Overview of Ministry
This coming summer marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of my first mission trip for our Overseas Outreach mission when I went to both Estonia and Latvia. I plan to share more about that later by sharing with you the ministry update I wrote for a BBC update.
I preached my first sermon in the early summer of 1961, when I was only 17 and had recently graduated from Longmont High School in Colorado, and was planning to go to Boise Bible College that August. Before graduation, I had rededicated my life to our Lord Jesus prior to the spring evangelistic/revival meeting by Kenneth Beckman, leading up to Resurrection Sunday. As I was going out the door, our preacher/pastor, Talmage Pace, asked me where I was going to go to Bible College. I answered, “I don’t know,” but I did agree to look over some of his Bible college catalogs. Within a few days, I had decided on BBC. Then he recruited me to preach for a Sunday evening youth service for the congregation. I objected, but he told me that he had also recruited Lloyd Strickland, who was back home for the summer from another Bible college. Lloyd would preach for 20 minutes and mine could be a short ten minutes. My message was on the love of God, and I think I finished before my ten minute limit! (Can you believe that? 😊 It’s true! The age of miracles is not past!)
God had Della waiting for me at Boise First Church of Christ, where BBC classes were taught during the week. This was another divine appointment. So about one and a half years later, on December 14, we shared our wedding vows in that same building where we first met.
In the summer of 1964, after completing my third year of studies at BBC, we moved to Dunsmuir, California for a summer internship under the leadership of James Weldon, who had graduated from BBC nearly ten years before. This was a signficant stage in my preparation for future ministry. We both learned some important lessons, and it was the start of a long-time friendship with Jim Weldon. Jim is now semi-retired and lives in western Washington state, where he still serves as an elder of a mission-minded church in Vancourver, Washington. Through his influence, I have been a guest speaker at that congregation many times. Jim has also served as mayor of Yacolt, a small town outside of Vancouver. A few years ago I asked him to write a review for my (our) full-length book, Is the Bible Without Any Errors? (I say “our” because my tracts, booklets, books, and prayer letters would not exist without Della and our daughter, Sandy, who is our office manager.) Jim wrote: “Outstanding tribute to our Lord relating to the accuracy of Scripture.”
God’s Call on My Life
At this point, I should back up to clarify that God’s call on my life was actually much earlier than my conversion when I was 12 years old, or my high school senior experience when I rededicated my heart and life to Jesus on a cold, clear, winter night. Even before my conversion, as a young boy in a Bible school class, the thought dawned on me – and came through vividly – “If this is really true, then the best thing I can do with my life is to become a missionary!” So, where did that thought come from? Am I naïve to believe that the Spirit of God planted that thought in my mind through His Word?
Christian Children’s Home Ministry
When we returned to Boise after the summer internship in Dunsmuir, California, we learned that there was an urgent need for house parents at the Christian Children’s Home on North 36th Street. The same elders who were overseeing BBC were also the overseers for the Christian Children’s Home, because the same congregation sponsored both. During our meeting with the elders to report on our summer internship, we volunteered to help at the Christian Children’s Home. We were hestitant about such a responsibility because we had no experience raising children, but we told them we would do our best to fill in until they could find permanent house parents. They accepted our offer, so suddenly a young married couple, with just over 1 ½ years’ experience adjusting to married life, were the parents of seven vibrant boys with ages ranging from three years to sixteen years. Actually, we functioned more like older brother and sister than as their parents. I loved the wrestling matches with them on the lawn, until they figured out that they could overpower me, take me down, and sit on me if they organized their attacks to all jump me at once! 😊
The trip from Boise to Joplin, Missouri to become students at OBC is a story in itself. The permanent house parents for “our” seven boys were to arrive in Boise in July 1965, so we loaded our belongings in our 1951 Mercury and a two-wheeled trailer for the trip. Pulling out of that long lane of the Christian Children’s Home that warm July morning was the hardest separation from a ministry in our lives, and it still brings tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat when I think about it. Why? Because some of the boys were running alongside our car pleading, “Don’t leave us! Please don’t leave us!” Whew! We knew we had to leave, but they didn’t understand.
(Note: If you want to read about amazing, specific answers to prayer leading up to Ozark Bible College and Alpine Christian Mission, please contact us for a free copy of our testimony booklet, Powered by Prayer.) While at Ozark Bible College, I had a short preaching ministry at Tunas, Missouri. Then a four-year ministry in Eugene, Oregon before going to Germany. During our time in Eugene, we were blessed with some life-long friendships, plus the blessed addition of Randy and Sandy to our family!
Now, here is the text of my update for BBC alumni: “Della and I are now in our twenty-fifth year of ministry with our Overseas Outreach Mission, with our primary target being the former Soviet Union nations for outreach. In the summer of 1998, I went to Estonia to teach creation evangelism in youth camps, then traveled south to meet with Victor Barviks about helping plant a new church for outreach beyond Riga, Latvia, where he had planted a congregation in the central high school of that capital city.
I went back again in the fall, then twice a year in 1999 and 2000 for outreach using creation evangelism and free English classes to gather a nucleus for a church plant in Ogre, 36 km from Riga. Also, since Victor Barviks is a missionary sent by acapella Churches of Christ, my second purpose was to help promote the unity of the Body of Christ beginning with a different branch of the Restoration Movement.
The fall issue of Creation magazine had an article about Sergei Golovin entitled, “The Creation Crusader of the Crimea” and I thought, “Wow! I would like to meet him!” Sergei is a regional director for Good News Productions, International, so I was able to get his email address from them and corresponded with him. He invited me to come to the Man and the Christian Worldview Symposium in May of 2001, and I accepted. It was great! Sergei and Georges Carillet called it an outreach to the intellectuals of the Former Soviet Union nations, so about two thirds of the presenters were scientists and professors, and many of them carried lots of letters in their titles. I soon got over being intimidated by all those degrees because those presenters had been so indoctrinated with evolutionism and Marxist atheism that they had no valid answers to straightforward questions we asked them from a Biblical Creationist worldview. Some of them did a major turn-around after hearing “the rest of the story”! I got other invitations from Christian presenters and kept going back to Ukraine. Now, for the past twenty-two years, our major focus has been on Ukraine and beyond.
Our Current Situation
We now have four younger couples who are officially Overseas Outreach representatives. Each couple also has their own ministry. Because of the war, they are scattered, but all are serving in outreach to destitute people in Ukraine and to refugees from Ukraine. We also have other co-workers (like Sergei & Georges) who are able to help us funnel funds to the destitute, needy families and kids.
Our two legs in moving forward with outreach have been: 1st – Creation evangelism, 2nd – Compassion evangelism, but now, in the wake of this terrible war, it has become compassion evangelism. I’m so thankful to be able to report that in the midst of horrible trauma, turmoil, and bloodshed, God is bringing spiritual awakening to multitudes of Ukrainians. Many churches are seeing growth, baptisms and transformed lives. All praise to our Lord Jesus! Of course, now our function in our Overseas Outreach mission is primarily through correspondence with co-workers and with our USA support base (those who pray and give to reach souls for Christ). However, I am also helping introduce a younger man, Jim Perkins, (who aspires to become a traveling creation evangelist) to many area churches.”
It’s Now or Never!
For years I warned my students of this song because it has a hauntingly beautiful melody with a dangerous message. I told them that this is not a song about love – it’s a song about lust. With the lyrics that Elvis made popular, that was the case, but our friend, Rick Rodriguez, changed that song for us. Rick was a master musician who started his own Christian band, Double-Edged Sword, and he learned from another Christian band, A Band of Brothers, how to take a poular melody and “convert” it with Christian lyrics. Rick converted “It’s Now or Never” into a strong evangelistic appeal. Consider these words:
“It’s now or never – come hold Him tight.
Reach out to Jesus – reach out tonight.
Tomorrow may be too late;
God’s waiting for you –
When your soul is aching,
And your heart is breaking,
And you feel like crying,
Even feel like dying –
Just call to the Father;
It won’t be a bother.
He’s there for you
To see you through – tonight.
It’s now or never – come hold Him tight.
Reach out to heaven – reach out tonight.
Tomorrow may be too late;
God’s waiting for you –
Rick Rodriguez was born the same year I was – just a few months ahead of me – and I attended his memorial service in Nampa a few years ago. What a powerful testimony of a changed life! One person after another testified to Rick’s positive impact on his or her life. The fact that Rick Rodriguez was only months older than I am, reminded me how fleeting life on this earth is – and I want to make my life count day by day and moment by moment. How about you? What are you doing today to touch someone else with the truth and love of Jesus? Are you ready to stand before Him as your Judge? He died to be your Savior. Have you reached out to Him? Tomorrow may be too late! (Lyrics to the song used by permission of Rick’s wife, Joyce.)
From Our Mailbox
“Thank you for your nice letter and for your prayers. The war is still on, every day we can hear the howl of missile alarm sirens. But the situation is much better than it was in 2022. After the troops of the Russian invaders were driven out of the Kharkov region, the shelling of Kharkov almost stopped, but the situation still remains tense. Sometimes rockets do arrive…
Thank you, dear Rick, for your words of encouragement and compassion. Yours in Christ, Sergey (Nikonorov)”
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“Welcome to the April edition of the JDFI newsletter. This month, I have collaborated with Joe Waresak, the new president of the James Dobson Family Institute. Joe and I share the same convictions, and many of the words in this letter capture his sentiment as well as mine. He is now handling the administrative responsibility of our ministry. I am chairman of the board and still very active. In addition, our team includes a wonderful board of seven directors who are working together to ensure that this ministry continues to defend righteousness in the culture and the institution of the family. What follows is my expression of our passion for both. – James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Have you observed that evil is having a heyday in America, and the traditional family unit is also in dire trouble? Sadly, some of today’s evangelical churches are silent regarding the wickedness that now grips our nation. And our country, as we know and love it, appears to be going down for its final count. It grieves me to write these words. Yet, here we are.
Jon Root from Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA makes the following observation:
We live in a culture that is trying to grab hold of the next generation and indoctrinate them into a specific ideology and belief system. You see this in schools, media, the workplace, and almost every aspect of American society.
The most degenerate aspect of this infiltration is the way woke culture has continuously attempted to lure children in. Drag queen story hours at schools and public libraries, curriculums sexualizing each lesson plan. Society tells people that living in sexually deviant ways is liberating, and it tells people that gender is a social construct. Radical social justice is used to vilify individuals and law enforcement, killing babies is ‘healthcare’ and Christianity is under attack.
Jon is right to place such a concerning emphasis on the welfare of our children and the widespread immorality that now consumes our society. I have often shared my belief that as the family goes, so goes the nation. It is a divine blueprint that has undergirded all of human history. If the building blocks that support this critical component lack the influence of God’s righteousness, we are left with the unrighteousness of man.
Try as some people may to contradict the veracity of this truth, it is only God’s holy presence that sustains both the family unit and our nation. A man who articulated this understanding was President Ronald Reagan. Four decades ago, on March 8, 1983, he spoke the following words that are still often quoted today. Here is an excerpt of that speech in which President Reagan unequivocally stated that America’s liberties and prosperity are contingent upon our reliance on God.
So I tell you there are a great many God-fearing, dedicated, noble men and women in public life, present company included. And yes, we need your help to keep us ever mindful of the ideas and the principles that brought us into the public arena in the first place. The basis of those ideals and principles is . . . a commitment to freedom and personal liberty that, itself is grounded in the much deeper realization that freedom prospers only where the blessings of God are avidly sought and humbly accepted.
The American experiment in democracy rests on this insight. Its discovery was the great triumph of our founding fathers, voiced by William Penn when he said: ‘If we will not be governed by God, we must be governed by tyrants.’ Explaining the inalienable rights of men, Jefferson said, ‘The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.’ And it was George Washington who said that ‘of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’
And finally, that shrewdest of all observers of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, put it eloquently, after he had gone on a search for the secret of America’s greatness and genius-and he said: ‘Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the greatness and the genius of America. America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.’”
Like the men who constructed the founding framework of our nation, Reagan also knew that it was only God’s goodness that made America great. The same is true for any marriage, family, or, for that matter, any relationship. Simply put, if you remove the goodness of God, the evils of this world will take over. And that is exactly what we are seeing happen within our homes and across America.
I sounded this same alarm more than ten years ago when I wrote a newsletter on a similar topic. Even then, the moral temperature of our country was declining rapidly. And like today, our call to action begins within our own homes. Here is a quote from that letter:
We must take action now to support and restore biblical family values in our homes, our churches, and in our communities. We must demand that when our elected leaders represent us, that they also represent our values. When they do not, they must be replaced post-haste. This is a new reality that we can begin working toward, today.
I’m often asked how parents and influential adults can impact the character of our nation. Here’s a place to start: It’s time to teach “old-fashioned” principles of morality to our children . . . not just because it’s the only safe approach, but because it’s right.
How, then, do we save our families and our nation from the moral freefall we are now witnessing? We must get back to the biblical basics, and uncompromisingly anchor our families to Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. For parents and grandparents, this means standing firm against the current riptide of culture and pouring the Lord’s truth and grace into the hearts and minds of our children. I believe this should be our principal calling.
Simultaneously, we must not neglect the reality of living in a fallen world that is quickly removing God and His righteousness from every sector of life. We need to grasp this essential truth: If we are not impacting the culture with God’s goodness, the culture will impact us with its evil. And today’s culture will dictate tomorrow’s state and national policies. It’s not an overstatement to say that our constitutional republic, as we’ve known it, is hanging perilously by a very thin thread.
Yet, I’ll remind you of those two words in the Bible that change everything, “But God.” If we place our trust in Him, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). This is why I answered the Lord’s calling some 45 years ago, and I pray you will continue to fight the good fight with me on our home fronts and in our nation’s public squares. We cannot give up! Our children and this country we call home are worth every ounce of effort we can expend.
At JDFI, this is our enduring mission and the reason for our existence—to uplift the gospel and the entire counsel of God within our homes, communities, and nation.
Recently, Joe and I met with our board of directors to ratify and memorialize the distinctions that define us as a ministry.
- To introduce as many as possible to the gospel of Jesus Christ;
- To protect and promote the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death;
- To preserve and promote the institution of the family;
- To preserve and promote the institution of marriage;
- To preserve and promote parenthood and sound parenting;
- To preserve and promote human sexuality as male and female with their unique and complementary characteristics;
- To educate husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children, and to give them Christ-oriented counsel;
- To preserve and promote religious liberty as rooted in the dignity of humankind and protected by the First Amendment;
- To encourage righteousness in the culture; and,
- To encourage respect for the American founding, its Constitution, the role of judges to interpret and not to make law, and the free enterprise system.
Please know this: we will not retreat from this calling, and our efforts will be saturated in prayer, knowing that the results are held in our Lord’s sovereign hands. Thank you for being a part of our mission.
As I close, I want to share a need. JDFI is experiencing a serious shortfall in contributions, like numerous other ministries. Many families are deeply concerned about what they see as a financial crisis that leaves them with few discretionary resources. Just trying to keep a family fed, housed, and clothed is a challenge. No doubt, this is due to historically high inflation rates and our current economic woes. If our good Lord has positioned you to assist us, we promise we will steward the monies well and put them to good use. I also understand that some of you may be unable to give, and that’s okay. Please know that we are praying for you and trusting that God will meet all of your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus. We are in this together.
May God bless you, your family, and our country. James C. Dobson, Ph.D., Founder Chairman, Dr. James Dobson Family Institute”
“This letter may be reproduced without change and in its entirety for non-commercial and non-political purposes without prior permission from the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.”
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I want to thank you for taking the time to write all of your encouraging notes—packed with God’s Word! I read all of them. I’m sorry that I cannot reply to everyone, but please know that the Lord is using you to strengthen His Body, i.e. Me! I pray the continued good blessings of the Lord Jesus to you.
Thank you, Randy J. Guliuzza (Institute for Creation Research)”
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“Happy Easter, dear Rick and Della! You will always stay in my heart as one of the best spiritual blessings from God! I wish you all the best! With love in Christ, Sergey (Nikonorov)”
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“Thank you so much for writing! Happy 25 years of ministry with Overseas Outreach Mission! Your faithfulness greatly honors the Lord. We’re so thankful for your partnership in the gospel, and we’ll be praying for Della’s health. Happy Easter! Amy (Storms), OCC” (concerning our ministry update – which I also sent to them because we went to Ozark for mission training after BBC)
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“Dear Rick and Della, thank you for the info and your support. Just a short note. We are keeping busy trying to integrate and getting involved in many ministries. Just recently I have received an offer to speak to local pastors here. But it is not ‘written in stone’ so to speak.
We are seeking God’s leading. Reading a book about the need of mission for the city. Vienna has a lot of ethnic groups. We are allowed to be here till March 2024 legally. We don’t know how the situation develops in Ukraine but we’re praying about being involved in ministry where God wants us. Maybe here in Austria as representatives of Overseas Outreach or in the US. We don’t know. So we are praying and trying to understand how to establish mission work here in the future legally. Maybe we can start on our own or become a representative. These are just thoughts for now. Fields are ready here. This is just our thoughts, and we invite you to prayer about it. Looking forward to your thoughts.
I (Zhenya) have terrible pain related to my back. I did MRI and it is showing that I have a pinched nerve and problem with spinal column disk. Now I just take pain killers and doing exercises. I will only be able to consult with the doctor at the end of April. Need prayers… Zhenya and Natasha” (Please pray!)
Dear Zhenya and Natasha, yes! We will definitely be praying for God to continue using you in outreach there in Vienna (and it is not surprising to me that you are getting involved in many ministries, because you have the heart for ministry). We will pray for His specific and definite guidance about where to concentrate your efforts. Also, we are asking for His healing touch for your back and leg. If God does give you the opportunity to speak to a group of pastors, you may want to share with them these observations from Chuck Swindoll –Three Needed Characteristics of a Pastor:
- The mind of a scholar
- The heart of a child
- The hide of a rhinoceros
Respectfully yours & His, Rick
For All of Us to Remember:
Difficulty is inevitable; defeat is optional, for “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
- Please earnestly pray for continued safety for Sergey Nikonorov and all our coworkers in Ukraine and scattered as refugees. (Please include Zhenya’s requests.)
- Also for continued safety for the Vakula family. (It was their front yard where the missile landed but didn’t explode last year.) Maryana and their girls came to Michigan for protection at the invitation of a missionary she had interpreted for, but made the hard decision to go back to Ukraine and help Volodia reach out to destitute people.
- Please pray for Stephen & Iryna Yagilnicky – for strength, health and wisdom since they have many facets of ministry which are time and labor intensive.
- Please pray also for an end to the war, and for other endangered countries: Israel, Taiwan, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, for example.
- Please pray for the much needed revival in American churches and massive spiritual awakening.
Note: To those of you who carefully read our prayer letters, share them with others, pray for our requests, and give to Overseas Outreach – Thank you! We appreciate you – very much!
This is for the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, saying, “It’s okay honey, Mommy’s here.” Who have sat in rocking chairs for hours on end, soothing crying babies who can’t be comforted.
For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew special costumes.
This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes.
This is for the mothers whose priceless art collections are hanging on their refrigerator doors. And for all the mothers who sat on metal bleachers at football or soccer games instead of watching from the warmth of their cars, so that when their kids asked, “Did you see me, Mom?” they could say, “Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!” and mean it.
This is for all the mothers who go hungry, so their children can eat.
This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot.
This is for every mother whose head turns automatically when a little voice calls “Mom?” in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home — or even away at college.
This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can’t find the words to reach them.
For all the mothers of the victims of recent school shootings, and the mothers of those who did the shooting. For the mothers of the survivors, and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, hugging their child who just came home from school…safely.
This is for all the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful, and now pray they come home safely from a war.
What makes a good Mother anyway? Is it patience? Compassion? The ability to feed a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time? Or is it in her heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time? The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 A.M. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby? The panic, years later, that comes again at 2 A.M. when you just want to hear their key in the door and know they are safe again in your home? Or the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a child dying? The emotions of motherhood are universal and so our thoughts are for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation…And mature mothers learning to let go.
For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.
Mothers with money, mothers without.
This is for all of you.
Hang in there. Do the best you can, asking for God’s wisdom.
Tell them every day that you love them. And pray!
 Root, Jon (July 25, 2022) Why Your Church Needs To Talk About Cultural Issues, Turning Point USA, https://tpusa.com/live/why-your-church-needs-to-talk-about-cultural-issues
 Reagan, Ronald (March 8, 1983) The U.S. Oratory Project, Voices of Democracy, https://voicesofdemocracy.umd.edu/reagan-evil-empire-speech-text/
 Dobson, James C. (June 1, 2012) June 2012 Newsletter, Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, https://www.drjamesdobson.org/newsletters-bff/newsletter-14