Rich was born in Independence Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. He is the youngest of four kids and has an older brother and two older sisters. He was raised in the church and in a Christian home and was saved at the age of ten. During his teenage years is when he really started to walk with the Lord and got involved with the local church through a neighborhood friend.
Rich went off to college with the intent to study mathematics and computer science, but during that time God redirected his steps toward full time ministry. Rich transferred to a Bible school in Missouri and was challenged over and over again from His Word about how God’s heart is for the world, and that all the world was really not like America where we have churches on every street corner. In fact, much of the world does not have an opportunity to hear the gospel because they don’t have it in their own language. God’s Word, from Genesis all the way through Revelation, makes it clear that God’s heart is for the world so that all men might be saved. He’s also chosen to use men to reach other men.
After being challenged with that, Rich came upon a program called Interface (ITF), New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Rich spent the summer of 1990 as a student in ITF. This really solidified it in his mind that God wanted him to be working with tribal people in PNG. So, after finishing the New Tribes training, Rich went to PNG in 1994 to work with the Bena Bena tribe.
Dawn was born and raised in a Christian family in Jonesville, Michigan and has one older and three younger brothers. The family spent a lot of time in church and the children received good, solid Bible teaching. Although Dawn doesn’t remember exactly when she was saved, she grew up believing the Gospel. She recalls that God made it real to her that they had a personal relationship when she was about 11 or 12 and in the 6th grade.
When Dawn was about 12 years old, she came running up the stairs one day saying, “Mom, God wants me to be a missionary.” Her mom said, “Well, you better start preparing now.” Although Dawn does not recall this specific memory, God was obviously working in her young heart. After high school, Dawn had decided to go to a Christian liberal arts college. She had enough scholarships, grants, and loans to fully finance her first year. However, God would just not let her heart be at rest. She didn’t know what to major in as her interests ranged from law to music. God really used this to put questions in her heart. “Is this really where I want you to be?” “Have you really sought my heart in this?” All her things were packed and ready to go and then she would think about something that her mom had been saying all summer. Every once in awhile she would suggest that Dawn go to Bible school at New Tribes Mission and then, when a direction became more clear, Dawn could go from there. Dawn told her mother that she did not want to be a missionary. She was determined to go away to college and have fun. Still, God would just not let her heart rest. She ended up not even spending the whole first year at the college, but transferred to Bible School.
Even while Dawn was at Bible School, she found that she was never really thinking about God and spiritual things. But God was able to call her back through different situations. Then, everything changed when she began a missions class. After studying the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, it became clear to her also that God’s heart is for the world. She felt that God used His Word to show her that he wanted her to be a part of world missions. So, after graduating from Bible school, Dawn came to PNG in 1994 and that was where Rich and Dawn’s journey together began.
It was during this time that Dawn came out to work at the ITF base where Rich was located. She really felt that this was where the Lord was leading her. During her first five months at ITF she did grounds work, mowed lawns, planted flowers, cooked, cleaned and inventoried. Later, she worked in the kitchen helping out with cooking and whatever else needed to be done. Although she was scheduled to work in PNG for a year, she met Rich during those first four months and they then headed back to the states and got married.
The couple then went through more missions training. They began a family with Hannah being born in 1996 and Hadassah in 1998. They came back to the field in February 1999 and completed pidgin orientation as well as the field orientation program. They began house building in August 1999. Their third child, Jordan, was born in October of 1999. They moved into their house in December 1999 and began learning the language in March 2000. Their fourth child, Havana, joined the family in January of 2002.
They chose to home school while their kids were young (preschool and kindergarten), and now they are enjoying the benefits of going back and forth each day to the MK school. They greatly appreciate the teachers who faithfully serve the Lord by educating their children, which frees Rich and Dawn up to serve Him among the Bena people.