OBU alumnus Marc Hooks, ’90, shares about the home he found on Bison Hill and the special bonds that shaped the course of his life. He is a seasoned communicator, photojournalist, missionary, and church planter, bringing a unique perspective built upon his passionate love for OBU and his years of experience on the mission field, in photojournalism and in media.
One of the most difficult questions you can ask someone who has served overseas as a missionary is, “So, where are you from?” Those five words can leave both children and adults paralyzed as they wrestle with how to answer that “simple” question. The truth is, even for those who have moved around the United States, the answer is not as simple as you might think. It is not really a question of geography, but one that is much more complex. To answer the question, you must dig deeper than latitude and longitude. The answer is not in the cover of your passport, or even the license plate on the back of your car. The deeper question is … “Where is home?”
Home is more than where I lay my head at night. It is more than the location of where I was born, or even the place where I was raised. Home can rarely be pinpointed on a map, even for siblings who have a set of common experiences. You see, home is more than a place. It is more than a feeling. Home is often beyond definition. And yet, when you are there, you know you have arrived. Home is a place of genesis; it is a place of origins. Home is where your story begins. For me, my story begins at Oklahoma Baptist University.
As I served overseas on the mission field I would tell people that when it was time for college, I moved from my home of 18 years in Maryland to Shawnee, Oklahoma. I would jokingly add, “that was my first cross-cultural experience.” And though it was said with some jest, the statement could not have been more true. I was as out of place as Dorothy when she found herself in Oz. While my formative years provided the raw materials for the man I would become, it was not until I arrived on the steps of Raley Chapel that I would begin to take the building blocks of my youth and assemble them together to make me into the man I am today. But building takes more than raw materials, it takes blueprints and plans, training and tools, wisdom and experience.
From the time we donned the beanie of green and gold, to the black robes of graduation, we experienced life together. We made that place our home, and the people our family. It was in buildings with names like Sarkeys, Mabee and Shawnee where my understanding of the world, and my place in it, would be formed. And it was in Brotherhood, Noble and Geiger where friendships and lifelong relationships were forged. In Raley, we bonded together to form a community that was stronger together than we were apart. And we understood that while we shared space, proximity and location for a short while, we would soon be scattered across the country – even to the ends of the earth, so that “the sun would never set on our OBU family.”
It was at OBU where dreams and ambition morphed into jobs and careers. Through the years, it has not been uncommon to hear phrases my professors used coming out of my mouth – the accumulated wisdom of the ages being passed on to a new generation as we took what was given to us, and strove to make it better. As time has passed we have watched classmates and roommates develop and transition from students to doctors and lawyers, professionals and pastors, and even a few professors. Many of us began the journey with our spouse at OBU; some with late nights at the Fairmont or Kettle, or a first kiss by the fountain on the oval. For us, our journey together included an engagement proposal in the steeple of Raley.
As I return to Bison Hill, my mind is filled with fond memories of a time that in retrospect seemed simpler. A time where friendship, laughter, learning, and yes, maybe even a prank or two, reigned supreme. A time where the bison would change its colors from week to week, and the fountains would bubble-over with washing detergent. And it was a time where we discussed the future, and God’s calling on our lives. But it is not just nostalgia that makes this place special. A friend and former classmate recently said to me, “At OBU, I grew in wisdom and stature with God and man. I grew up so much, and learned so much there.”
While our stories are different, they are all the same. It is one of genesis, one of origins, one of new beginnings. Today, my daughter Hannah shares the roof her mother once did in Kerr Dorm. After living on two continents in five different countries, she has struggled to answer the question, “where is home?” My prayer is that she will find that answer to be the same that I did — you are finally home … home on Bison Hill.