ArticleMissionary Life

Returning Alone: A Widower’s Powerful Story of Missionary Obedience

After 14 years away from the mission field, Ron knew the Lord wanted him to go back into full-time ministry—but he never imagined he’d be doing it by himself.
Ron was 12 when he publicly committed his life to Christ, practically climbing over other teenagers as he hastily responded to the altar call at a church youth event.

Later, Ron met missionaries at the same church where he was saved, but, uncomprehending of their purpose, he thought they were strange people. Ron turned his interest to aviation and often flew with his uncle. Later, he joined the Coast Guard, following in the footsteps of his father, who had died of a heart attack when Ron was just a boy.

“I would have spent the rest of my working days in the Coast Guard,” Ron said. “But God had a change of plans.”

In 1984, the Coast Guard stationed Ron in Elizabeth City, N.C., and he quickly became involved in a local church. It was there that God ironically steered him toward the direction of those people whom he had thought odd from his childhood— missionaries. He parted ways with the Coast Guard the following year and attended a small Bible college in Richmond, where Ron met his future wife, Riki, and was compelled to go to the mission field by a poster advertising for bold Christians to take the gospel behind the Iron Curtain.

After graduation, marriage, and the premature birth and death of their first son, Ron and Riki embarked for Slovakia in 1999. But just four years later, due to team issues and other unforeseen obstacles, they returned to the US, and Ron began pastoring at a church in Elkins, W.Va.

As they neared retirement, Ron and Riki frequently considered returning to the mission field, but in November 2017, Riki was diagnosed with breast cancer. Near Riki’s final days, she and Ron sat down to face the sobering and undeniable reality—if Ron were to go back to missions, he would be doing so without his beloved wife.

“You need to go back because that’s where your heart has always been,” said Riki.

It was one of their last conversations. Three days later, Riki entered a semi-comatose state before passing away in 2019. Ron followed the advice of his wife and will be re-opening the field of Poland through church planting and other ministries.

A Christian author once compared the death of a loved one to an amputation. Ron has discovered that it’s not a precise and skilled removal but a horrible tearing from the body. Yet, he knows that God’s power is perfected through his weakness.

“I don’t care where you go or what you do, God’s grace is absolutely sufficient to supply your needs,” Ron said.


Learn more about Ron’s ministry here.

Could this be you? Take a step towards missions.

About the Author

Loren Skinker serves as a communication specialist with ABWE and managing editor for Message Magazine. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in communications and English.

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