Last Wednesday night was our final guest speaker in our recent series. We have really enjoyed having these various men come in and preach, and we ended the series with my very good friend, Missionary Rodney Ruppel.
I love Bro. Ruppel's testimony, because it exemplifies the true 180 degree change that should be affected in a person's life when they come to know the Lord. Rodney was not raised in church, but when he was about 12 years old, his dad decided he needed to get his kids in church. After trying out different churches, he settled in at an Assembly of God church which Rodney didn't seem to mind so much. The reason...the pastor's son listened to all the same rock music that Rodney loved. Not long after they started going there, Rodney's dad took him to First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, pastored by RB Oulette. Rodney did NOT like that church! He says it seemed like the pastor was preaching directly at him. After going there for awhile, the Holy Spirit convicted his heart and he finally trusted Christ as Savior.
After that was when the big battle started in his life: the battle over music. Since childhood Rodney had played the drums and had become proficient in many kinds of music, his favorite being rock-and-roll. Over the next couple of years, he began to let go of his music one genre at a time. Many changes happened immediately after he got saved, like getting his long hair cut. But he says that over the next couple of years, he definitely had good days and bad days as far as his testimony for Christ was concerned. He says, "Some days when I went to school I carried my Bible on top of my books...some days I carried it on the bottom." As God worked in his heart, first he got rid of his rock-and-roll, but kept the soft rock and the oldies. Then he got rid of the oldies, but held onto jazz. He got into a jazz band at school not knowing that he would have an experience in that band which would forever change his views about music. The band director gave him a solo part in a certain song, and in that solo part he was supposed to just play anything he wanted. It was his chance to blow everybody's socks off with his drumming. He says now that after that experience he knew in his heart that his music had absolutely nothing to do with glorifying Christ. It was all about him. He knew that he couldn't keep playing drums and live for God's glory. He had to make a choice. When the band formed again the next school year, he declined to be in it.
Now as a 16 year old teenager with his own car, he had to get a job to pay for gas, insurance, and other expenditures. His mom and older siblings all had previously worked at a big German-themed restaurant, and so with their connections they got him a job too. When he told them he needed Sundays off to go to church, they didn't go for it. So Rodney's older sister found him the perfect job. He was offered $100 a week to play drums for 4 hours every Saturday evening at the restaurant. He would be playing along with polkas! His family was so excited for his job opportunity. He would be making good money (this was in the 80's), working just a few hours, doing something he loved, and not have to miss church! But he really didn't have peace about it. He sought some counsel from his youth pastor, who directed him to a man in their church who used to have his own professional polka band. When he asked that man, the man said, "Rodney, name me one polka that isn't about drinking beer." So, Rodney didn't take the job. His family wasn't really happy about this "wasted opportunity", but at least he had peace in his heart. His replacement job was making minimum wage cleaning rented medical equipment after people returned it to the rental company.
One of the things that strengthened Rodney during those high school years was that two of his friends also got saved and got on fire for God. One of those friends was a man that many of my readers may know, Pastor Adam Zamora. These three guys switched from the public school to the Christian school after the 10th grade, and the band leaders and sports coaches at the public school were none to happy about it. At a youth camp, God worked in his heart about consecrating his life for God's service. When their church's music director's 9 year-old daughter died, it had a big impact on both Rodney and his wife. Everyone in the church knew of the little girl's dream to be a missionary someday. After her death, the youth pastor was speaking to the youth group and said, "Who is going to be a missionary in her place?" Six teenagers stood to their feet that day, including Rodney and his wife, Becky, both of whom were teenagers and not yet dating. A few years later when they married, one of the songs sung at their wedding was "Here Am I, Lord, Send Me".
Now, more than 20 years later, they are approaching 15 years of service on the mission field. Rodney and Becky have 2 teen sons and an 11 year-old daughter. God has used them in a very unique way here in Cambodia, and the specifics are too numerous to share here in this already lengthy post. Rodney pastors the New Hope Baptist Church in Phnom Penh and has several men whom he has trained out pastoring or helping in other churches. For years he has taught a Bible Institute every Wednesday which has benefitted many men and women, even from other churches. Rodney is also the author of a widely-used soulwinning booklet, which is a tool that has been used to lead hundreds if not thousands to Christ.
One of the things that Rodney is most known for among the nationals and the missionaries is that he knows the people here well - their culture and their mindset. It was for that reason that I was glad to have him lined up to preach to our people for the very first service after the stampede. As an introduction, he read Luke 13:1-5 which tells of two tragic losses of life, and then asks the question, "Think ye that they were sinners above all men...?" He warned against the commonly held Buddhist belief that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. This belief fosters pride and arrogance, a false sense of personal security, and misplaced accusations. But that wasn't his sermon...that was just saying some things that needed to be said in light of the situation.
First he talked about Jesus' questions to them. It is interesting to note that His 2 questions to them revolved around faith and fear. When we have faith, it drives away fear. When we have fear, it drives away faith. Jesus was showing them that fear and faith cannot co-exist. You have to make a choice between the two.
Then he talked about the disciples question to Jesus. They asked, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?" Even though it was just one question, they seemed to be asking three things with that one question. 1) Do you know we are perishing? 2) Do you care that we are perishing? 3) Can you do anything about it? Oftentimes when we are faced with trials or difficult situations - the storms of life - we feel as if God really must not be paying attention. But while we may not always be able to make sense of what is going on in our finite minds, we need to be confidant that He is aware of the problem, that He cares (even more than we do), and that He can do something about it if He chooses to do so.
God used Bro. Ruppel to speak to hearts, and it was a good conclusion to our Guest Preacher Series. He is a great illustration of what God can do with a person who is willing to consecrate their lives totally and completely to His will and His service. I am proud and thankful to be this man's friend.