Thanks to Fusion, He Only Filled Out One Application: Zach McConnell

By: Kendra Housel

Zach McConnell (featuring an IWU shirt)

Most seniors in high school spend months and months hunched over their computer, filling out application after application, writing essay upon essay about how something less-than-inspiring completely changed their lives, hoping to get accepted to a university.

It is an exhausting, often painstaking process filled with lots of uncertainty and often anxiety.

While this scene is very familiar to Zach McConnell, it is more reminiscent of the fact that he has applied to be on the television show Survivor for the past fifteen seasons.

No, McConnell’s college search was much simpler.

This youth pastor did something that he says that he would never advise his students to do. After a rather apathetic time of searching around for possible colleges to attend, with the encouragement of his youth pastor and a memory of an amazing time he had at Fusion (an IWU hosted high school conference), McConnell applied to just one college: Indiana Wesleyan University.

Of the decision to approach college with such confidence and optimism, McConnell said, “I was captivated and wowed by the campus and the environment. In 2007, God had called me to ministry, but I didn’t necessarily know where to go.”

“I only applied to IWU, because my youth pastor suggested I go, and I had really liked Fusion,” he explained. “But looking back, despite my apathy of searching for universities, I knew the Holy Spirit was leading the way … I don’t advise my students to just submit one application and ‘hope for the best’ just because of one youth conference. Terrible idea. But God knew what was happening.”

The time that followed this step of faith is what McConnell describes as “life-changing.”

His time at IWU was marked by a transformation of his heart, attitude and perspective. Much of that was due to the community that McConnell found one that continues to love and support him today.

“Every year continued to be a year of growth while attending IWU, ” McConnell said. “I found amazing accountability partners that I still connect with today. I have amazing ‘summit’ moments where I am reminded that I am uniquely and wonderfully made in the image of God.”

“I cannot express this any louder – I am so thankful for my time at Bowman Hall. The biggest piece of the puzzle I learned is that I am a Man of God, because He has created me in His image. I’m so thankful for the principles of Bowman and the people I was surrounded with while there,” McConnell said.

McConnell also found another relational blessing while studying at IWU.

As he pursued his degree in Youth Ministry, he also pursued his wife, Amanda. The pair graduated together in 2012 and are getting ready to welcome their first child this December.

McConnell and his wife, Amanda, at their graduation from IWU.

Currently, McConnell and his wife both serve in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at Linwood Church, where he is the NextGen Pastor and she is the Children’s Director.

McConnell rejoices in the opportunity to serve alongside his wife and lead his students to a more fruitful and authentic relationship with Christ through celebration, service and discipline.

In reflecting on his time at IWU, McConnell feels that he learned much about ministry, while also being affirmed that it was truly what he was called to do.

He said that he truly appreciates that IWU is an academic university that makes spirituality a priority over academics.

With a great love for IWU and the Fusion conference, of which he served on the leadership team while a student, McConnell continues to bring his students to attend Fusion annually, all the way from South Dakota. This year will be his 11th Fusion.


Written by Kendra Housel, writer for the IWU Alumni Center. Kendra is a junior Education and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. She is also a member of the University Chorale. Kendra is passionate about serving Christ through writing, singing and caring for others.

Pastor of the Week: Garrett Howell at Awaken Ministries

By: Dezaray Barr

Garrett Howell
Garrett Howell

Garrett Howell is the Founder of Awaken Ministries. He graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministries and in 2016 with a graduate degree in Practical Theology.

“Being an IWU student taught me the importance of seeking God’s presence in my everyday life,” Howell said. “I vividly remember spending hours in my hall chapel as a freshman, praying and seeking God for a fresh movement of His Spirit in my life.  I was surrounded by students and professors who encouraged this pursuit of the Lord, and they added wisdom and insight into my walk with the Lord.”

One of Howell’s favorite professors was Dr. Chris Bounds. “He taught our Theology 1 course and our Theology 2 courses. These classes were powerful and pushed us as students to seek the work of the Holy Spirit in our own lives,” Howell shared. “I remember having tears in my eyes during many class periods as we studied about the work of God in our lives, because I was so needy and hungry for the reality of God’s transforming work in my own life. These courses taught us the reality of God’s work in our lives and that we can and should expect and seek that work today.  Bounds was a pastor to us all, and still is a pastor to me.” Bounds also currently serves on the board of directors for Awaken.

Awaken Interns

When Awaken began at Indiana Wesleyan, 10 students were selected to be part of the first discipleship group on campus. “These 10 became a close-knit, deeply passionate team that often resembled a spiritual family: they cared for one another and urged one another on toward Christ,” Howell said. “I will never forget a retreat we took as a team one Spring semester. We went to one of the student’s homes for a weekend of fun. We played Frisbee and soccer, ate great food and laughed a lot.  But most of all, we spent time praying over one another and speaking into each other’s lives.  The authenticity and vulnerability of that community was the most powerful thing I had ever felt in my life.  I knew, at that moment, that this was the right thing for me to be focusing on in life.  It was an undeniable reminder that my life should be spent seeing young believers wake up in their faith and become fully sold out to the Gospel.”

Awaken_shot 3[5657]Howell has seen many incredible moments at the hands of God through Awaken. “I remember a night when our weekly Awaken service was about to begin at Indiana Wesleyan University. Just before the service, our student interns walked through the student center to invite additional students to join the event.  During this walk, one of our interns encountered an IWU student who was less than enthusiastic about joining the service; in fact, this student was very much opposed to joining our worship event.  For reasons we still don’t know, this student decided to take the interns’ advice and attend Awaken anyway.  As the service began, the presence of God was overwhelmingly present in an undeniable way.  People began to come forward to the altar and receive prayer, in spite of the fact that no altar call had been made.  The student who didn’t want to come was watching this, clearly surprised at what was going on.  As the service continued, this student began to feel a sense of conviction, and the Spirit moving in his own life. Crying hard, he walked forward and knelt down to the ground, where one of his friends came and prayed with him. Needless to say, God was moving powerfully that evening!” Howell explained.

Howell encourages IWU students to be strong in their faith now, “Don’t wait,” he said. “The way you live life now is creating your lifestyle for the future. You are becoming the husband, wife, father, mother, businessman, pastor, coworker and Christ-follower that you’ll be the rest of your life by how you’re living today.”

Indiana Wesleyan University’s Homecoming schedule this year includes the Awaken Night of Worship on Thursday, October 5th.  This event will be a worship service that gathers alumni and current students together to seek a fresh movement of God’s Spirit in our lives and in our community. Worship band Alanna Story will be leading worship. and Garrett Howell will be preaching.  Doors open at 9 pm, and the service begins at 9:30 pm.  We would love to see you there!


Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication and Honors Humanities double major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. At IWU, Dezaray runs both the JWHC Blog and her own blog. Visit Dez’s website at


Kirk Proctor – Ministry & Mission – Pastor of the Week

This week’s Pastor of the Week goes to Kirk Proctor. Kirk is the Lead Pastor at Faith Wesleyan Church in Lansing, Michigan. He has been the Lead Pastor at Faith Church for 3-years. His ministry includes churches in Wisconsin for 2-years, on staff at a church in Sturgis, Michigan for 2-years, and at a church in Illinois, Heritage Wesleyan Church for 6-years.

When I asked him about how Indiana Wesleyan has influenced him, he and Emily both said with smiles, “IWU introduced us to each other!” Kirk met his wife, Emily while attending Indiana Wesleyan University. They shared that they often talk about the influence of faculty who helped them to look at church ministry in a whole new way. They were encouraged to get outside of the “IWU bubble” and be part of the surrounding community which has helped them to learn how to have effective outreach which is evident by their ministry today. “IWU pushed us out of our comfort zones to be involved with people in the surrounding community,” said Kirk. During his senior year he served along with a fellow classmate, IWU alum, Matt Carder in a small church north of Marion, Indiana. “This gave me an opportunity to learn and develop as well as understand the intergenerational needs of the church,” said Kirk. The church group under their ministry grew as they invited the community and fellow students to attend.

IWU played a vital role in his personal and vocational role in the church. In his current ministry at Faith, Kirk often brings an Indiana Wesleyan mug on the platform when he preaches!  As part of the recognition we give Pastors a Pastor of the Week mug which may even be displayed during upcoming Sundays at the church.

Upon their graduation in 2002, they entered full-time ministry. Their ministry is a shared responsibility since Emily is heavily involved in church as well. Emily’s ministry consist of women’s ministry. They have three elementary age children. Emily also serves as a substitute teacher in the local school that her children are part of. “This gives me an opportunity to reach people outside of the church & many become friends giving me the opportunity of ministry,” says Emily.

Kirk shared that a couple of verses that have been favorites of his and have helped shape his ministry are:
“I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” – Psalm‬ ‭119:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” – Acts‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

One of their personal and ministry passions include missions work. Check out this story from just a few weeks ago: View story here! This coming year Emily will be leading a team to Sierra Leone and Kirk will be leading a team to Mexico.

Help me in congratulating Rev. Kirk Proctor as this week’s Pastor of the Week.

Written by Rev. Rick Carder, Director of Alumni & Church Engagement at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Passion Meets Profession: Micah Kephart

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAMZAAAAJDY1YjM2NDc5LTIxMDktNDFjNC05OTZiLWJmNDk3YTBjMDlhYQ“It was me, in my bedroom, with a laptop” chuckled Micah Kephart while reminiscing on the founding of Poetice International in 2009. This non-profit organization was born from a man with passion for formal education and AIDS education.

Its vision is to see impoverished countries transformed through the equipping and empowering of indigenous leaders to shepherd their communities into spiritually, sociologically and economically healthy lifestyles.

Kephart explained that he did not feel a strong calling for missions until 2005 when God broke his heart and opened his eyes through a trip to Zambia. Having previously been a church planter, he said that the Lord began creating discontentment in him. “God really wrecked me, is the word I use to describe my experience…but in a way that God said, ‘I want to use all of it, I want to use all of your past all of your experiences, all of your education all of your gifts and talents, for the poor and vulnerable,’” he said.

The experiences God placed in front of Kephart throughout his time in Zambia began to shape his heart, and he knew then that God was calling him to something greater. He felt The Lord saying, “You’re my poem, you’re my orchestration, I’m writing stanzas of hope in peoples lives through you, and that’s kind of where poetry and justice came from.”

Poetry sets the backdrop. Justice takes the stage; this is the proclamation of the name that explains Poetice International. This nonprofit organization focuses on integral mission; they believe that both evangelism and social involvement should be combined. Poetice International calls people to love and repent in all areas of life as those involved bear witness to the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.

Poetice International has made a way for many to live better lives throughout their six years of work. They currently support over 100 orphans and vulnerable children, assessing individual needs for each child. Care they provide includes tuition sponsorship, uniforms, school supplies, food assistance, mosquito nets, healthcare, and occupational training. They are committed to ensuring that every child in their program graduates high school, whether that means they remain under their care for two years or ten.

UntitledNot only does this organization focus on children and their well-being, but it also focuses on communities as a whole. Poetice International concentrates on water and sanitation throughout each community in order to help alleviate common health issues. This organization also helps to fight infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Leaders and volunteers of Poetice International shepherd young people through biblical purity and sound medical information. Along with teaching medical information, they provide economic advancement for the community by training them and providing the proper materials for agriculture, brickmaking, sewing, and knitting.

“I want God to be pleased,” Kephart explains. “I want those who are caught in exploitation to be set free, I want orphans to hope, I want widows to have dignity and opportunity. It doesn’t matter how many, however many God will grant us. My main goal is to be faithful to the call, and go one step at a time.”

Kephart’s first step began at Indiana Wesleyan University. He explained the discipline he learned through his time at school, “Leading an organization takes incredible focus and incredible discipline, and I would say that began at Indiana Wesleyan. It’s an environment to dream and to believe that the future can be whatever it is supposed to be. I had a lot of space to dream.”

Kephart is now able to live out his dream, always trusting in the Lord and His plan first and foremost. “God’s definition of success is not mine,” he explained. “But I think being faithful is the best thing we can do, the transformation we want to see in the world begins with us.”

And for Kephart, his transformation began at Indiana Wesleyan.


Written by Savannah Buckley. Savannah is a sophomore Strategic Communications major with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Global Ministries. She is a member of IWU PRSSA and hopes to use her communication skills to work for a nonprofit organization. She loves to incorporate Christ and her testimony throughout her daily life and her work. Visit Savannah’s personal website and blog at



Following God’s Call: The Stoltzfus Family

God has worked through Daniel and his wife Angela (’95) in a special way. They have spent the last 20 years working for non-profit and ministry organizations. They both served oversees at Youth of the Mission before they came to IWU, where they met and started their journey together. “Ever since then, we’ve had a heart to serve the poor and the marginalized,” Daniel said.

Over the years, the Stoltzfus’ have served in organizations including The New York City Relief, The Bowery Mission and Arizona Youth Partnership. Daniel is now the Chief Executive Officer at Interfaith Community Services (ICS).

“Everything Angela and I have done has been motivated by Isaiah 58. It is our life passage that we try to live out as it talks about loosening the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, helping the poor, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked,” Daniel said.

View More: they love about this passage is that the Lord later goes into a series of promises: your healing will quickly appear, the glory of the Lord will go before you and His righteousness will be your real guard. “I like to tell people that is like God saying He’s got our back,” he said.

Their current mission organization, ICS, offers emergency financial assistance to those coming off the street. They also help seniors who are lonely and isolated, and provide mental health education.

Over the years, Daniel has seen a lot of heartache and suffering. He explained that there was one moment – before going to college or starting a life in missions – that directed his path.

When Daniel was working with New York City Relief, he was in the midst of a lot of crime and drug activity. He had grown up in a small town as a pastor’s kid, so working with the Relief Bus was overwhelming to him. They had turned the bus into a soup kitchen, and Daniel was serving as best he could. “I walked into the men’s restroom in the public park and there was a woman laying on the floor with a heroine needle sticking out of her arm. I don’t know what it was in that moment, but I just felt incredible compassion that I can only believe came from the Lord. It was basically a challenge to say, ‘This is what I want your life to be about – to be about serving my kids that are in this situation,’” Daniel said.

All of the work he has done since that moment has been grounded on that experience. He understands that life is not about him, it’s about God. Because of this, the Stoltzfus family has moved around a lot, following where they believe the Lord is directing them.

Stoltzfus daughters working at Bowery Mission. Rebekah on left.

Rebekah Stoltzfus, Daniel and Angela’s daughter, is a freshman at IWU this year. She expressed that her parent’s mission has shaped who she is as a daughter of Christ. She’s grateful that they showed her how to follow God no matter what. “I was very uncomfortable a lot. We moved around a ton and it was hard at the time, but thinking back on it, it shaped me… God doesn’t want us to be comfortable. He wants us to be uncomfortable so that we work for His glory not for our own comfort.”

The Stoltzfus family has seen a lot of hurt, but God has rewarded them for their faithfulness. He has shown them transformation and healing. Recently, at ICS, a grandmother and her grandchildren showed up at their front door. These people had come from the street – hungry and tired. Daniel was able to get them into a family shelter and provide comfort. He saw this grandmother again just a few weeks ago.

“She was just beaming with hope and joy,” he said. “To me, that’s why we are here and why we do this work. It’s that opportunity to give joy… To help people find that kind of hope. We do it motivated out of our love for Jesus and our belief that this is a big part of the work He has called us to do. That’s what it’s all about.”


Written by Kelly Reed. Kelly is a senior Strategic Communications major with a focus in Public Relations. She is the President of IWU PRSSA and hopes to work as a communications director of a nonprofit organization after graduation. She loves to tell people’s stories through written word, artwork, speech and strategy. Visit Kelly’s personal website and blog at



Ministry for Life: The Campbells

What would a pre-med student from Converse, Indiana and a Canadian business major possibly have in common?

Ministry. At least, that’s what Darren and Nancy Campbell have found true in their lives. The two didn’t set out to do ministry, when Nancy started at Indiana Wesleyan she thought she needed to become a doctor. Darren planned to pursue a career in law. Never would they have imagined themselves in a bi-vocational life, working as pastor of a multi-site church, and owning the leading Christian bookstore franchise in Indiana. Also, they never imaged that God’s call on their lives would give them so much joy. As Nancy said, “If we had lined up the pros and cons of going into ministry, we wouldn’t have done it. It took steps of faith.”12207844_963516477027671_1789822677_n

Dedicating their lives to full-time ministry, Darren and Nancy Campbell have learned the value of prioritizing God’s will over their personal plans. Although ministry was not their original plan, God has reshaped their vision and directed them to a life of service that gives them joy.

When Nancy started college, she assumed that her strength as a student meant she should pursue a career in medicine. For the first few years of school, Nancy was a pre-med major because her high test scores suggested she had an aptitude for becoming a doctor. While she enjoyed her studies, Nancy admitted that her reason for being a pre-med major was out of a need she felt to pursue the “hardest thing” at which she could be successful.

“God impressed on me, however, that he gave me passions and desires for a reason,” Nancy recalls. “He wanted me to do something that would give me life.”

During the fall of her sophomore year of college, Darren, a friend from one of her classes, introduced Nancy to the idea of pursuing ministry. Although he was not a ministry major, Darren had volunteered to undertake the job of running IWU’s annual youth conference. Previously, the conference had been run by ministry majors; also it was typically organized by a team of men. When Nancy agreed to help in the fall of ’93, the two piloted the first youth conference sponsored at IWU by non-ministry majors. It was a huge success, and the two found they loved doing ministry together. Additionally, Nancy found that she was very passionate about event planning and being with people.

“I just couldn’t imagine spending the next several years in a lab doing research,” Nancy remembers, “I loved being with people too much. Changing my major to business administration gave me the chance to work with people.”

Nancy and Darren also continued working the youth camps together, becoming best friends. After two years working together closely, the friends started dating and got married a year later.

What did the Campbells passion for ministry look like following marriage? At first, the two decided to help with youth ministry. They had enjoyed it before, and it appeared a way to integrate serving others in a part-time capacity.

However, God had other plans.

Shortly after marriage, Darren and Nancy were at church, listening to a visiting missionary talk about his experiences serving in Zambia. There, Darren sensed God calling him to pursue ministry full-time. Nancy was shocked, the two were business people, not pastors. Perhaps more concerning for Nancy was that she did not personally share this calling for ministry. A young bride, Nancy found herself confused,

“I remember thinking, ‘I didn’t sign up for this!’” Campbell recalls, reacting to her husband’s decision. However, the subsequent week three separate churches contacted the Campbells about serving as a youth pastor; the two decided to take a position at College Church, where they worked for seven years with the youth. When the two felt the Lord calling them to step down from this position, they relocated to a church in Muncie. There they partnered with the church’s planting project, and Darren became the lead pastor for Exit 59 church.

Throughout their lives, Nancy mentions many times that they sense God calling them to deviate from their original plans. Acting as the lead pastor for Exit 59 was an example of their need for flexibility and trust.

Concurrently, the couple decided to take a risk and merge their faith, entrepreneurship skills, and social passions for a great business endeavor.

12064469_963515547027764_751553802_n“I love coffee, and there was no coffee shop anywhere close. Also, there was no Christian bookstore within the Marion community,” mentioned Nancy. For years, the couple had talked about starting their own business, and one day Nancy mentioned it would make sense to start a bookstore which combined their love for youth, coffee, and ministry. This was the birth of Tree of Life Bookstores, which first opened in 1997 in a little building next to Wal-Mart in Marion, Indiana.

“We took out the loan and I remember signing the paperwork and thinking, ‘if this doesn’t work, I’m going to lose my house,’” recalls Nancy. Anyone familiar with Tree of Life Bookstore knows that was not an issue, the bookstore exploded into a major business corporation, serving as the primary text supplier for Indiana Wesleyan as well as several other private colleges.

How does running a bookstore relate to ministry? Many might see the Campbell’s bi-vocational life as two separate endeavors, however, Nancy mentions that their role at the church and in the bookstore are based in serving others. For them, the two jobs are interrelated.

“We see everything as sacred. Everything that we do is for the Lord,” Nancy comments.

The two are still very closely affiliated with the school, Nancy is a member of the alumni board, and in October, the couple received an alumni award for their partnership with IWU. Nancy mentions that the two of them are deeply grateful for IWU’s influence in their life in so many areas.

“We wouldn’t be married if it wasn’t for IWU,” Nancy laughs.

Reflecting on her roles in ministry thus far, Nancy urges others to realize that, “God’s going to do what he wants to do, sometimes he asks you to sit in the stands watch him work.”

When this business major from Canada and a pre-med girl from Indiana met, they didn’t seem to have much in common. Originally, neither Nancy nor Darren saw themselves in ministry. God clearly had other plans. Through their work at Exit 59 and through Tree of Life Bookstores, the two have been able to merge their passions and skills to pursue something to which they feel called, they have been given a mission that gives them life.


In October 2015, Darren and Nancy were recognized as the Distinguished Alumni of the Year recipients. Lance Percy, Associate Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations reflected on this couple’s continued involvement with the school when he said,

“I have appreciated the passion that Darren and Nancy have for the students at IWU and their contribution and support for individual students through their employment opportunities at the Tree of Life.” Mr. Percy helped present the award to the Campbells and mentioned that,

“It was a pleasure to recognize Darren and Nancy with the Distinguished Alumni Award. Darren’s message to the students at Chapel was a great encouragement. He reminded students to recognize that God has a plan for each person, even if we do not know what it is.”


Written by Katherine Arch, Story Teller for Alumni Relations. Katherine Arch is a Senior English major at Indiana Wesleyan, and a member of the Track and Cross Country teams. She is passionate about sharing people’s stories and celebrating their unique divine potential in written form. Katherine also operates a website called “Join the Ranch” at It is about pursuing God’s purpose for her life and vocation.



2015 Homecoming Chapel Speakers: Darren and Nancy Campbell

FullSizeRenderDarren and Nancy Campbell have built, and are still building, their lives on the promise of God laid out in Acts 5:38-39: If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God. The couple has been eagerly serving the Lord for 20 years. Although both had degrees in business and no Christian ministry background, they followed the Lord’s calling and pursued ministry. In 1995, the year Darren graduated, an Indiana pastor called to ask if he and his wife would serve as youth pastors at his church, and they took a leap of faith by accepting. Eleven years ago they planted a church, affiliated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, that now has two campuses. The church, located near an exit to Interstate 69, draws many of its members from nearby Taylor University as well as from IWU. Along with ministering through the church, the Campbells opened Tree of Life Bookstores in 1997. This business now operates 16 college bookstores – all at Christian colleges – and is negotiating with 12 others. The corporate headquarters for Tree of Life bookstores and distribution center is located in Marion, Indiana, along with their adjoining coffee shop. Their journey with Christ continues, and their vision is to plant more churches, fueled by their passion for college campuses. They also want to mentor and help young entrepreneurs start their own businesses – especially in small cities such as Marion.