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Frank Ocampo: Living Joyfully in the Present

Frank Ocampo is busy. He’s pursuing a master’s degree in counseling, interning at a behavioral treatment center for at-risk youth, serving as the head assistant for MU’s commuter program, volunteering at a church and working as a barista at Roger’s Café.

“I feel like I’m running a marathon,” he says. “And right now I’m at mile 24.”

Those two final miles stretch between now and May 2014, when Ocampo graduates. As excited as he is to move towards a career in counseling, he’s careful not to live solely in the future. The same goes for the past.

“I’ve learned what it means to live joyfully in the present since I’ve been at Multnomah,” he says. “If you have the joy of Christ in you, no one can rob that but yourself.”

Ocampo is definitely joyful. His eyes light up when he tells the story of his journey to MU.

Ocampo was raised in London, England, by a family of devoted Christians. He attended a church of 30 people where he and his sister were the only youth. In 2001, Ocampo’s pastor sent the siblings on a summer-long trip to Boise, Idaho, so they could experience Christian community with their peers. It was Ocampo’s first trip to the States, and it marked a pivotal point in his relationship with God. The months were filled with youth conferences, summer camps and an encounter with Christ that changed Ocampo’s life.

“I realized that church wasn’t just a social club or something to tick off your list because your parents have done it,” he recalls. “I met Jesus face-to-face. I was shaking. Had tears in my eyes. It was amazing.”

Ocampo was so moved by his trip that he brought his best friend, Darryl Answer, to Boise with him the following summer. For the next two years, the friends flew to Idaho together. Each visit helped them mature in their faith and deepen their relationship with Christ.

The last time they visited Boise, in 2003, they were struck with an epiphany: “We realized it was frustrating that we had to go to the States in order to experience Christ,” Ocampo says.

But the friends’ dissatisfaction gave way to a dream. The boys made it their goal to one day open a community center in London that facilitates after-school activities for at-risk youth. They knew the significance of being invested in — giving back felt like the right thing to do. 

“I want there to be a dance studio, music studio, music room and an arts room, so they can express themselves,” Ocampo says. “I’m hoping to get volunteer tutors to help these young people excel academically. I want it to be a hangout spot for them so they can build relationships with each other; a safe place where they can get out of a drug and alcohol and sex-filled environment.”

Ocampo took the first step toward his dream in 2007, when he left London to attend Boise Bible College in Idaho. He earned a Bible and Theology degree. Then God put a passion for counseling in his heart.

This newfound love led Ocampo to Multnomah’s graduate program. It was a beautiful fit. The likeness he found between his hometown and Portland even helped ease his homesickness — he affectionately calls Portland his “mini London.”

A strong commitment to counseling youth defines Ocampo’s life. “I want to help them overcome their issues now rather than later in life,” he says. “If you catch current problems, these young people will have a chance at a better and brighter future.”

Due to rules his internship center has, Ocampo is not allowed to share his faith with clients. But he still has big dreams for all of them. “A lot of them have no hope,” he says. “I want them to believe they can choose to live a better life. I believe that through finding truth, they can find God.”

Counseling is emotionally draining, Ocampo admits. To keep himself mentally and physically healthy, he works out often and invests in the people he loves. He even helped establish a club soccer team with a group of men from MU, and he looks forward to playing with them every Sunday. He also loves skyping with his family.

Ocampo makes time to read the Word whenever he can. It reminds him that God is faithful and will equip him to do good works.

Even though hundreds of miles separate Ocampo and his best friend, the dream they share for their future is alive and well.

Both men continue to prepare themselves for what lies ahead. Answer is working for an organization that helps troubled youth in Kansas City, Missouri. Ocampo is pondering his next move after graduation. His visa allows him to work for one year after he receives his diploma, and he would love to spend that time counseling more at-risk youth.

Ocampo and Answer know they will return to London one day.

“The sweetest thing to do when you’re holding a plan is to leave your hands open,” Ocampo says. “Sometimes I want to throw in the towel and go home to my family. But the most important lesson I’ve learned from being at MU is what it truly means to deny yourself and trust Christ. When he’s ready for me to go home, I’ll go home. In the meantime, I take each day as a blessing to learn about, love and praise the Lord Jesus.”