seen desperation at Jericho Road Community Health Center in Buffalo, N.Y. Many of his patients are uninsured, on Medicaid, or are refugees. One patient became blind because he was uninsured and could not pay for cataract surgery. Another patient with lung cancer chose not to receive treatment because he didn’t want to burden his family with the astronomical bills.
Myron and his wife, Joyce, opened Jericho Road in 1997 on Buffalo’s west side. The facility now includes two sites, with 15 medical providers and it receives over 40,000 patient visits per year on the east and west sides of Buffalo.
According to Myron, “Injustice in health care is illustrated by the disparity of health outcomes between the poor and the rich. People living in under-resourced communities die younger and suffer more chronic disabilities.” That’s why the team at Jericho Road has done its best to create a model of care that serves both the rich and the poor.
“Our goal is to provide the same care to each patient whether he or she is President of the United States or a refugee who just arrived in Buffalo.” Myron is hopeful “for the day when justice is restored in our nation’s health care system and all people are treated as if they are created in the very image of God.” Until then, he works to bring care and hope in his city.
'82, Kingswood University
“I’ll never forget the chapel service when God called me to help make his Word accessible to the unreached in their own heart language,” said Rev. Dr. Mark Taber.
Two years later in 1984, Mark began serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators, reaching people of Asia and the Pacific with the truth of God’s Word. He and his wife, Kathy, learned the unwritten language of the Luang people of Maluku, Indonesia, and wrote an alphabet and grammar for the language. Their goal of translating the Scriptures was accomplished in 2005 when the published translations of the New Testament and the book of Genesis were dedicated.
Mark currently serves as the Pacific Area Director for SIL International (Summer Institute of Linguistics), providing leadership for over 300 Bible translation projects and 1,000 missionaries throughout all the South Pacific. “Kingswood University is where God ignited within me an all-consuming, burning passion for the living, life-transforming Word of God,” he said.
'72, Indiana Wesleyan University
Francis Mustapha’s lifelong dream has been to return to his native Madina Village, Sierra Leone, to build a school. Seven of his siblings, including his twin brother, died before age five. Francis was not expected to live, but his dad heard of an “educated woman” who was a nurse.
“The only difference between me and my seven lost siblings was the intervention of an educated lady,” said Francis. “For me, education meant life.” In Francis’ home area, children rarely can attend school, but he was able to go away to a bigger town where he graduated at the top of his class from a Christian high school.
His biology teacher in Sierra Leone was a professor from Indiana Wesleyan University (Dr. Thom Davidson) who bought him a plane ticket to check out the university. Francis enrolled and worked jobs to pay for college and lived with another professor during school breaks.
Francis was an outstanding student and also a star on the soccer field. His fellow students remember that his face always shone with a broad smile. He graduated with a degree in biology and became a teacher. He and his wife, Bobbie, also an IWU grad, moved to Liberia, Africa, in the late 1970’s to teach. The couple later relocated to Sierra Leone, but because of the deteriorating conditions, Francis feared for his family’s safety and emigrated to the U.S. Later, during the civil war in Sierra Leone, over 1,200 schools were destroyed. New schools are needed now more than ever.
Teaching high school for nearly thirty years in Fort Wayne, Ind., Francis has received numerous awards. Among them, in 1994, he was named Indiana Teacher of the Year and runner-up as National Teacher of the Year. He has received the Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award, Alumni World Changers Award from Indiana Wesleyan University, and has been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame.
But none of these awards are as important to Francis as fulfilling his God-given dream of building a successful school in his home village in Sierra Leone. Two attempts to begin a school failed due to rebel warfare and destruction. So Francis deferred his dream until retirement in 2011, when he returned to Sierra Leone and used $50,000 of his retirement money to build the school. With help from his church and others, it opened in 2013. Ninety percent of the children attending had never been to school before. The school’s second year was postponed by the deadly 2014-15 Ebola virus outbreak.
In April, 2015, the school reopened, and Francis was present to help make it happen. Almost three hundred K-3rd grade students attend the school now, and it will eventually expand to high school level education. A man of deep faith and prayer, Francis never gave up on his God-appointed task. He says, “I appreciate the prayers of God’s people. And I am so grateful for the spiritual and professional foundations I received at Indiana Wesleyan.”
'84, Kingswood University
Rev. Dr. Steve Moore has three passions: personal growth, destiny fulfillment, and world evangelization, with a focus on developing leaders. He founded Keep Growing, Inc., an organization designed to help leaders and their organizations maximize their potential.
For nine years, Steve has served as president of Missio Nexus (formerly The Mission Exchange), a ministry devoted to helping churches and mission organizations accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission. This summer he will join the executive team of ABHE, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, as executive director of the Center for Excellence in Leadership. He will seek to multiply leadership development opportunities for students who attend the association’s member institutions.
Steve has written numerous leadership articles, and his monthly video blog, “Learning @ the Speed of Life,” is widely viewed by mission leaders around the world. His books include The Dream Cycle: Leveraging the Power of Personal Growth, While You Were Micro-Sleeping, Who is My Neighbor? and Seize the Vuja De.
A Wesleyan pastor’s son, Steve has a deep appreciation for his Wesleyan heritage. “While a student at Kingswood University I developed a love for God’s Word and a burden for the world,” said Steve. “The direction of my life and ministry continue to be impacted by these powerful currents.”
'01, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
In 2008, God began to stir in the hearts of Rev. Phill and Stephanie Tague for church planting. The couple desired to know that God was, indeed, leading them and that they weren’t just making a “trendy” decision. So they prayed about it separately for a week, and when they discussed the subject after praying, both confirmed that God wanted them to start a church to “set the captives free.”
With a degree in pastoral ministry from OKWU and seven years’ experience as a youth pastor and worship pastor, Phill and his wife began Ransom Church, opening in 2009 in a small movie theatre, in Sioux Falls, S.D. In six years the church has been one of the fastest growing churches in The Wesleyan Church, but remains true to setting captives free. Worship free, live free, and serve free are the basic tenets of the church, and those who attend are invited to attend worship services, join a small group, and participate in community and global outreach.
THEY WERE NOT JUST MAKING A TRENDY DECISION. GOD CALLED THEM TO "SET CAPTIVES FREE."
Ransom Church partners with several organizations to meet needs of community residents: holding backpack giveaways for students, providing a place with free clothes, meeting teachers’ needs through a parent-teacher association, and donating turkeys to families at Thanksgiving.
Phill reflects on his time at Oklahoma Wesleyan, providing advice for current and future students.
“Don’t neglect the study of the Bible or opportunities for practical application,” he said. “Follow the advice in Micah 6:8, especially holding onto humility. You’re surrounded by people who have been through this before, so humbly take advice from them.”
Brittany (Buchanan) Jolly
'10, Southern Wesleyan University
For Brittany (Buchanan) Jolly, children’s ministry has a personal side. The Southern Wesleyan University graduate placed her faith in Jesus at age five during vacation Bible school. Knowing the importance of children’s ministry is what motivates her as children’s director at Residuum, a Wesleyan church plant in North Charleston, S.C., in an area of deep poverty and addiction.
The new church’s launch team began by meeting at SWU’s Charleston learning center and recently started holding services. This fall, the church will relocate to a local elementary school.
“We spend many afternoons chatting with neighbors while our kids play together. We give (and receive) home cooked meals while a neighbor is sick, a husband is deployed, or a new baby is born,” said Brittany.
Since the Jollys do not live near their relatives, the importance of learning to “grow” an extended family no matter where they live is needed. Brittany knows her experience at Southern Wesleyan helped prepare her to see “how wide her sphere of influence could span.”
“In my home, I influence our three kids and my husband,” said Brittany. “In my North Charleston community, I influence parents at the playgrounds, at the beach, at the community pool. My education at SWU taught me how to rise to this type of challenge and face it head-on.”
'98, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
After graduation from Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Scott Harris took a job in banking. But just months later, he chose to follow a childhood dream: enlisting in the Marine Corps.
His journey first took him to Japan, where he served as a combat engineer, and within five years’ time he was deployed several times in the Pacific Rim and Iraq. In Japan, Scott was given a flight contract and graduated as an officer from flight school. He spent a year in Virginia at the career level school for Marine Captains.
In June 2009, he became a pilot of the HMX-1, the United States Marine Corps helicopter that transports the President of the U.S., vice-president, Cabinet members, and other VIPs. He is also qualified to pilot other military helicopters. Scott has made numerous trips around the U.S. as well as a trip to Oslo, Norway, to support President Obama when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
After five years of service at the White House, Major Scott Harris currently serves as aircraft maintenance officer (AMO) for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261. They will deploy this summer in support of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Africa. The main purpose will be to help bring stability to Africa for crisis response.
Amanda (Link) Harris
'08 and '14, Southern Wesleyan University
'85, Southern Wesleyan University
Education appears to be in the bloodline for Amanda (Link) Harris and her father, Dale. Both are graduates of Southern Wesleyan University. Amanda’s sister, mother, and maternal grandmother are also SWU graduates and teachers. Watching his parents work as missionaries in the training of pastors and Christian workers instilled in Dale an early interest to go into Christian education.
The father-daughter teaching duo independently received Teacher of the Year awards this year at their respective schools: Amanda teaches English at Walhalla High School in Walhalla, S.C., and Dale teaches Spanish at Tamassee-Salem High School in Salem, S.C.
“Nothing trumps the feeling I have when students who said they hate reading come up to me with smiles on their faces, wanting to tell me how much they loved this book,” said Amanda. Teaching comes with challenges, but watching a student’s love for reading come alive spurs Amanda on.
Dale was grateful that he could enroll at Southern Wesleyan because the university had made a strong commitment to the families of Wesleyan missionaries. His parents were under overseas assignment with Wesleyan World Missions (now Global Partners).