In an effort to facilitate life-changing conversations between North Americans and those in non-English speaking countries, Mark and Sherrylee Woodward established the Let’s Start Talking (LST) ministry in 1980. Oklahoma Christian University presented the couple with the 2017 Missions Award at the homecoming alumni banquet Nov. 3 for their mission efforts.
The Woodward’s met on a missions campaign to Scranton, PA and married in 1971. As Mark had already committed to a mission team overseas, the couple left the United States four months after getting married and worked as missionaries in Germany for eight years, before getting called back to the States.
“We took a one-year, temporary teaching job at Oklahoma Christian because it opened up the opportunity for us to take students back with us in the summers to Germany, and that one-year, temporary job became 24 years,” Mark said. “Pretty quickly, we figured out that what God wanted us to do was this summer program and we didn’t intend for it to start growing. We were just doing it to take 10-15 students from Oklahoma Christian to Germany every summer.”
These mission efforts led to the formation of LST. Since its creation, LST teachers study the Gospel of Luke with more than 5,000 people in more than 60 countries per year.
“The church can look very different in other countries than in this country and they can worship very differently on Sundays,” Sherrylee said. “That’s one of the many blessings we had working with Let’s Start Talking; meeting the missionaries, the missionary families, the missionary kids and the mission churches to see such dedication and creativity on the mission field.”
Junior mechanical engineering student Jenna Lippe participated in two LST trips, one to Mito, Japan while she was in high school, and the other to Vienna, Austria after her freshman year at Oklahoma Christian.
“Let’s Start Talking stands out from other mission trips because you get placed on a small team and are providing a service to the people overseas—teaching them English,” Lippe said. “It’s a way to get the conversation going and have the opportunity to talk about Jesus with people who maybe haven’t really heard about Him before or maybe haven’t had the best relationship with the church.”
According to Lippe, the greatest skill she gained from LST was the ability to carry one-on-one conversations with people she might not have ever otherwise approached.
“Doing Let’s Start Talking was one of the most important times in my life in developing me as a person, and I am just so thankful that I was able to be a part of it,” Lippe said. “This is something I am going to be involved with in one way or another for the rest of my life.”
The Woodward’s, who retired about a year ago from their positions at LST, returned to the Oklahoma Christian campus to accept their award from Alumni Relations Nov. 3. Taking place in the Gaylord University Center, other honorees included Bill Pink, Lana Reynolds, David Bowden and Lois Hill.
“The dinner was an opportunity to see many of our friends from past years, especially from our time on the faculty,” Mark said. “We are thankful for the true-blue relationships that we enjoy, mostly because we share the same values and goals as Christians. There are a lot of people who could have been honored. It’s not something you set out to earn. It is not really even about us in any way, it’s only about God. If we can use a moment like this to encourage the faculty, the staff, the administration and the students to just keep a mission spirit in their heart, then it’s worth it.”