By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer
GOOSE LAKE — When Ric and Sheila Shields founded the ministry of Open Doors in 1990, their primary purpose was to provide opportunities for others and encourage personal involvement in missions and global evangelism.
Since then, nearly 800 people have participated in 110 outreach teams serving in 27 countries on six continents. Participants have provided health care clinics and training, professional seminars, evangelism, and assisted in the construction of childrens’ homes, churches and Bible schools.
In 1993 they formed Nationals Evangelism Training Works (NETWORKS), a sponsorship program for ministry students in third-world countries, as an outreach of Open Doors. To date, this ministry has sponsored nearly 500 students in the countries of Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Chile, Egypt and Russia. More than $400,000 has been given to provide work-study funds for those students.
“Upon completion of their studies,” said Ric, “many of these students pioneer new churches and ministries in their own countries.
“In the predominately Muslim nation of Bangladesh, graduates have planted some 300 churches, reaching thousands with the message of the Gospel.”
In recent years, Sheila has developed the ministry of Simply Sisters, an outreach to women in countries where Open Doors teams serve.
“The word ‘amazing’ may be a bit overused,” Sheila said, “but we can’t find a better way to describe the outreach we had in Argentina. In five Simply Sisters events we ministered to nearly 350 ladies who came to know they were not alone when encountering insurmountable circumstances in their lives. A 90-year-old woman confessed that she had been sexually abused as a child. Others spoke of things like physical abuse, depression, divorce, infertility and immorality. We pointed them to a loving God who wants to express His grace and mercy in the midst of their difficulties.”
Of the 25 ladies who had been invited to the first Simply Sisters event by a pastor’s wife, all 25 attended.
“It was the spark needed for that new church to begin their first ‘cell’ group. And before they held their first service as a new church, a group of ladies were meeting to establish a foundation of ministry to the needs of others among their group and in their community.”
During a recent trip to Egypt, Ric said, “My heart was touched on many levels. A new exodus is under way as Christian parents make every effort to protect their families from persecution that includes kidnapping, beatings, rape, extortion and murder.
“It is now estimated that 200,000 Christians have fled to other countries. Private schools and churches are being bombed and burned. Private properties are being seized and turned into mosques, and the government and the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ seem to be complicit in it.”
But while many Egyptian Christians believe these are the ‘last days,’ they are not cowering in corners, Ric said.
“But their hope-filled lives are seasoned with caution. This is especially true of the younger women and children. They are ones most likely to be publicly raped or kidnapped and held for ransom by those they call ‘wicked people.’
“Families are threatened to not say a word about what has happened or they will experience an even worse fate. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to minister to pastors and church leaders at a conference that brought encouragement and hope to their hearts.”
This month Ric, Sheila and their outreach team are in Mexico City, where they will minister to the poorest of the poor.
“Soccer fields can be found in the medians of the streets and highways, in open lots, and even in open buildings,” Ric said. “While we are not big soccer fans, we are always excited for the opportunity to minister in Mexico City. We will provide dental, medical, optical, hair care and children’s outreaches to people of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“During these summer outreaches, thousands of people receive compassionate care and hundred of people put their faith in Christ. Will you believe with us for an effective ministry, protection from accidents and illness and for good weather at each site?”
He and Sheila are the parents of two adult children, Travis in Dallas and Tara in Tulsa.