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Alumni Association Award Recipient: Martha Olango

Alumni Association Award Recipient: Martha Olango

“Martha’s ministry has reached thousands of people with the gospel.” 

Martha Olango was this year’s Alumni Association Award recipient due to her outstanding ministry impact in Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in East and Central Africa.  

Martha’s ministry journey took flight when God called her to start working for CEF. She began a job within Mombasa, Kenya, and then moved to Nairobi in 1999 to later work as an education director in 2000. When she felt the need to earn a degree in biblical education, Martha attended Calvary University. When reflecting on her biblical education, Martha states: “With Calvary’s training, I was motivated and equipped to serve effectively, prepared to lead with confidence, and ready to serve with integrity.” After graduation, Martha moved back to Kenya where she worked for a short time as an assistant to CEF’s Regional Education Director and later took on the position full-time in 2010.

In her current role as Regional Education Director for East and Central Africa, Martha has played a wildly influential role in teaching children, training teachers, and developing instructors and leaders for CEF, and has gone into very dangerous areas to do so. A specific ministry Martha has made a great impact on is CEF’s Christian Youth in Action program (CYIA), where she has faithfully trained teenagers to reach other children with the gospel. This training program began in Kenya but has now been developed in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Burundi and DR Congo. Before Covid, nearly 500 teens were trained each year. Within her local church, Martha has served in children’s ministry as well as organized a ministry to help meet the needs of single, young women in the church, known as EPIC. She has also extended great love and care for those in her local community, helping support several disadvantaged young people and being a light of Christ to those in her neighborhood. 

Eidene Anderson, a friend of Martha and former missionary stated: “Martha’s ministry has reached thousands of people with the gospel. She has impacted people personally as well as trained godly leaders who are maturing in their faith so that they too can share the gospel.” Whether it is her impact on CYIA or reaching out to people within her community, Martha is known by those around her as a faithful servant who is continually studying, training others in ministry, and being courageous in her faith. In gratitude for her years of ministry and service to God, Calvary was beyond honored to present Martha with this year’s Alumni Association Award.


Duane and Cristina Smith: Faithfully Building up the Body of Christ

Duane and Cristina Smith: Faithfully Building up the Body of Christ

Duane and Cristina, 1993. 

“When you see people apply the Word that you had the joy of teaching them, it is a tremendous blessing.” 

Duane and Cristina Smith grew up in Christian families and came to faith at a young age, meeting at Calvary and marrying soon after. They stayed in the KC area for four years and were highly involved in their local church. Learning how a body of believers functioned would later become integral to them becoming spiritual mentors in their future home church. When the Lord took them to Marshfield, WI, Duane served as the assistant pastor of Calvary Bible Church, where he and Cristina served for over 8 years; during this time, they had all three of their sons. Today, Duane is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Waukon, IA. 

When reflecting on how his educational journey impacted his future career in ministry, Duane stated: “The education I received from Calvary laid a biblical and theological foundation for my life in ministry. As a pastoral studies major, my classes helped me understand the practical side of ministry, and Dr. Raiford shared wisdom with us ‘preacher boys,’ as he called us, that was absolutely invaluable.” He also added that his music training at Calvary helped prepare him for conducting worship in church services for over twenty-five years. Cristina reflects that her double major in Biblical Counseling and Church Music was exactly what she needed: “I am blessed to have been the Worship Coordinator at our church for many years now and use my degree not only in accompanying piano and worship leading, but in planning worship services year-round. As for counseling, I use the knowledge I gained from this degree every day.”

When asked what the most rewarding thing about full-time ministry has been, Duane states that it has been witnessing people grow in their faith: “There are many things that can discourage you in this ministry if you let it, but when you see people apply the Word that you had the joy of teaching them, it is a tremendous blessing.” Cristina adds, “There’s nothing like seeing the chains of sin being broken in people’s lives and watching them live in the freedom of their new identity in Christ.”

Duane sends a special word of counsel to those pursuing pastoral ministry: “Remember to cultivate a close relationship with the Lord now. As a pastor, you will be the one feeding others and discipling them. You must learn to feed yourself spiritually! Don’t just look at the Bible as another textbook. Treat it as the living and active Word of God that you derive your spiritual nourishment from. Serving God as a pastor is a tremendous blessing, but if you are trying to do it in your own strength it will be a disaster.”

Duane and Cristina both look forward to what God has in store for their future as a couple serving God in the church. Duane states that he looks forward to seeing people grow in Christ and use their gifts to serve Him: “There are some young men who are wanting to be discipled in my church, and that process will begin soon. I pray that God uses them in mighty ways!” Cristina adds, “We hope to plan another mission trip soon as they have transformed our church family into thinking globally and strengthened individuals in their personal walks with God.” 




Duane Smith speaking at Calvary’s 2022 Baccalaureate.

Duane and Cristina’s sons, Nathan (CU grad, 23), Michael (21), and Jacob (18).

Ashley Beach: Writing Stories for a Higher Purpose

Ashley Beach: Writing Stories for a Higher Purpose

“People have told me how much my stories have impacted their lives and I hope to continue to impact more people and point them to Christ.”

Ashley’s home was in Denver, CO, where she grew up in a Christian home and came to faith as a child. During her growing-up years, Ashley never dreamed of being a published author, because her original dream was to pursue acting and singing. This carried over into her college career at Calvary University, where she played roles in theatre productions, and pursued her business goal of starting her own theatre company in which her productions would share the gospel with unbelieving audiences. She states: “I was privileged by being part of a theatre department that was rooted in the Bible and sharing Christ with others. There was always an emphasis on the importance of story-telling and making each day a story worth living. That influence was paramount in me later becoming an author.”

Ashley’s focus on theater shifted one day when she was reading “Sacred Romance” by John Eldredge and Brent Curtis. She was touched by how the authors portrayed a Christian’s relationship with Christ within the storyline of an epic novel. Soon, her own imagination was sparked and she felt inspired to begin writing novels. She states: “I’ve created a world based off of the seasons, revealing many Biblical elements that relate to our own lives. Themes like light versus darkness, secret sin struggles, rejection versus acceptance, never being too far to be loved or reached by God, are themes my books emphasize.” More than anything, Ashley’s books explore the concept of beauty that was once lost being completely restored.

When reflecting on her spiritual growth during her time at Calvary, Ashley stated that she learned much about relationships and community: “It was encouraging to be at a college where people’s relationships with God were genuine. It’s easy to take a relationship with God for granted; yet there was a sense of sincerity in many people’s walks at Calvary. I was constantly challenged to be in God’s word and felt blessed to be a part of a community eager to seek God and reach the world with His truth.”

So far as Ashley’s future is concerned, she states: “God has given me the ability to write and share these stories, and I am humbled and blessed to be used as His vessel; people have told me how much my stories have impacted their lives and I hope to continue to impact more people and point them to Christ.” Ashley believes that God has more He wants her to share with the world through her novels. Recently, He has given Ashley several ideas for different series and future stories. One of these is a modern-day Christian adventure series which she has already started working on. Ultimately, Ashley’s desire is to write, grow, pray, and learn as God continues to use the words He places on her heart to touch people in all walks of life.



Ashley’s involvement with theatre at Calvary helped her engage with the impact of storytelling.

(Pictured playing the role of Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical the Musical, 2015)

Jeremy Schell: His Years of Service at Calvary

Jeremy Schell: His Years of Service at Calvary

“I have loved being inspired by my students.”

“I met Jesus in 1991 in my parents’ living room,” Jeremy states, remembering his first authentic encounter with God. Although Jeremy had been attending church for years, his beliefs were centered on his parents’ instead of his own. But, on an August evening of that year, Jeremy surrendered his life to Jesus, inspiring him to glorify God with his gifts in music and leadership ever since. “It started with me just serving at my church in a simple way, like playing the piano during Sunday services; but this eventually expanded into me receiving leadership roles. I served as the director of our orchestra, children’s choir, choir, and led worship, and then became a staff member.” Jeremy was hired at what was then Kansas City Baptist Temple in 2004; when God opened the door to become full-time in 2006, Jeremy was hired as the worship director, and then moved into pastoral ministry.

“When I was approached about joining Calvary’s teaching staff, I was excited to instruct students in their paths to future careers in ministry and music.” When thinking about his favorite memories at Calvary, he states: “My favorite memory teaching culminated the year we performed John Rutter’s Requiem at St Paul’s Episcopal church. We delivered our concert to standing-room only and the audience felt alive as we performed beautiful melodies and lyrics of this gorgeous work. Beyond that, I have fond memories of multiple chorale tours and countless evenings spending time with my students, talking about life with them until the early hours of the morning.” He adds, “I have loved being inspired by my students. This has happened in two ways: the first being when a student goes on to bigger and greater things in their career; this makes me feel privileged to have played a part in their training. Second, when I have witnessed “light-bulb moments” in my classroom. I have so much enjoyed watching the very moment my students catch a concept! These have been some of the most rewarding moments in my years of teaching.”

In the near future, Jeremy looks forward to continuing pastoring and leading teams at Graceway Church while also having more quality time to spend with his family: “As our children get into advanced sports, I’ll get to see a lot of volleyball, baseball, and basketball games in my future, and I am looking forward to being there during those special moments!” Jeremy is grateful for the opportunity and honor he has had to teach at Calvary for the past nine years, serving students and sharing with them what God has taught him: “It has been a special honor to conduct the Calvary Chorale, lead Calvary’s praise band, and teach in classrooms and studios with men and women of God who are excited about what God is going to do with their lives, gifts, and talents.”


Leah Grady’s Journey of Growth: Dr. Vickie Grooms Denny Award

Leah Grady’s Journey of Growth: Dr. Vickie Grooms Denny Award

“Pursue growth, not perfection.”

Captain of the women’s volleyball team, Leah Grady, was awarded the Dr. Vickie Grooms Denny Award, which is given annually to one volleyball player within the NCCAA member institutions who demonstrates outstanding character on and off the court. Director of Calvary’s Athletic Department, Jeannette Regier, states: “Leah has pursued leadership, athletic, academic, and spiritual goals as others have poured into her life. This award allows us to celebrate with her what God has done in and through her.”

When Josh Johnson, head coach of Calvary’s women’s volleyball team, was asked about his thoughts on his experience with Leah, he said a particular experience came to mind. An early “battle” he fought with her was over missing practices and matches in September each year: “Every coach has to set a standard and her missing these team events ran in opposition to the standard I put in place.” Yet, he said that Leah’s reason for missing the practices was a beautiful one: “She wanted to miss these events so she could be at a kid’s club outreach and discipleship event in her hometown. The Lord allowed her to go back most years (sometimes against my will) and yet, when I filled out the nomination form for the Dr. Vickie Grooms Denny award, her commitment to that club was near the top of the list for why she should be chosen. Leah loved that ministry because she loved the children, and that was beautiful to witness.” He added, “Leah has led our team for two years now as captain. Even during her sophomore year, she was one of our leaders. She has led our girls to committing scripture to memory, shown up in a timely manner to 6 a.m. workouts on a weekly basis, and has even led small group devotions in the dorms her junior and senior year.”

When asked to reflect on her own growth, Leah stated that as a freshman she only cared about what was best for herself, and after tearing her ACL, considered giving up volleyball completely. Yet, after 10 months of intense physical therapy and much encouragement from her previous coach, Tressa Barnes, Leah decided to play another year: “My sophomore year was a challenging year, coming back from my ACL injury, trying to be present, loving the girls on my team well, and not getting inside my head.” She opened up about a particular experience that helped change her perspective: “There was a challenging practice when Coach Josh called me into his office. He read Ephesians 1 and talked me through where my identity in Christ is truly found. I sat there sobbing, wanting so desperately to receive that truth. That conversation and countless others began a process of growth in my life (not perfection). Through the good moments and the bad, Coach Josh didn’t give up on me and instead pointed me to the truth.” She states: “Knowing that Coach Josh wouldn’t give up on me helped me receive the truth that God is also for me and is never giving up on me.”

When receiving the award, Leah stated she was incredibly humbled and wished her team had been around her because they had also been through her journey: “All I could think was ‘But God’! He has done so much work in my life, and He is the reason I was able to receive the Dr. Vickie Grooms Denny award! All glory goes to Him! I have learned so many lessons through my experience; to receive help from God and my community, to accept failure as an opportunity to learn, and to pursue growth, not perfection.”