Stories of Faith
STORIES OF FAITH: A LIFE OF VALOR FOR THE LORD
Despite public scrutiny, Cory Box will always rely on his faith in role as Mayor of Jenks
Special to FBC Jenks
October 4th, 2023
Two years ago, Cory Box accepted the role of Mayor for the City of Jenks. When he accepted the position, he had already been serving as a city council member for four years.
Cory knew going into his life as a politician, even in a small town like Jenks, there would be public scrutiny, but not to the level he has faced in the past six years. He relies heavily on his relationship with God to get him through those challenging times.
“I don’t know how people survive in this job called politics without a daily relationship with Christ,” Cory said. “It isn’t too likely that I would have any success as a public servant for the Jenks community if it wasn’t for God. I would likely be a much angrier person. My wife would probably not be able to tolerate me.”
Early on after Cory was elected as a city council member for Jenks, he noticed there wasn’t a pastor coming to every city council meeting to offer an invocation.
“So, on one night when we didn’t have a pastor show, I looked at the other council members and wondered why one of us couldn’t do it,” Cory said. “I didn’t think it was appropriate to skip our prayer time simply because someone didn’t show up to lead us. I also knew that at least three of the other council members were Christians and regularly attended First Baptist Jenks. So, I turned on my microphone and asked the mayor if I could lead the prayer. Even though I believe it took him by surprise, he only took a moment to say yes.”
It was less than 12 hours following the first meeting where Cory prayed, he received backlash from several citizens of Jenks saying he shouldn’t be praying as an elected public servant. He specifically remembers some residents suggesting that he “stay in his lane”.
“I wouldn’t be the Mayor of Jenks today without a strong foundation of faith in Jesus Christ,” Cory said. “It’s simple for me, I don’t believe you can do this job effectively and for too long without a daily relationship with God.”
Cory’s wife Samantha provides unwavering support for her husband. He said her support is vital as he navigates the turbulent waters that come with small-town politics.
“If I didn’t have a wife who is a believer, it would be nearly impossible. She provides strength for me and always keeps me on track. If you don’t have a spouse who is equally yoked, there is no way you can effectively serve day in and day out.”
Cory cherishes his role as mayor of the city of Jenks, but also knows that if God wants to take it away from him, He can do so at any time.
“Every time I stand in front of Jenks citizens, I take it very seriously, but I understand that if God wants me to do something else, it will come to an end. There are people in this community whom I don’t see eye-to-eye with, but through my faith, I always try to understand their side. I aggressively seek out those people in the community, trying to resolve those issues and seek unity wherever possible. I am blessed to be the Mayor of Jenks, but I never want to let it distract from my faith and relationship with God.”
Cory became a Christian when he was around 10 years old, while living in Hawaii. Cory’s father was in the United States Navy, so he moved from place to place as a child. He was born at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington D.C. and lived overseas in Greece before moving back to the States with his family to Orlando before heading west to Hawaii.
“We lived in Navy housing, so every kid in my neighborhood was a Navy kid,” Cory said. “There was an older lady who lived on our street. She was a very sweet lady and she always had cool and fun treats for us kids while we were playing outside. She had a Bible study and we got involved in that. One day, it was over our salvation, and it was because of that Bible study that I was led to accept Christ as my Lord and Savior.”
After he had accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, Cory ran home and asked his parents if they had ever gotten saved. At the time they hadn’t, but it wasn’t long after when Cory’s parents would get saved and they started attending an Assembly of God church.
It was a radical transformation for Cory’s family, as his parents went from a lifestyle of partying to strictly attending church Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesday nights for youth groups. Cory was baptized at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.
As a young Christian, Cory would sometimes wonder about his faith, but God gave him two clear examples to always fall back on if his faith was ever tested or teetered. Cory faced two encounters where Satan was clearly present through possession of someone and both times, he saw the power of Jesus Christ and the power of the name of Jesus drive Satan away.
“People will ask me, how can you be so sure,” Cory said. “I tell them I saw the evidence. Just like I see the evidence every day now. Billy Graham used to say, you don’t see the wind, but you sure do see the effects of the wind. It is the same way with God. We may not see God right in front of us, but we see the evidence of God’s fingerprints everywhere. Those experiences transformed my faith.”
Growing up with a father in the military, Cory always knew the military was going to be a big part of his future as he got older. Not only did his father serve in the Navy, but his grandfather and uncles did as well. While Cory eventually set his sights on joining the American military, he didn’t do it with Navy, but instead, the United States Air Force.
Cory met an Air Force recruiter who was also a linguist and worked in intelligence. His interest was piqued, and he signed up to take a test to see if he would qualify for such a position. He and other Air Force recruits got on a bus in Virginia Beach and headed to the processing and testing center in Richmond.
“There were hundreds of us in this giant room all taking this test, and after we all finished, this guy comes and screamed several names,” Cory said.
“My name was called, so I had to go into this other room and take another test. Same thing. Guy came in and screamed names and my name was one of them. At that point, I was taken into another room and tested again and after doing well on that test, was offered a job as a Russian linguist for the Air Force.”
Cory went to a school called the Defense Language Institute and then eventually transferred to becoming a Spanish linguist doing counterintelligence and counternarcotics work while tracking “enemies” in Central and South America. His primary focus was to monitor the growth and aspirations of the Cuban military, while monitoring and slowing down the massive amounts of narcotics coming out of Colombia.
“That was a somewhat tough time in my life,” Cory said. “However, it was the best job I’ve ever had. I was in my early 20s. There were times back in those days that I thought this could be my last day on this earth, so as a believer, it was a comforting feeling knowing where I was going if something were to happen.”
Several years later, Cory was working overseas in Iraq and Kuwait. The Army had set up Combat Support Hospitals. He and several others from the Air Force would go to these hospitals and help prepare patients with severe injuries for the rigors of flight in a military aircraft that wasn’t designed for comfort. During this time, Cory was walking through one of the hospitals when he came across a young lady who was in her early 20s.
“She worked for the Explosive Ordinance Disposal, which means she and her crew would go around and find unexploded ordinance to disarm and remove safely from neighborhoods and busy well-traveled roads,” Cory said.
“A road-side bomb hidden inside a car tire had exploded next to her and the force of the blast caused the rubber from the tire to impale itself into the skin on her face.”
“I remember her just looking at me and saying, ‘I was the homecoming queen.’ She then asked me to grab her bag next to her bed and pull out her wallet and look at the picture of her inside her wallet. She was blonde-haired, blue-eyed, just an All-American girl. She said again, ‘I was the homecoming queen.’ Then she said, ‘do you think I will ever be beautiful again?’ I remember thinking, this is a Holy Spirit moment. This is a moment where you must stop everything else and pray.”
Cory said he carries those memories and his faith through his service now with the City of Jenks.
“I look back at the six years I have served Jenks, and nearly every time I get to address our first responders in a formal setting, I just cry. Every 9/11 ceremony I attend I cry. I can’t get through those things with a dry eye. I have such an emotional connection with them and the sacrifice they’re willing to make on any given day, and I try to emphasize those things in my service as a city council member and now as Mayor.”