Telling the stories of remarkable people
As I contemplate future columns, I want to tell the stories of people who have clothed themselves in the qualities of holiness seen in Jesus’ ministry on this earth.
I begin with a remarkable man who has been a special light in my life, in the church where he has served as an elder for 38 years, in churches around the world and at Oklahoma Christian University. Stafford North became connected to Oklahoma Christian in January 1952. He was a graduate of Abilene Christian University, where he played as a child when his mother was teaching Spanish and his father operated a laundry/dry cleaner store near campus.
His mother died when he was young. The campus was his second home, and he was 16 when he enrolled. He was preaching very early in his life, and he divided his studies between Bible and speech. North graduated, went immediately to Louisiana State University, and then began working with Oklahoma Christian. He served as a teacher, assistant to the president, dean and executive vice president. A few years ago he retired from the administration to teach Bible.
Having worked with North since I was a student in his speech class, I am aware that he is a man driven by his love for the Kingdom and his commitment to projects at hand. When he used to direct plays, he was a demanding perfectionist. He had a hand in planning every building on the OC campus built between 1958 and 1994. Always working within budget, North made buildings useful, attractive and lasting — always consulting with faculty who would use the facilities. Throughout his years of administrative leadership, North worked hard to create a sense of community. For years the North family hosted a July 4th celebration for all the campus at their home.
Throughout the years, North has preached regularly. He also taught the preaching course at the university and at other schools. He has written a book on preaching that is still in use at various schools. He and his wife, JoAnne, have helped in teacher training programs in many states and countries.
At the church where he serves as an elder, he has taught regularly — for several years a college class, many auditorium classes on many subjects and small groups on special issues. His interest in evangelism has produced at least two books to help disciples share their faith. His interest in the Revelation prompted him to develop a thoughtful, logical analysis of the fascinating and often confusing last book of the New Testament. He has done workshops on Revelation in more than 200 churches.
North has work habits that have made him extremely productive. While he was an administrator, he was usually the first person on campus, and he left promptly to have time with his family. He normally eats dinner and relaxes with his family and then works for two or three hours. The university has recruited him for several projects. One of the biggest was a history of Oklahoma Christian that was published in 2008 after nearly three years of research and writing. Of course, he had lived through and worked on most of the events in the university’s history.
The Norths have led several travel excursions to the Bible lands, and they have done mission tours in Nigeria, Kenya, India and more places than I recall. In addition to their other works, the Norths have been active in the prison ministry. JoAnne has worked in women’s facilities for at least 20 years where she taught and mentored many women. The Norths have extended themselves to people after they re-enter society. They hosted some when they were released. They have helped find housing, transportation and jobs for many.
Stafford North soon turns 80, but his wit and his devotion to God only grow with each new day. His latest project is recruiting young men to become pulpit preachers to provide teaching and exhortation for unborn generations. He has been a wonderful teacher, mentor and friend for me and many others.