Written by: Kedrick Nettleton
Tracy DeVolt has been saved by grace and called to ministry – and she’s not slowing down for anything.
DeVolt, Founder and Organizing pastor of the Lighthouse Worship Center in Illinois, has been strongly shaped by Oklahoma Wesleyan University. She’s received multiple degrees from OKWU’s extensive online education program and now she’s on the other side of the equation, teaching for the program and giving back to the university that helped her reach her goals.
DeVolt is a native of Aurora, Illinois, where her parents moved in the 1950s during times of intense racial uneasiness. She was born in 1986, only a short time after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Her parents were moving away from the unrest in the south in an effort not only to escape trouble, but to build a better future.
“They wanted better for their children as they began to grow and move forward,” DeVolt said. “What brought them here was the opportunities.”
Hearing her parent’s powerful stories about the Civil Rights Movement was incredibly impactful to DeVolt as she grew up, and she credits this background with instilling the passion for justice that suffuses her present-day ministry. “I got a strong desire for social justice, even as a little bitty kid,” she said. “It’s amazing how the call of God can touch a life, even of a small child… it just bothered me. I think that’s what the Lord used to reel me in, in my teen years when I went astray.”
My outlook changed, my hope came alive. My health supernaturally improved, my family life improved. My entire life positively and permanently altered up. Everything went up.”
Saved by Grace
She’s not shy in talking about those years when she strayed from the path. Despite having grown up in a church-going family, the message of the Bible didn’t flower in DeVolt’s heart, at least not at first. “I always tell people I grew up in the church, but the church did not grow up in me,” she said.
Soon, DeVolt found herself caught up in patterns of alcohol addiction, drug abuse, and violence. Her life had come to be defined by anger. “I was a very violent, very angry young woman,” she recalled.
Everything began to change when a friend invited her to sing in a local church choir. While DeVolt didn’t care much for church at that point, she enjoyed singing and agreed. “This was when the Lord began to deal directly with my heart,” she said.
Rather than the sermons, which she had no doubt heard before, for it was the simple act of singing that finally made the Gospel hit home in Tracy’s life. “Singing the Gospel is very powerful,” she said. “Singing, it registered on me.”
She gave her life to Christ in 1986, on Easter Sunday, when she was eighteen years old, and she quickly began to see wholesale changes in her lifestyle. “My outlook changed, my hope came alive,” she said. “My health supernaturally improved, my family life improved. My entire life positively and permanently altered up. Everything went up.”
And even though she had suffered, DeVolt pointed out that’s grateful that the Lord found her as quickly as He did. “My process was painful, but it was kind of expedient,” she said. “I did not suffer long in those addictions… The Lord has done a great work.”
“OKWU has always aligned and been in complete agreement with the way I want to live my life, do business, impact my world… It worked for me.”
Getting to Work
Soon after being saved, DeVolt accepted the call to ministry, and it was this that brought her to Oklahoma. After achieving an associate degree from Rhema Bible College in Biblical Studies, DeVolt wanted more training, and the Rhema faculty recommended she look at OKWU.
“What made me decide to join this particular organization for learning was the online team at the time,” she said. “They were so helpful. They were so kind. I felt they really were trying to get me to my goals in life. That kind of endeared me to the school, quite frankly.”
Specifically, DeVolt points to Devon Smith as someone from OKWU who became a strong academic mentor in her life. “Devon hooked me,” she said. “He’s just the guy that kind of clinched it for me.”
For his part, Smith, who still works at OKWU as the Director of CROSS Training, is just as complimentary towards DeVolt. “Immediately, I saw the fire and desire in her eyes to soak up anything she could in order to learn and help her to be a better student, pastor, leader, teacher, and servant of Jesus,” he said. “Tracy is one of those students who encourages a professor to be better, because she wants to be better.”
The initial positive impressions that DeVolt formed while considering OKWU continued as she met more and more of those people involved with the ministry of the university. “The best part was and is the people. Hands down the people,” DeVolt said.
She also found herself growing to love the mission of OKWU, and the foundational truths that the university stands on. “It has always aligned and been in complete agreement with the way I want to live my life, do business, impact my world,” she said. “It worked for me.”
After achieving her bachelor’s degree with OKWU online, DeVolt came back again, this time for her MBA. And it was during her time as a student that she began getting surprising feedback from professors, who told her that she should consider teaching, herself.
“I didn’t think I was material for that,” she said. “How would I have time for this? I already have a bunch of students, do I need more?”
Eventually, though, she decided to give it a try, and the results have been transformational. For DeVolt, her work as a mentor to students – especially older students – who are trying to better themselves is what makes the job special. “You see that change, see that improvement… they’re becoming more confident,” she said. “That is extremely rewarding. Just to see them grow like that, it’s so inspiring for me personally.”
And she’s passionate about people taking the necessary steps to better themselves through education, citing the advice that she often gives those considering going back to school: “Take the leap, even if you’re a little disappointed with processing a part of it,” she said. “It’s not easy, but take the leap, because it will pay off hugely if you just take the leap. It’s a leap of faith, but take it.”
“I would have been a statistic had Jesus not come into my life. He made my story what it is.”
“We Have a Really Cool God”
In addition to teaching, DeVolt serves as the main teaching pastor of The Lighthouse Worship Center, which is entering its 11th year of ministry. “It’s a very healthy church,” she said. “[And] my path to get here was just following desire: my desire to learn, and my desire to teach, and my desire to model Christ.”
That desire to teach and to learn were both accomplished with OKWU’s help, and DeVolt is thankful for what she’s received from the university. “My tool belt is full because of what I’ve received [at OKWU],” she said. “I have received knowledge that I can actually put to work in the real world. It’s amazing how much I could apply to my everyday life as a pastor and a businesswoman.”
Rightly, Tracy DeVolt is proud of the accomplishments that she’s achieved in her life, but she’s also quick to point out that everything that’s happened has occurred by the grace of Jesus Christ. “I would have been a statistic had Jesus not come into my life. He made my story what it is,” she said. “We have a really cool God.”
To learn more about continuing your education through OKWU’s online educational programs, click here.