Thursday, March 6, 2008

We've Moved!

We've moved to a new blogsite. Check us out at

Friday, December 14, 2007

Call To Repentance

What do we Want?

"Hello, this is Tim Rickel with World Gospel Mission calling. The purpose of my call today is simply to thank you for your involvement with WGM in missions."

This has been a common beginning to many phone conversations this fall as my coworkers and I have been calling all of our donors simply to thank them for engaging in missions with us. People have been surprised and grateful. But there was one reaction I personally wasn't expecting.

One of my coworkers was on the phone with an elderly donor. "I'm sorry," she said, "but I'm 81 years old and have given all I can this year."

"Oh, ma'am," he replied, "I am only calling to say thank you!"

And then, the lady broke down and cried.

This, then is the result of years of marketing research in the Christian non-profit fundraising sector. A dear saint, upon receiving a call from us, can only imagine that we are calling for a donation.

And she isn't alone. The most common reaction to our calls has been the hesitant question as the call winds down, "Aren't you going to ask for money?"

What kind of relationship has resulted in this situation. Certainly not a Biblical relationship. I am reminded of how Paul writes the Philippians in chapter four. This is from The Message.

" 4:1 My dear, dear friends! I love you so much. I do want the very best for you. You make me feel such joy, fill me with such pride. Don't waver. Stay on track, steady in God."

And then these verses

10-14I'm glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you're again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don't have a sense of needing anything personally. I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don't mean that your help didn't mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Paul's total communication about their giving is about how it benefits them, not Paul. His joy is in what is happening in their lives.

I think a good season of repentance is in order for activities that have created a reaction of dread rather than delight when people receive a call from the agency that they partner with in ministry. May God help us to value our partners and to call them because we want to know them better and to delight in what God is doing in their lives rather than to "update" them on our activities and "make the ask" to supply our needs.

This doesn't mean we will never ask them to be involved in ministry through a financial gift, but that should only happen based on what God is doing in them rather than what we are doing in our ministries. And that knowledge only comes through genuine authentic relationship.

What do you think. Am I overreacting, or do I have a point?

Monday, December 3, 2007

From Ireland to Arizona

Everything old is new again

Just one month ago I was boarding a plane from Ireland back to Indiana. Laurie and I had gone for a week along with other WGM administrators to meet with our WGM UK Council. That is a wonderful group of people from England and Northern Ireland who have a passion for missions and who are involved in getting people from that region of our globe involved in mission efforts on WGM fields. They have taken teams to Ukraine and Uganda to build or teach or do whatever they can to help out our missionaries in those places.

We went to talk with them about how we might coordinate our efforts even better from the US and the UK. I fall in love with just about every country I visit in the world, and Northern Ireland, where we had our meetings, was no exception. That's one country where I could easily blend in, at least until I opened my mouth!

This past month included Thanksgiving, a time when I took some much needed down time to just vegetate. It included a wonderful time in Chicago with some old friends, Terry and Natalie, who share my passion for mission and who have partnered with us in ministry for many years. Chicago at the beginning of the Christmas season was fun!

I took this past month off from blogging. My schedule was so crazy this summer I just needed to let something go for a while to catch my breath. Now, at the end of a visit to our mission work in Arizona, I am picking it up again.

This weekend was incredible. I am on our American Indian Field for three days of lending the folks here a helping hand and helping them celebrate a milestone in their ministry.

For more than half a century, centered in the Phoenix area we have had a work among Native Americans. For many years in Peoria, Arizona, where I am now, we had a boarding school for native kids. Times change and the boarding school approach became outdated as families preferred to keep their kids at home as time went on. So a move was made to open schools on the reservation back in the first part of the 90's. The struggle was what to do with the large school facilities that we had. We tried different things, and after a lot of planning decided this past February to consolidate what we have here and use the money from the sale of property to update the facilities that we keep, making more effective use of the space we have. What was neat to me was that a number of alumni of the boarding school were here helping with this move and will be part of the force shaping the future of our new ministry outreach.

And what an exciting outreach that is! Phoenix has become the seventh largest city in America with huge ethnic populations living all around the school property. We'll continue to reach native children as well as other groups as these grounds are converted into a multi-purpose ministry center complete with recreational and instructional facilities. This place offers a great opportunity for people to get their feet wet in missions, and in fact, on this trip we brought 17 people from our staff, some of whom have never been to a mission field before!

Yesterday we split out into groups to attend church on the reservation. That was a new experience for many, let me tell you! I'd encourage you to plan a visit here just to check out what God is doing in this corner of the world. You'd be surprised, and blessed!

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm a Runner - Chapter Seven

That's Nuts!

A little over a week ago Laurie ran her first full marathon in twenty years. It was another chapter in our running saga in which I gained some new insights into the crazy world of running and other passions.
Running is different things to different people, but my running has centered around the big race. It's been the annual event that has helped keep me motivated. Along that path I have run three 5K races and am now training for a half. So with that in mind you would think that a full marathon would be the pinnacle of running accomplishment. But the reactions to someone running a full marathon run the gamet from admiration to a shake of the head and the sentiment, "That's nuts!" More on that later. First the race.

Louisville, Kentucky 2007 Marathon

The week leading up to the race we were having the last week of summer weather in Indiana and the worry was that the high the day of the race was to be 83 degrees. All that worrying must have worked, because the temperature the morning of the race was 56 degrees and four hours later it was around 70. So that worked out.

There were 362 runners in this race, which made for a much more manageable race to watch. It was a down and back affair, which meant you could drive ahead and watch your runner go by at several spots along the way.

At mile nine Laurie was looking strong. At mile 15 she was starting to hurt and at mile 20 she said she wasn't going to make her four hour goal. With this size race you can actually have a brief conversation with runners as they go by. One big guy in his fifties, who passed by just before Laurie at mile twenty, groaned as he went by and asked me, "Why do I do this to myself?" Later, when he was turning to run the last leg I said to him, "This is why you do it!" Easy for me to say!
One thing struck me as I observed this group of people running 26.2 miles on a crisp October morning. Here's an event where very athletic people are accomplishing an amazing thing to me. Running for four hours straight. Some less, some more. But the common response I got from them when I cheered as they went by was a humble, "Thanks for coming out."

Many runners had family members cheering them on. Others came alone. True to form, however, running showed itself to be a lonely sport. On the final
leg of the race, as runners headed up the walkway toward the finish line, many spectators had their backs to the action as they talked to other runners who had already finished. Just an interesting thing to see people accomplish a pretty amazing feat and be largely ignored by the folks who came out to see it. Once Laurie finished I did the same thing, of course.

The fascinating aspect to this was the responses I got from people I told about the race in the week that followed.
Some said "That's great!" But I was interested in the ones who shook their heads and said "That's nuts." It reminded me of coming back from the mission field and sharing all that had happened with some good friends I had gone to college with. When I finished they shook their heads and said, "Better you than me. I could never do that!"

I guess the lesson learned in all of that is that God has put a passion in everyone that expresses itself in unique ways. The important thing is to follow that passion. In athletics maybe it's running or maybe bowling. In missions maybe it's going on a work team, serving on the missions committee, or praying around the world for missionaries. Whatever it is, if it's worth doing, it's worth doing well and even...alone.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'm a Runner - Chapter Six

I'm Sore
Glowing in the bliss of my first 5K I decided that I was going to run the half-marathon the next spring. So I decided to get serious with my training. I was majorly sore after that first race, so after a week or so to heal up, I went for my first training run. My goal? Beat my marathon time!

It was majorly hot that first week in the middle of May. "Good!" I thought. "This will take the pounds off!"

It took something off for sure. Now I had read countless articles about running in the heat and hydration and all that stuff. But this was just 3 miles and I had run that all spring in training. They used to call it sun stroke, I believe. The word dehydration is another descriptor.

Another way of putting it is "the death of my mini dreams." Combine the blazing summer heat with a busy, busy schedule and the recovery time from dehydration and my goal went to "I think I'll run another 5K next year and start training in the spring again."

So I followed that pattern for two more years. Call it seasonal running. Or hobby running. Or sporatic fits of fitness.

But this past spring, just like the drug user, I found that now the 5K was not giving me quite the high it first did. Even with my somewhat inconsistent training schedule, I was gaining a level of fitness and experience that now meant that I wasn't even sore the day after the race. Time for a new challenge.

So this summer, with care and wisdom, and heeding the advice of the experts on increasing your running distance, I started on the goal of upping my mileage. I'll share that saga of what I did and the piece of advice I ignored in my next post.

This weekend Laurie will run in the Louisville Marathon. 26.2 miles on a flat, fast course. She hopes to qualify for Boston.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Are Marathons Too Risky?

The Media Weighs In

Today's MSN home page teaser line asks the question, "Are Marathons Too Risky?" In case you missed it, millions of runners collapsed on Sunday in Chicago at the most dangerous event in the world due to global warming.

OK, I exaggerate. But here's the caption to the picture in the Associated Press story.

Spectators watch the start of the Chicago Marathon. The brutally hot marathon that descended into disarray this weekend — with hundreds in the field of 36,000 runners vomiting or collapsing by the roadside — has raised questions about whether marathons have become too big and too greedy.

The article went on to discuss if organizers should limit the size of a marathon. The Chicago Marathon was huge, with 45,000 participants pre-registered. What struck me is that the article missed the point. It was the heat that brought people down.Big marathons aren't too risky. In fact, a huge marathon will do a whole lot less damage in our society than a lot of other activities. You realize that when you look at the studies on diabetes today or go to your local shopping mall or restaraunt and look around. Diabetes is now the number 6 cause of death in the USA.

I've now run three 5K races and am training for a half-marathon. But my greatest risk factor is the 30 extra pounds I carry around every day. That is more likely to kill me than a marathon, although if I had entered that race on that day, I'm pretty sure I would have been one of the collapsers.

I started running because of one of these mega-races, so I'm kinda particular towards them. Yes, some are too big. But too risky? Nah.

I think God made us with a need to do "risky" stuff. When we sit back and get complacent, that's when we are risking harm. We were meant to go out there and do stuff. To exert ourselves and push. When our focus becomes comfort or self-indulgence, that's when the harmful stuff happens, whether we're talking physically or spiritually.

Are you doing anything that you consider noble, but that others kinda look at and say, "Not for me!"? Post a comment about it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm a Runner - Chapter Five

Woohoo! My first race!
A friend asked me two days ago how come I am running. She said she wants to run. She does aerobics, but when she trys to run it just feels awful. Now thinking about that, I'd have to say that running just isn't for everyone. But certainly regular exercise is!
But that question made me think. Why am I doing this? Running, I mean. Keeping fit is certainly part of it. And then there is belonging to a strange group of people called runners. The ones I used to pity as I drove by and about whom I said, "I'm sure glad that's not me!" But then I went to my first mini-marathon to watch Laurie run. For me, definitely the race event was what triggered running and is what gives me inspiration to stretch for something more today. Faster, longer, stronger.

So, back to my first 5K race ever as a runner. My heart rate was 118 at the starting line. What an adrenaline rush! Off we went. Past the cheering crowds, over the bridge, past the Zoo, there's the one mile marker! Isn't it funny to run a 5K and count the miles? Past the first bands and the guy preaching salvation. Hang a right at one mile and note that people are passing me at a more steady rate now. Up the first hill. OK, it's not really a hill, but it is SLIGHTLY uphill, and that counts. Then a truly humbling moment.

At about 1.5 miles you turn right and onto a bridge where the half-marathon and 5K runners run along the same course separated by a ribbon line. This is when the front of the pack of half-marathoners are hitting the last 3/4 mile stretch. And suddenly I am running alongside top athletes. Well, that's technically true, although duration of our side by side running is about .634 seconds. I am amazed at their speed and admire them from a rapidly increasing distance. With that dose of reality I turn my attention to the second half of my race and the fact that my legs are starting to tell my brain that they aren't sure they want to go any further.
This is when the five year olds start passing me. And I haven't figured this one out yet, because I crossed the start line about a minute after the gun sounded, but this is also the point that I pass the guy on crutches. Seriously. I pray that he jumped into the race partway, because if it took me a mile and a half to catch a guy on crutches with a one minute lead...

Are you getting a picture here? After two miles a PR is out the window in my thinking, even though if it is your first race, you have a fairly good chance of making that goal. No, I'm thinking finish, finish, finish. I've never had my legs just lock up and quit before, but the possibility occurs to me. Truly I was nuts to try this! I grab a water cup and almost choke to death as I breathe instead of swallow. My first water station!

But the the guys and gals standing along the route start shouting encouragement. And I begin to think I'm gonna make it. And then it's the final quarter mile of the 5K race (again, the miles/kilometers thing) and I actually pick up the pace. The final 100 yards is the same finish as the half-marathon course and the crowd is cheering us on. Now despair turns to euphoria! I am out of breath, but that doesn't matter at all. I give up the timing chip, collect my medal, and chug down a water bottle. I collect the chips, cookies, banana, gatorade, apple, etc and join the other finishers exiting the course.
Laurie was still running the half-marathon, so I hurried to the finish line to cheer her on. Here's where something funny happened. I'm standing at the 1/4 mile to go mark and cheering. Suddenly in my periferal vision I notice a TV camera. Then I'm tapped on the shoulder and the reporter starts asking me questions. That evening on the news I'm in the report! The introduction to my interview is. "Tim Rickel had finished the race and was cheering runners on while waiting for his wife to finish." I found that a hilarious introduction in light of the fact that after running 10 miles my wife ran her final 5K of the race eight minutes faster than I ran my 5K! But the TV said I was waiting for her to finish too. I played that line over and over. :)

When I downloaded the results from the race I noticed that another runner had my exact finish time. It was a lady.

35093 Tim Rickel 35:27 11:26

16644 Laura Mowery 35:27 11:26

So I looked up her information. She was 99 years old! Now I had a goal. Train and train so that next year I could leave her in the dust! My time was better than hers the next year. But somehow, when you beat a 100 year old by a couple of minutes in a 5K, it seems like bragging rights go to the 100 year young person. Way to go Laura!

Are you getting the picture that you too could do this?
I think the great lie that the enemy of our souls has sold us is that somehow it is only special people who can accomplish great missional things for God are missionaries. It gives us a nice out. We "drive" by them and think, "I could never do that." When the truth is God has given us all unique abilities that He wants to see us use for him. We who have put our faith in Jesus are all to be missionaries in life. Ever see someone come back from a short-term mission trip? They love to talk about all that they did and saw and how the people responded. I'm convinced that is the type of enthusiasm God had in mind for his church most of the time. But somehow we seem to miss it more than enjoy it.
I'd love to hear your thinking on that in a comment...