Sep 29, 2009

Professor Profile: Dr. Ritchey

by Emily DeFosse

The best professors teach what they know. Dr. Jeffrey Ritchey has first-hand experience to supplement the church and missions class he began to teach at Liberty this semester.

Originally from southern Texas, Ritchey went to school at Hardin-Simmons and got an undergraduate degree in music. While at Hardin-Simmons, he found his interest in missions had grown beyond the few trips he had gone on as a student.

“I was a student with a music degree planning to go into ministry,” Ritchey said. “I had come to a school with a lot of missionary kids … They opened my eyes to a bigger world. It was there I felt the call to missions.”

From Hardin-Simmons, Ritchey and his wife, Brigitte, attended Southwestern Seminary where he got a Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Education and a Ph.D. Ritchey said his wife grew up in Africa as a missionary kid, so missions was nothing new to her when they were called by the International Mission Board to serve in Croatia.

The Ritcheys’ call to Croatia came shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of communism in eastern Europe.

“By the time we were ready to go, the whole communistic era fell with the coming down of the wall, so there was a big push for missionaries to go to former communist countries,” Ritchey said.
The fall of communism left the country of Croatia in a time of war and transition that created unique ministry opportunities for Ritchey and his wife.

“We came to give humanitarian aid,” Ritchey said. “The first question people would ask was ‘Who do you represent?’”
Ritchey explained that there were three distinct people groups vying for power at that time who would only provide aid to their own people: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Muslim.

“We’re not anybody,” Ritchey replied. “We come in the name of Jesus.”

“We didn’t distinguish. They just gave food to their own people,” Ritchey said. “It didn’t matter to us if you were Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim. We gave them food because they needed to eat, and they began to trust us.”

Because of the humanitarian aid they supplied without prejudice, people trusted them, and they were able to share their faith and plant churches among the people of Croatia.

Ritchey’s daughter, freshman Kimberly Ritchey, can still recall her family’s ministry in Croatia.

“It took a long time to build relationships and show by example that we cared for them,” Kimberly Ritchey said. “When you show people you really care enough to take the time to learn their language and culture, they are much more responsive to hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Ritchey’s oldest daughter Kristen is a junior biology major at Liberty, and Ritchey’s wife is working on her Ph.D. in counseling. They also have a son who is a sophomore at Jefferson Forest High School.

Ritchey and his wife hope to share their passion for missions in mentoring relationships with Liberty students.

“My wife and I both want to be really involved with the missionary kids on campus,” Ritchey said.

His transition from teaching the past four years at a small seminary in Alberta, Canada, to Liberty University is an exciting one, but it is not without its challenges.

“I came from a smaller classroom environment at a seminary in Canada which allowed for more professor-student interaction,” Ritchey said. “I’ve come to a place where I know I will eventually be teaching a class of 100 plus students (it will be challenging) to try to find a way to stay connected with students.”

Contact Emily DeFosse at ebdefosse@liberty.edu.
 


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