Joy Gore Averitt has a genuine desire for revival and spiritual awakening on college campuses.
It’s apparent in the enthusiastic support she gives to faculty, staff, and students as administrative assistant in the Department of Counseling in the School of Education.
It’s evident in her decision to return to her alma mater after serving 25 years as a pastor’s wife to share her talents and enduring love for the Lord with others.
And it’s demonstrated in “Pray MC,” a prayer walking guide she authored, that draws individuals closer to the Heavenly Father by leading them through the Mississippi College campus and encouraging them to pause at notable landmarks, reflect on the life and teachings of Jesus, and offer prayers on behalf of students and others at the Christian University.
“She has left an indelible mark on the people and culture of MC,” said Mandy Phillips, director of the Baptist Student Union. “By nature of who Joy is, she adds to the spiritual life of MC. Whether it be through gracious service or words of encouragement, Joy shows a tangible example of how Christ impacts every part of a person’s life.”
Cindy Melton, dean of the School of Education, justly calls her “a delightful member” of MC’s Counseling Department and the School of Education team.
“Joy has a servant’s heart and definitely lives up to her name,” Melton said. “She brings joy and kindness everywhere she goes and is always looking for opportunities to encourage others. Her love for the Lord is evident, and she is intentional in using her gifts to help others.”
“She does a wonderful job making sure that the administrative aspect of our department runs smoothly and is always willing to lend a hand when needed,” said Kayla Acklin, chair of the Department of Counseling. “It is evident when interacting with her that she is compassionate and cares about our students as well as our faculty members. She approaches everything she does with a smile and a cheery sense of humor, making it truly a joy to work with her.”
Her dedication to the Christian University and the example she sets for faculty, staff, and students have earned Averitt MC President Blake Thompson’s Most Valuable Person (DBT’s MVP) Award for September.
Thompson made a surprise visit to the School of Education to present his honorary bobblehead, passed from one DBT’s MVP recipient to the next each month, a T-shirt, a $50 gift card, and a special parking place for the month to Averitt, who said she was humbled to be recognized by the president.
“It’s a true honor,” she said. “I didn’t expect to receive the award, but it is an encouraging confirmation of God’s goodness and His lovingkindness and assurance that I have a purpose at MC. It is the desire of my heart to be used by God in any way that He sees fit – especially here on the MC campus – one of the dearest places on Earth to me.
“God has greatly demonstrated His unfailing love for Mississippi College and the MC family through the years. I know that in the coming days He desires to touch the MC family in a powerful way and to pour out His spirit into the lives of people. It is my prayer that His kingdom be advanced – bringing glory and honor to Jesus Christ.”
Averitt’s relationship with Mississippi College stretches four decades. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer science from MC in 1985 and served as a computer specialist with the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in Jackson for many years, but felt the Lord was calling her to further her studies. She attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, earned a Master of Divinity degree, and met her husband, John. For the next quarter century, Averitt supported her husband in pastoral ministry. The couple raised a son, Joel, who graduated from MC in 2021 as a fourth-generation MC student; Joel is now in his third year at the MC School of Law.
Averitt’s faith received its harshest test four years ago when John was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In a few short months, he could no longer speak or eat on his own. The couple returned home to Clinton from a pastorate in Alabama to be close to family members, and Averitt leaned on her faith and prayer as much as she ever had in her life.
“I felt at peace about coming back to Clinton, and I began to pray for open doors,” she said. “Through this journey, I had to fully depend on the Lord Jesus, grow in my faith and prayer life, and trust Him through the uncertainties of that season.
“This trial caused me to go deeper in my faith and trust that God had a sustaining plan, even through the pain of what I never dreamed my family would experience.”
Averitt’s uncle, internationally celebrated Christian artist Samuel Marshall Gore, the “Founding Father of the MC Art Department,” lovingly sculpted several pieces of art displayed throughout MC’s campus. One day while she was praying shortly after returning to Clinton, Averitt envisioned one of her uncle’s most treasured works: a life-sized sculpture of Jesus and the Children.
“As I was praying, I saw a vision of this sculpture which is very dear to me for many reasons,” she said. “I began to pray about job opportunities, because I needed to work to support our family. Very soon after that, a position opened in the School of Education in the Department of Counseling in Lowey Hall. The sculpture of Jesus and the Children stands beautifully right in front of the building. This was most definitely a confirmation that God was guiding me back home to MC.
“John passed away one week after he was able to see Joel graduate online while on hospice at home. As Joel and I have journeyed through incredible loss and grief, I have such gratitude for the way God has so lovingly met our needs as we have placed our trust in Him. I have taken great comfort that we have a faithful high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, who fully sustains us by His powerful word.
“I have found that the more I lay burdens at His feet, I see His hand of provision, His faithfulness, and His goodness. Most importantly, He reveals Himself, and that is the greatest gift. My faith has deepened and has led me to discover just how critical and powerful prayer is and that God truly does answer prayer.”
Through her challenges, Averitt became committed to praying for Mississippi College. She started inviting friends to come pray with her on campus after work. She said during a time of prayer, the Spirit of God birthed a vision for writing a prayer walking guide, “Pray MC,” as a way of helping faculty, staff, and students fulfill God’s calling for the institution.
The guide starts at the Rhoda Royce Prayer Garden outside Alumni Hall, which features a serene environment for reflection with fountains, flowers, and seating. From there, it leads participants to iconic edifices on the Clinton campus, including Alumni Hall, Provine Chapel, the B.C. Rogers Student Center, Nelson Hall, Chrestman Hall, and Lowrey Hall. Gore’s “Servant Savior” sculpture, the Quad, the old chapel bell, the main steps on College Street, and the Kugel at Jennings Hall are also prayer destinations.
“I like to begin my prayer walks in the Rhoda Royce Prayer Garden where the sculptures of Jesus and three of his disciples are located in remembrance of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane,” Averitt said. “Jesus is our supreme inspiration and holy example of passionate prayer and dependence on the Father. During the most critical time in his ministry – before the cross – He chose to pray. He knew that He would need power from His Father to enable Him to move forward with what He would soon face.
“He also was burdened to pray for His disciples and all believers. He humbled Himself in prayer and then, for the joy set before him, ‘became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.’”
During student orientation last summer, the prayer walking guide was distributed to parents, helping them become familiar with campus and urging them to pray intentionally for MC.
“That brought me great joy, that through my trials God birthed something that would be a blessing to others and bring glory to Jesus Christ,” Averitt said.
“We are already seeing how God has used that resource,” Phillips said. “We know that the return on these prayer investments will have an eternal impact that we can’t calculate.”
“Joy is a prayer warrior,” Melton said. “She has a heart for serving. She greets our faculty and students in Lowrey Hall each day with a gracious smile and a helping hand, fulfilling each task with a grateful heart and kind spirit.
“In addition to organizing the prayer walk for campus, she has served on a number of international mission trips and campus committees, and is currently chaplain for the MC Staff Club. She is a proud mom and alum, and an excellent recruiter for our University. She epitomizes the ideals that Mississippi College is known for.”
Averitt said she is grateful to be back at Mississippi College and that her efforts have been well received.
“I’m so thankful to God for the opportunity to be back home at MC,” she said. “I’m excited to see what God is doing in the lives of the students on campus and have full expectation that He will continue to move powerfully in the coming days to strengthen MC for His glory.”