I have loved, led, and served the Oak Manor & Cornerstone dormitory at The Master’s College for the past four years. Living and ministering at the OMC has been a highlight of our lives and an experience we will always cherish. Tonight at 10:30pm I broke the news to my guys that all OMC students will be moving on-campus next year. Enrollment is low at TMC and is not projected to increase significantly by this coming fall semester. Since there are currently 70 open beds on campus and around 65 guys living at the OMC apartments, Student Life leadership decided (and I agree) that the wisest decision is to fill the on-campus dormitories by having all OMC residents move into traditional on-campus housing. The college can gain much-needed revenue by renting out the OMC apartments on top of cutting significant costs in areas like staffing and transportation.
But just because a decision is wise doesn’t mean it’s easy. Those who have not experienced TMC dorm life may find this difficult to understand, but the comraderie fostered in the male dorms at TMC is fierce and beautiful. The OMC is no exception. We are a combination of two apartment complexes owned by the college and located in the heart of Newhall one mile from the main campus. Compared to your typical two-person dorm room, the OMC rooms are spacious and inviting. Ours are the only apartment-style rooms that TMC offers, with separate bedrooms and living areas, kitchens, courtyard, garage parking, and the privilege of having girls over (with guidelines, of course). Those who live here love it. It’s more of a home than a dorm.
But the OMC culture runs much deeper than a structural description of the rooms or the physical benefits of its residents. Like any dorm, there is a palpable atmosphere here that has grown and evolved over time. It is now an environment; a mood; a culture. The inward-facing rooms that look out over the Oak Manor courtyard are a metaphor for the widespread and diverse relationships that characterize the dorm, and the ship-like feel of Cornerstone is emblematic of the tight-knit community that exists along its single short hallway. Generations of guys have grown to know and love each other here, and the current generation has followed suit. This is exactly the point of residence life at TMC — to taste the multi-flavored sweetness of deep biblical community and authentic spiritual relationships and to go out and do our best to inject that sweetness into our distant, fragmented, Sunday-only churches. Outsiders think that TMC only cares about taking a hard stand for doctrine (which is true, except for the “only” part). Critics call us the Bob Jones of the West Coast (which is grossly unfair not only to TMC but also to BJU). But walk into the OMC on any given night and you have a good chance of seeing a culture of happiness, Christian fellowship, and mutual encouragement.
Oh, we have our weaknesses and challenges. The stereotypical apathy of Christian college students sometimes suffocates spiritual life and serves as a continual frustration (and motivator) for those of us in leadership. Relationships can be shallow and surfacy because it is always far easier to create social community than to cultivate spiritual community. Sometimes boys who are growing into men say boyish things and live by boyish priorities and have boyish perspectives and spend their time in boyish ways. Even those who are more mature or more intelligent can easily think too highly of themselves because they haven’t yet realized that 21 and intelligent isn’t all that impressive to the rest of the non-freshman population. The fact is, Christian college guys are learning the basics of discipline and responsibility, working through relational conflict, battling sexual lust, discovering their strengths and weaknesses, facing multiple crossroads semester by semester, and forming values and priorities for a lifetime. So we learn together through trial and error, victory and defeat. Yes, we have our weaknesses.
But the authenticity and the growth and the togetherness in the midst of these struggles are what make for a unique atmosphere. The strivings after holiness that begin afresh as students see the glory of Christ and the happiness of knowing Him; the discovery of truth that leads to rough-edged conversations as we work out our theology together; the experience of genuine relationships produced by the providence of proximity; the vulnerability of confession that allows a timid soul to expose the dark corners of his heart to the light of a brothers’ counsel; the purposeful self-denial seen in the sharing of toothpaste and textbooks; and the tiny steps of growth that look miniscule to the outsider but are seen by friends as the giant leaps that they are.
No choice, no experience, and no person is tiny in community. Everything is meaningful. You just can’t measure the value of the late-night conversations, the inside jokes, the unplanned memories, the ridiculous games created on the spot, the friendly rebukes, the road trips and chapels and conferences and concerts and competitions, and the healthiness of having to befriend the surprise roommate or the awkward freshman or the distant senior or the irritating wingmate. How can you describe the cumulutive power of authentic sharing, shoulder-to-shoulder service, diverse mutual experiences? You can’t walk away untouched, unmoved, or unchanged after you experience secrets appropriately shared and appropriately kept, rugged and healthy male relationships, and the multiplied happiness of shared joy.
There’s the Hispanic ministry started several years ago through prayer meetings and strategizing students. There’s Gary and Joe, our homeless friends whom we never would’ve met if God hadn’t dropped a TMC dormitory into the middle of Newhall. And there’s Judah, running around in his little castle of a courtyard with 65 loving uncles that his parents trust implicitly.
There’s the ba-boom, the holla, and the boom-snap-clap, three rhythmic echoes of our ghetto identity. There are the gotcha games, the wrestling nights, the hikes, and the ever-growing, never-dying palm tree. There are the personalities that defined the OMC from one generation to the next – from Shay Thomason and Tristan Amundson to Matt Telle and Donald Ellis to Matt Ingle, Cameron Knox, Juan Moncayo, Justin Williams, and Matt Dole. And then there are the up-and-coming OMC’ers who just this year have been taking up the mantle and becoming those generation-defining OMC men — the Nate Brookses, the Peter Bugbees, the Cole Jefferys, the Brett Eggerths. It’s been a good run.
Here we learn together, talk together, laugh together, weep together, play together, compete together, wrestle together, pray together, serve together, make fools of ourselves together, and worship together. And the point is not so much what we’re doing at any given moment, but that we’re doing it together as brothers in Christ.
The meeting ended at 11:00pm tonight. Guys immediately formed into circles in the courtyard, talking and laughing and reminiscing and appropriately bemoaning the reality that there will be no OMC next year. There’s already a lot of brainstorming about how to make the most out of the next four weeks. The Cornerstone guys headed back over to their place and apparently sang some screamo song together in a shirtless, late-night celebration (and of course they videoed it). Some guys from Upper West (not hard to guess who) came out on the balcony and tore their white t-shirts from top to bottom as they roared into the night sky Ancient Near Eastern style to the hearty approval of the 30 guys below. We have quiet hours in the dorms and we may have woken a few neighbors, but you just don’t stop that sort of glorious display of OMC manhood. Not on this night.
Earlier in the evening I even created a Facebook profile just so I could create a group called Remember the OMC and be the founding member. I’ve stringently avoided Facebook since its inception, but I couldn’t resist creating the group (which you can only join if you actually resided in the OMC as an enrolled student). I figure it’ll be the best way to keep in touch with a fragmented dorm as well as the massive number of alumni and friends that I know from our ten wonderful years at TMC.
Nobody’s drowning themselves in mushy sentimentality tonight. The guys handled everything well, and though I know they’ll face disappointments and challenges, I can tell that we’re all comfortable moving on. But at least for tonight, before we start moving on and transitioning into what the Lord has for us next, I want to remember the OMC — what God has done here, how special it’s been, and how much it will be missed. Because this is my home. These are my boys. This is the OMC.