By Gordon Govier

InterVarsity Alumni - Jim Ostle

Jim Ostle’s career path was clear when his parents sent him off to Arizona University in 1948—get a degree in Pharmacy and come back to join the Ostle Pharmacy in Collinsville, IL. And that’s pretty much how it went, up through Jim’s retirement in 2007.

But while Jim returned to his hometown from college with his career path mapped out, he brought back with him something he hadn’t planned on, a global perspective on the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And out of that perspective came a second voluntary career, as the head of the information desk at InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conferences for almost four decades.

InterVarsity led him to a Christian commitment

As a life-long church attender Jim didn’t hesitate to go along with an Arizona classmate who invited him to an InterVarsity meeting. He got involved in the chapter and soon found himself preparing for the chapter’s Campus Vision evangelistic outreach.

“I was in a prayer meeting,” he recalled. “I felt like some of the people there had a connection I didn’t have, so I committed my life to Christ in that prayer meeting.”

He was trained by InterVarsity in Bible study and helped lead InterVarsity Bible studies. He considered changing his career plans but ultimately decided he could serve God faithfully as a pharmacist. “Being a Christian in business is being a missionary itself,” he said. “I took that on as a second calling.”

Staying connected with InterVarsity

Back home, after graduation, he became an enthusiastic supporter of the InterVarsity chapter at the nearby Southern Illinois University—Edwardsville campus in suburban St. Louis. He also joined the missions committee of his local Baptist church and promoted scholarships to help local students attend InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conferences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).

When he learned that InterVarsity’s missions director David Howard needed an assistant, about the same time, Kay Barton, a member of his church expressed dissatisfaction with her job in a St. Louis bank; Jim connected the two. So when he volunteered to help at Urbana, it was Kay who assigned him the job of organizing and directing the conference’s information desk. “It was natural to want to help Kay, and that’s where she put us,” he said.

Promoting healthy habits at Urbana

Jim’s resourcefulness and creativity at the information desk became legendary through the course of the triennial conferences. Karon Morton, who directed several Urbanas, remembered a sudden rain storm that blew in while attendees were gathered in the UIUC Assembly Hall. As the meeting broke up, the information desk began to hand out large trash bags for people to wear so they wouldn’t get too wet.

“He always had such good insights about what people were asking,” she said. “He provided a valuable service to us.”

Jim Ostle also provided about two dozen bags of throat lozenges for each Urbana conference during his tenure. “We tried to keep the coughing down and lower the noise level in the auditorium by at least 20-percent,” he said. “We take credit for that.”

InterVarsity will again need volunteers to help out at Urbana 09, in St. Louis MO, December 27-31, 2009. Typically, many will be like Jim Ostle; they understand that having a global vision means that everyone has a role to play. Some will be called to take the gospel to distant lands, some will help them get there. And some will try to help them keep from coughing.