When he was seven years old, Joshua Orndorff wrote in his prayer journal that he wanted to be a pastor. It could have been easy for him or anyone else in his life to believe it was because he so admired his father, who was at the time a charismatic and well-loved pastor at Riverton United Methodist Church in Front Royal, but it didn’t take long for God to affirm the truth.
In middle school, Chaplain Orndorff started a Bible study because there wasn’t one, even though it was a Christian school. That sense of leadership and God’s call continued to grow throughout his high school years, and when it was time for college, he knew without a doubt that his calling was to become a pastor.
He chose to attend Randolph-Macon College on the A. Purnell Bailey pre-ministerial scholarship program. During his time there, he started a United Methodist Church Fellowship group and a chapel service. He volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and worked with Teens Opposing Poverty, and was named the R-MC Volunteer of the Year in 2010 and 2011.
However, his time at R-MC was not all joyous. Just before his sophomore year, his younger sister Kelsey was killed in a car accident at the young age of 17. "Her death made me question and challenge my faith, but God continued to give me grace even when I was walking away to call me back to a stronger and deeper relationship,” he said. “Even through tragedy and loss, God was still faithful and good."
After graduating from R-MC with a degree in religious studies and sociology, Rev Orndorff went on to attend Duke Divinity School, choosing it partly to honor his sister’s memory, as she had hoped to attend there. At Duke he was focused on his call to become a local pastor in the United Methodist Church, but God wasn’t done revealing the specifics. A trip back to R-MC to speak at the dedication of the Ira L. Andrews Residence Hall provided an interesting revelation. “The chaplain at the college told me that I had a gift to be a chaplain, and I should think about it,” Rev Orndorff recalled. He began to hear and discern God’s call to be a chaplain as he worked through his master’s degree program, and he soon began hoping that God would give him an opportunity as a chaplain.
As a part of his seminary education, Rev Orndorff worked as the pastoral intern at Millbrook UMC in North Raleigh. While he was the pastoral intern, the youth pastor resigned, and Rev Orndorff was asked to step into the role. “It was my first time working with youth, and it was an amazing experience,” he said. “The youth group almost doubled in size, and gained a lot of diversity.” He began to sense that his calling was to work with middle school and high school youth. As he prayed over it and looked back over his life, he was able to discern how God had been guiding him in that direction. More than anything, Rev Orndorff wanted to be obedient to God’s will, and so although he was willing to serve as a chaplain, he waited and watched for God to open the door to where he was supposed to serve—wherever that might be. Then, as he was preparing to graduate from Duke with his Master in Divinity, his father sent him an email about the job opening at Randolph-Macon Academy.
“It was clearly ordained that I was to be here at R-MA,” he said, describing how from the timing to the interview process, everything fell into place perfectly. “The door was thrown wide open.”
Coming full circle, Rev Orndorff arrived on campus with his wife Michelle and their son Julian, who was the same exact age Josh himself had been when his father became the pastor at Riverton UMC just up the road from Randolph-Macon Academy. The sense of being where he belongs in following God’s will would be enough to make Rev Orndorff joyful, but the fact that he is now serving in his beloved hometown adds another level of happiness.
Already familiar with R-MA and its proud military tradition, Rev Orndorff hopes to help the Academy family revive the UMC heritage it was founded upon. And while he already has plans for the physical religious center of the Academy, Boggs Chapel, Rev Orndorff is most concerned with the students and their spiritual development.
“I want this to be a place where students can grow their faith and be able to have a strong foundation,” he said. “As they prepare for the upcoming difficulties and challenges in life, it’s all about discipleship. It’s great to have a chapel service, but it’s more than that. For Christian students, I want to help make them true disciples of Christ, and for students of other faiths, I want to support them in their faith journey.
“I heard God’s call early in life,” he added. “My goal is to help students hear God’s call. Whether that is to be a minister or be in the military, I want them to be sure that is God’s call for their life. I hope that I can be as Eli was to Samuel, so that when they think they hear God, they can say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening.’”
- M.Div., Duke Divinity School
- B.A., Randolph-Macon College
- Courses: Survey of the Bible
- R-MA Mentor, Ignite (Middle School Bible Study), and The Beacon (Upper School Bible Study)