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Ruthan Burchel

Retired Missionary to Kenya
"A Soul-Winner"
By Kacey Heinlein, Intern, adapted by Kateland Vernon, Staff Writer, July 2021

Doctor and nurse team Hal and Ruthan Burchel answered God’s call to serve at many different stages in their lives, both in Africa and in the United States. As parents, medical professionals, and evangelists, their primary goal was always to share the Gospel.

Ruthan grew up in Ohio as the daughter of a minister. Despite wrestling with her faith throughout her teen years, she knew she was supposed to be a missionary from age eleven. She met Hal met at the Ohio Conference of the Wesleyan Church, and they became friends, forming a close relationship right before Ruth left to serve short-term as a nurse in Sierra Leone after graduating from the Grant Hospital School of Nursing (Ohio). They married soon after her return in 1965.

Before joining World Gospel Mission, Hal and Ruthan served in a Wesleyan mission hospital in Zambia where their second child, Jim, was born. Their daughter, Martha, was three at the time. Though they only stayed in Zambia three and a half years, the Burchels knew that once their children were grown, they would like to return to the mission field to serve.

Back in the United States, Hal went into family practice, and the family moved to Thomasville, North Carolina. After several years, they began to feel a call back to missions. Despite financial obligations, things fell into place for the Burchels to return to the mission field, something Hal called “nothing short of a miracle.” In October 1988, Hal and Ruthan were appointed to Kenya with WGM. They brought with them their two youngest sons, Jon and Joe.

Serving the medical needs of the patients at Tenwek Hospital in Kenya gave the Burchels the opportunity to share their faith. One man who was an inpatient at the hospital surprised Hal after being led through the plan of salvation when he refused to pray, “Lord, I admit I am a sinner and need your forgiveness.” When asked why, the man replied, “I already did that five minutes ago when you were talking to me about it, and I am no longer a sinner. God has forgiven me!”

In February 1995, Hal and Ruthan transferred to Tanzania, where they opened a new medical mission. To serve as many people as possible, they worked in mobile medical clinics in villages around Tabora, Tanzania. They used these clinics to witness and serve the community’s spiritual needs as well as their medical needs.

Though the Burchels left Tanzania in 1999, Hal and Ruthan continued to be involved in missions, taking several short-term trips to Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. They led work teams to build orphanages for children of AIDS victims. They organized pastors’ conferences and courses on evangelism. By 2004, they felt led back to full-time ministry and returned to Africa to serve in Nairobi, Kenya. At that time, they formed a relationship with New Directions International, a missions organization based in Burlington, North Carolina. When the Burchels finished serving in Kenya in 2006, they continued working with New Directions International.

Hal and Ruthan lived in Florida, where they spent time with their children and grandchildren. On June 27, 2021, Ruthan went to be with the Lord. Her many years of service were lived exemplifying the value she once asked her supporters to pray for: “The ability to sort out eternal values from the pressing things to be done.”

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