MAYFIELD, Ky. (KT) – Nik Ripken, the author of The Insanity of God and a missionary of more than three decades with his wife, will be sharing at Mayfield First Baptist Church the weekend of Sept. 21-22.
It will be Nik at lunch, Nik at night and Nik in the morning worship.
Mayfield FBC Pastor Wes Fowler is inviting pastors and convention leaders to a free lunch to meet Ripken on Sept. 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then Ripken will be speaking at a worship service at 5:30 that evening, and again the following morning to the church.
Fowler considers it a privilege to have such a man of God come and he wants to make sure everybody gets a chance to meet and listen to him.
“I hope people are inspired toward missions” after hearing Ripken, Fowler said. “Obviously that’s a huge part of his story. I hope they’re inspired towards faithfulness and obedience. That’s a huge part of his story.”
Fowler said he wants those who come to understand more about what foreign missionaries like the Ripkens experienced.
“I want them to see Christianity outside of American Christianity,” Fowler said. “I want to get a glimpse of what Christianity looks like in some of the small villages in Africa and understand that, what we experience here, is not necessarily typical.”
Ripken and his wife, Ruth, recently retired from the mission field that took them to war-torn African counties where they saw martyrdom sacrifices that included the loss of their own teenage son.
Through their 36-year career as missionaries, the Ripkins lived in seven countries - Malawi, South Africa, Kenya, Somalia, Germany, Ethiopia and Jordan - helping provide food relief and medical clinics, many times in war zones.
While in Somalia they experienced the loss of brothers in Christ who were martyred for their faith. And it was during this time that they also suffered the loss of their son Timothy, who died Easter morning, 1997 at age 16 from cardiac arrest brought on by an asthma attack.
A year later God re-directed their ministry to “walking with persecuted believers around the world.”
They have since interviewed hundreds of persecuted Christians and shared many of those stories in the 2013 book The Insanity of God that was released as a movie in 2016.
Fowler said the Ripkens’ story is one of faith and perseverance in the face of severe difficulty. “We need to understand the persecution of the church and the suffering of the church in the hope and joy in the midst of the suffering and persecution,” he said.
Nik and Ruth Ripken were recent appointees of the International Mission Board on Jan. 1984 when they, along with their two young sons, boarded a flight in their home state of Kentucky and flew to Malwai, Africa, to begin their missionary careers.
The Ripkens were recently recognized for their missionary work during a service at Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. The church partnered with the Ripkens for more than two decades, supporting them in various ways through prayer, provisions and hands-on help.
The church routinely sent teams of children’s workers, worship leaders and others to encourage the Ripkens on the missionary field.
The partnership came through a relationship between Fruit Cove Pastor Tim Maynard and Ripken, who became friends while attending a doctoral seminar at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Maynard is on the board of Nik Ripken Ministries as a trustee.
Ripken said the congregation has “been the Body of Christ like it’s supposed to be; they have reached people across the street and across the ocean.”
The service at Fruit Cove featured video tributes from Ronnie Floyd, president/CEO Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and SBC President J.D. Greear.
It was a “powerful worship service” and “was the epitome of everything we’ve done together for nearly three decades,” Nik told the Florida Baptist.
Fowler wants those in his church to understand that kind of partnership as well.
The visit to Mayfield came about innocently enough, Fowler said. Paul Wilkerson, the youth pastor at Mayfield FBC, asked Fowler if it was OK to invite Ripken to speak. Not really expecting it to happen, Fowler said yes because he had been encouraging the church to read The Insanity of God and the youth had been doing a study on it as well.
“I said, ‘You’re welcome to invite him but it’s a really good chance he’s going to be busy.’ And Nik said, ‘Sure!’’’
Fowler said he wondered what it would cost to have him come and speak but the response for Ripken was that he didn’t charge anything, just whatever you can provide as an honorarium or love offering. “He said, ‘I don’t make a decision based on money.’ And so, to me, for someone of his status, I thought that was really cool. So we got him on the books. He was booked out for a solid year.”
Since Fowler had him committed for two days, he wanted to make the most of it and share the experience with others. The lunch is free of charge and will be from 11:30 to 1 p.m. Call the church to RSVP. “I want pastors to come and hang out with him and meet him,” Fowler said.
Ripken will return in the evening to speak and again on Sunday morning in the regular worship service.
The Ripkens are coming to Kentucky for their forever home after moving 38 times in their 42 years of marriage.
Mayfield First Baptist Church is at 118 W. South Street in Mayfield. The church’s number is at (270) 247-2992 to RSVP for the luncheon.