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Karen Rickel

Willing to Serve Anywhere
"Willing to Serve Anywhere"
By Casey Mazzoli, Intern, updated August 2018

According to Karen Rickel, the Lord prepared her “bit by bit” for her calling. Born in 1953 to a pastor and his wife, Karen grew up immersed in the Christian faith. In addition to attending church, her family also participated in local WGM prayer bands, which her mother helped lead.

While this upbringing exposed Karen to others’ calls to the mission field, Karen did not receive her calling at this early stage in life. As an 18-year-old student at Camp Sychar (Ohio), she told the Lord she was willing to go to a mission field but did not feel God calling her. Not yet, anyway.

First, Karen pursued a degree in nursing. At Samaritan Hospital School of Nursing (Ohio), she completed a three-year RN program. Then, while working at a hospital in Circleville, she took Bible courses at Circleville Bible College (now Ohio Christian University). The next year, Karen followed her family to Michigan and began working at a hospital there. At a church service, God again began prompting her about missions, asking if she would still be willing to go. While keeping her eye out for confirmation, Karen read an article in The Call asking for those who felt God was calling them to missionary service to contact WGM. So, she wrote to them.

The Lord confirmed that Karen had a call to a foreign field, but she did not know where. On her missionary application she wrote “Anywhere” under the preferred location category.

“Anywhere” turned out to be Haiti, where Karen served for four years as a nurse. After six months of language training (Karen always entered her mission environments as prepared as possible, picking up more knowledge of language, culture, and history along the way), she began her ministry. She learned how to do consultations in the language from a Haitian man who had been trained by other missionary nurses. She cared for people with tropical diseases, broken bones, open wounds, and complicated pregnancies.

After returning to the States, Karen perceived the Lord telling her not to go back to Haiti. In 1985, “Anywhere” became Roatán, Honduras, where she served the Garifuna people as the first full-time nurse at a new clinic. She worked in that clinic for nearly 20 years. Her brother, Tim Rickel (current vice president of International Ministries), was also assigned as a missionary to Roatán. They lived in the clinic, where Karen remained on call 24/7 for emergencies.

The clinic also served as the home for a church plant, which held its original meetings in the waiting room. The presence of the clinic provided a connection to the Garifuna people, and by the time Tim arrived a few months after Karen, the people were ready to start a church. “God just had a harvest waiting for us,” Karen said. She ministered through nursing, Sunday School classes, and youth and women’s groups, finding community and marvelous examples of generosity among the people. She also took in an orphaned boy from Honduras, whom she has helped raise to this day.

There was much spiritual oppression in the early days of ministry in Roatán. While she prayed nightly about the armor of God, asking Him to protect her dreams, Karen requested WGM’s prayer warriors in the US to pray for relief from that spiritual oppression. Just as Karen had done for others growing up, Christians in America prayed for the ministry in Honduras. Karen says the spiritual oppression lifted when this chain of prayer began.

“The thing that kept me there in the hard times was that God had called me there,” Karen shared. In this fashion, she faithfully followed each new step in her preparation and calling.

Karen retired from WGM in 2016, and her ministry continued through volunteering at Hope Pregnancy Center, her contagious hope in Christ, and her inspiration to other believers. Karen passed away on July 31st, 2018, and is receiving a magnificent reward for her many years of faithful service to her Lord and Savior. We know she is in the presence of Jesus, freed from all pain and weakness. 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV) says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Karen finished her race well, and we rejoice that she is now celebrating her new life in Christ.

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