Gavin Boykin asked God what He wanted him to do in ministry, and God answered him at Walmart.

“I remember praying one night, ‘God, what do you want me to do? I’m so confused,’” Boykin said. “I told Him, ‘Preaching is one thing I can honestly see myself doing.’ I worked at Walmart for four years. I remember I came in the next morning after that prayer and Shannon (a friend from work) said, ‘Gavin, I had a dream about you last night. I don’t really know what it means, but I saw you on stage preaching to a bunch of people.’”

Boykin, 21, took one more step toward his calling in May when he was awarded the Dave Stone Preaching Scholarship, which was created in honor of the former Southeast Christian Church senior pastor.

This August, Boykin will begin studying preaching at Ozark Christian College in Missouri.

Boykin received the scholarship during an event celebrating Stone’s 30 years of ministry.

“I got to the event and was told to go backstage,” Boykin said. “I met for KING & COUNTRY. I didn’t even know who they were at the time. Which now, I love their music and listen to it all the time. But it’s funny, I didn’t even get the opportunity to talk to them because I didn’t even know them.”

The experience has been surreal for Boykin.

“It was crazy,” Boykin added. “‘Here you go, Gavin, Ozark. Boom. Scholarship. Boom.’ God was doing all kinds of stuff in that one month of time. It blew me away.”

The Stone scholarship is $15,000 a year.

“We loved Gavin’s resilience and story of perseverance,” said Pastor of Residency & Theology Ben Cross. “He was told ‘no.’ He’s pursuing it anyway. It was so clear to us that God is orchestrating something for this young man, and we are excited to partner with that. When I talked to him, what I love is a lot of the stories he told me were about people he’s sharing Jesus with. If you’re going to give a scholarship honoring Dave Stone, there’s your criteria.”

Hearing ‘no’

What people saw on stage was a cake walk compared to the circuitous route Boykin traveled to get to that moment.

Boykin gave his life to Christ at Bible & Beach in 2015 and then felt called to ministry at that same conference in 2017.

He took a trip the following summer with College-Age Ministry Pastor Justin Weece and a few others to tour OCC.

“We visited the campus,” Boykin said. “It was amazing. I loved the professors, community, dorms and the city there. I thought this is where God wanted me to go.”

He applied shortly after.

“I had no doubt in my mind I’d get accepted, but the letter in the mail said, ‘No. You are not accepted,’” Boykin added. “That was the biggest ‘no’ I have gotten in a very long time. I didn’t know how to deal with it. I was like, ‘God, you want me to go here?’ I got confused.”

Boykin sensed his dream to preach was all but dead, and he began to doubt his calling.

“‘God, I’m doing everything you want me to do. I’m being more obedient. I’m growing, so I don’t know,’” he said. “My faith was still strong, but the call on my life, ministry, was put to the side.”

Boykin began working as a personal trainer and partially slipped out of serving at Southeast.

Not yet

A few months later, a brother in Christ helped Boykin realize his dream wasn’t dead, just dormant.

“I still walked away from my call,” Boykin said. “I was still serving in middle school, and I went to service, but I wasn’t serving as much. I wasn’t going to CAM. I remember God telling me back in 2017 after Bible & Beach to keep on serving as much as you can. But I was on and off. Justin (Weece) had a heart-to-heart with me, ‘Gavin, you have a lot that God’s put on your heart and I see that. But you’re not here.’ So I started coming more and doing whatever I could to help out.”

As Boykin was faithful with what he could control, God worked behind the scenes.

In March 2019, a professor from OCC came to speak at Navigate, CAM’s small group gathering on Sunday mornings.

Afterwards, Boykin shared his story with the professor, who talked with the admissions department at OCC. Weece, an OCC alumnus, also contacted the school.

Now

In April, Boykin got a call from OCC.

“I saw I missed a phone call from Missouri because I left my phone in the car,” Boykin said. “I called them back and it was Sara from the admissions team. She interviewed me to see if I would be a good fit there. I shared my story, and they really wanted me on board there. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t even apply this year, they called me. Ozark wasn’t even on my radar.”

Boykin is grateful that what he thought was a “no” was God’s “not yet.”

“Last year, if I would’ve gotten accepted to Ozark, I wouldn’t have that preaching scholarship because it’s the first year they did it,” Boykin added. “God said ‘no’ for a reason, and it’s crazy how He works. I went the whole year and stayed faithful and true to Him. God said, ‘I can get you where you want to be, just listen to Me.’ When I started being obedient to God, that’s when everything started moving.”