At a special service celebrating his retirement on August 4, 2019 at Sturgeon Bay Moravian Church, Rick Nelson was presented with the first ever Ted Wilde Mission Service Award.
Rick has long served as a missionary to Honduras over different stints of time, with the most recent being 2014 until early summer of 2019. In this time he served as the BWM consultant to the Moravian Evangelical Clinic in Ahuas, Honduras. Rick’s faithful service has inspired many to travel to the Clinic to assist with various projects, or to donate time, supplies or dollars to programs like the infant feeding program to provide nutritious meals to malnourished children.
(If you would like to make a donation in honor of Rick Nelson to the work of the Ahuas Clinic or Infant Feeding Program, you can do so by visiting our secure giving page found by CLICKING HERE.)
This award was created in early 2019 by the Board of World Mission board of directors, and will serve as a way to recognize individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to mission service.
Below are the remarks offered by BWM Executive Director Justin Rabbach as he presented the award as a part of the Sunday morning worship service.
While today is about giving thanks for the service and sacrifice of Rick and Barbara Nelson, there is one more person who we wish to honor today, and by doing so, further celebrate Rick’s work.
One year ago, today, on August 4, 2018, Rev. Ted Wilde passed away. This is worth mentioning, as Ted was in the position I hold now, Executive Director of the Board of World Mission of the Moravian Church in North America, when Rick and his family were serving in Honduras in the 1980s and 1990s.
After Ted’s passing, Rick told me several stories about working with Ted, and this one which he emailed to me late last year. In Rick’s own words:
“A fellow missionary told me many years ago that he could imagine Ted up late at night lying awake thinking about the missionaries under his care. On one of the last visits that I remember Ted making to Honduras when we were here, he came to review things with the church, the hospital and the Bible Institute.
Ted was concerned that I was working too much and spending too much time away from my family, so he insisted that we take time out one afternoon to play a game of football — him, my kids and Barbara — on the Bible Institute grounds where we were then living. Ted was a caring person, whether playing football with a missionary family or lying awake in Bethlehem, worrying about us.”
It was evident through our conversations how much Ted’s pastoral care and guidance meant to you, Rick. And it was also easy to see how many of the characteristics you admired in Ted, you exhibit as well.
As the Board of World Mission was looking for a way to honor Ted’s work and legacy, we knew he would, much like Rick, prefer to highlight the work and service of others. So, in discussions with his wife, Margaret, the BWM has created the Ted Wilde Mission Service Award which will now be awarded annually to faithful mission servants throughout the Moravian Church. Rick, through a nomination and unanimous decision of the board of Directors, you have been selected as the first recipient of this award. We have a physical award to present to you today, and your name will also be added to a new plaque commemorating recipients which will hang at the BWM office in Bethlehem, PA as well as having your story added to the BWM collection of materials housed at the Moravian Church Archives. Basically, your work and story which has inspired so many to date will continue to do so, long into the future.
Here is a description of the award.
The Ted Wilde Mission Service Award
The Rev. Theodore (Ted) Wilde served as Executive Director of the Board of World Mission from 1983 to 1995. During his years of service, he worked to expand the Moravian Church’s definition of “world” and of “mission.” Ted was a strong believer in and follower of the Biblical “Great Commission” but challenged the church to see other passages as also being missional. These would include verses from the prophet Micah concerning justice and mercy; verses from Matthew 25 concerning feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger; and verses from Luke 10 concerning loving God and loving our neighbor.
The Board of World Mission honors the memory of this servant of Jesus Christ by recognizing individuals who embody the mission spirit described in these words from a hymn written by brother Wilde in 1984:
Christ, engage us in your mission; worldwide let our parish be.
We take up this great commission, traveling first to Calvary.
There absorbing, Christ-like going, taught by your humility.
Recipients of the Ted Wilde Mission Service Award are Moravians who have been willing to “take up this great commission” by learning from our Chief Elder, Jesus Christ, and then engage in humble service in his name. We honor those who have responded to God’s call to mission in the worldwide parish that we serve.
I think we can all agree it is almost eerie how closely the description developed for this award fits Rick and his work. When informed that Rick had been selected as the first recipient of this award, amongst a longer letter Ted’s wife, Margaret, stated, “What a wonderful way to honor Ted. He used to put a lot of thought into nominating people for church or seminary honors; and cared deeply that recognition was given to those he thought especially deserving. How appropriate then that the first recipient of this award should be Rick Nelson – surely the first person he would have nominated.”
Rick, as we present you with this award, it is meant as an affirmation of the many ways you have indeed turned your gifts and blessings into a blessing for so many others. There was no need to search for lofty language or grandiose hyperbole to describe your accomplishments. Simply stated, your life and work has saved lives and mended souls.
This award, and this gathering of people today, support not only your work in Honduras from 1985-1991, 1993-1996, and most recently from 2014 to May of this year. Rather, by simply being the humble, caring servant you are in all you do, this award is a symbol of gratitude from a grateful church and community, for a lifetime of service already accrued, and in anticipation of many ways you will continue to demonstrate a servant’s heart in the years to come.
So, in recognition of the ways in which Rick and Barbara have traveled this journey, I make one more presentation in advance of giving Rick the physical award. First, to Barbara, for your many sacrifices, and continual support of Rick during his never ending and challenging call to mission, I present you with a football. We give this to you in thanks, and also a tool in what has been your tireless task of helping remind Rick of the important lesson of taking time to reflect, and to rest confident in knowing his ministry carries on because of the faithful way he inspired others to care deeply about the Medical Work in Honduras as well. Plus… if words aren’t enough to get him to at least take a break once in awhile, you can just throw it at him.
Finally then, with deep honor and privilege I stand here, on behalf of the Board of World Mission, as the voice of those gathered, as the physical presence of the many near and far who have asked me, in at least three languages, to pass on their thanks and blessings, and for myself, one of many awed and inspired by your example.
In honor of your faithful and humble service offered to God, at home, and in Honduras, I present you with the first ever Ted Wilde Mission Service Award.
Tingki pali, napakan yamni.
Many thanks, good and faithful servant.