“I thought he would make a good pastor,” Joyce said. “He was outgoing and could easily relate to people. Also, I had an interest in serving somehow.”
With encouragement from friends and family, Osborne said he decided to switch from social work to the seminary.
“This was a job that was still working with people,” he said. “I don’t know, I just felt God leading me in that direction, and I thought I should leave that door open.”
At that time, Osborne said, the Mennonite church was in a period of change. In the past, most congregations would only have pastors who came from that congregation’s membership.
“But me, I got my training, and then said, ‘Here I am,’ “ he said.
Hiring ministers outside of the congregation was a new development within the Mennonite faith, and Osborne was in the vanguard.
But Osborne said progressive thinking came naturally to him, given the Howard-Miami Mennonite Church he grew up in didn’t adhere to the more traditional aspects of the church, like dressing in certain clothes similar to the Amish custom.
“I never felt like I was hemmed in by any church restrictions,” he said.
Osborne graduated with a theology degree in 1955 from Goshen Bible Seminary. His first move? He joined the Voluntary Service with the Mennonite Board of Missions and moved to Mathis, Texas, as an alternative to military service after the Korean War.
In Texas, he and Joyce taught impoverished Mexican-American children to speak English and worked at a maternity hospital in an area with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country.
Joyce said immigrant women couldn’t go to hospitals, so they often had their babies out in the fields or in the back of trucks.
It was inside the maternity hospital where the couple had their first daughter.