“I’m a history nut,” says Ron Felling, pastor of Grace Fellowship, GCI’s church in Tontitown, Arkansas. “I’ve been a historical re-enactor for the French and Indian War (think “Last of the Mohicans”) for the past 20 years. Dagworthy’s company of the Maryland forces made me their unit chaplain. I’ve learned to sew my own outfits [see picture below]. Seeing what their life was like and how God helped them, helps me see how he can help me too. I love seeing his mighty hand at work in people’s lives.”
Ron grew up in Indiana and was active in scouting. “The Boy Scouts made a huge difference in my life. We had an awesome scoutmaster, Otto Jonas, who took us on camp-outs every month, rain or shine. He taught me that I am here to make a difference in the lives of others. Because of him, my Mom and Dad, and many others, I rose to the rank of Eagle Scout.”
It was in 1973 that Ron became part of WCG/GCI. “I was drawn to the WCG after I met a family who attended the Hammond, Indiana congregation. They made me feel like I was part of their family. They adopted me you might say. I attended that congregation until I left for Big Sandy in 1975. I knew I wanted to serve in the ministry, even when we were told that was not the way it worked.”
After graduation from Ambassador College, Ron worked in the Personal Correspondence Department at WCG headquarters, providing encouragement and insight to hundreds of people who wrote asking for direction and help. In 1990, Ron was sent to pastor the Indianapolis and Terra Haute, Indiana congregations.
Ron and his wife Barbara have been married for six years. “She had been my friend for many years, but I was not willing to take another chance on failure after going through a divorce. So for quite a long time I just told myself no. But then my father died of cancer and when I was at the airport waiting to fly to Indiana, Barbara called me and was so compassionate and encouraging and loving that I found the courage to tell her how I truly felt. Now she is more than a friend—she is my wife too. She rescued me.”
Ron and Barbara pastor the Tontitown, Arkansas congregation, which meets just outside of Springdale. “We are a little country congregation. We love the Lord and are growing slowly but surely. Barbara serves as our worship leader—a calling for which she is particularly gifted.”
Ron said he loves to see others step up into ministry and grow. His most memorable moment was the preaching his father’s funeral. “At first I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, but the Holy Spirit was right on time. Surrounded by people I had grown up with, I told them about our Savior Jesus; that he is someone we can trust and not to be afraid.”
Ron shares the following story about how his involvement with re-enactments gives him opportunity to share the gospel: “After going through a divorce, I was discouraged, and was wondering what to do next. I was at one of our French and Indian re-enactments with my son Aaron who was seven at the time. It was a Sunday morning and the French, English and Indians were all there on parade with flags flying and fife and drums playing. It made me think: Our Lord Jesus goes before us just like the banners fluttering past me. I found myself praying, “Lord, wherever you lead me I will follow. If you open a door for me to speak to your glory, I will walk through it. Please allow me to serve you.”
“It was at that very moment that I heard my name being called, so I looked to see who it could be. Across the parade ground the officers were waving for me to come to them. This was very out of the ordinary, but I ran over to them. When I got there they asked me, “Can you provide us with a worship service today? Our regular guy, the priest from Canada, just let us know he can’t make it.”
“After my prayer I could only say, ‘Yes I can, when would you like it?’ So they looked at the ground a bit and then said, ‘Well, how about in five minutes?’ ‘No problem sir, where do you want it?’ One of them said, ‘How about at the foot of the cross?’ The French had erected one all those years ago. That was almost too much for me.”
“When the officers asked, ‘Is there anything we can help you with?’ I said I could use a Bible since I knew I couldn’t get to mine and be back in time. So off I dashed towards the cross, and on my way I ran into three women wanting to know where I was headed. ‘We are going to have a worship service in about five minutes, and they are going to expect to take communion. Why don’t we all take it together?’
“The women dashed off to get the bread and wine and the plate and cup for our communion service. When I got to the cross, there was a fellow with a red blanket and table and I was feeling so overwhelmed in seeing that God had all the details taken care of.
“The commander showed up with a King James Bible out of the fort’s museum, and people start to show up—about 300 of them. A lady asked me, ‘I have only taken communion when a priest was here. What do you think about me taking it today?’ I told her, ‘We are going to hear about Jesus today, and why he gave the communion service to the church. When its time for communion if the Holy Spirit shows you its OK, then go ahead. After the service she came back to tell me he showed her that it was just the right thing to do. Everyone, including children, took communion. It was a glorious time in the Lord’s presence. We went on to hold a similar service each year after that. God is so encouraging isn’t he?”
Ron says he feels closest to God, “When I see the stars at night and I talk to God about how my hand is in his and how awesome it is to know that he did all this just so I would know I can put my trust in him.”