How Tendonitis and a Nurse Turned a Marine to Missions

A deployment gone wrong softened Rich’s heart, launching him and his wife into full-time ministry.

From Message magazine issue "To the Ends of the Earth"

“You will be on my team, but you’re going to sit on the bench until you are ready to go all in.”

God’s command fell on Rich like a ton of bricks, demolishing his pride and redirecting his life toward a higher goal.

Rich was born with a competitive spirit. Sports inevitably became both his passion and religion. However, the Lord would use this idol for his glory. While playing basketball at a local church, a pastor presented the gospel during half-time. The message split Rich’s defenses, and he devoted his life to Christ that night.

This profession of faith occurred in high school, but a few years passed before the gravity of the gospel hit home. After graduating from the Naval Academy, Rich was on deployment with the Marines when he developed tendonitis in his hip. He could barely put his boots on. The Lord was crippling his idolatrous goal of becoming a professional triathlete. In the midst of this experience, Rich surrendered everything to Christ. From then on, he vowed to be all in for God’s team.

Although she grew up in Christian family, Jenny was impacted more by a friend, Lisa, than any of her relatives. Lisa’s joy in the face of terminal cancer ignited a flame within Jenny.

She desired the same quiet strength that abounded in her fourth- grade friend.

Jenny enrolled in nursing school at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., which was Rich’s hometown. He was home one weekend from the Naval Academy when he noticed Jenny at his church. Rich could handle burpees, but approaching the young, striking woman proved too much for the midshipman. Thankfully, his father stepped in as an intermediary, asking Jenny out for Rich.

Despite their initial communication obstacles, things worked out. Years later, they were married in the same church.

After his spiritually transforming deployment, Rich left the military for full-time vocational ministry in 1994. He attended Dallas Seminary and has served the local church in several pastoral positions. During this time, he also partnered with several biblical training organizations to train pastors in Africa, Indonesia, Mongolia, and most recently Costa Rica.

They reside near Fort Bragg, N.C., where Rich and Jenny will be serving with ABWE’s EveryEthnē Initiative. Their primary focus is the Centurion Project, a plan to network and equip 100 churches to train military leaders in the Great Commission.

Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Culps’ ministry here.