My ‘Jesus With Skin On’

By Barbara Rendel

God knew I would need “a Jesus with skin on.”

Maybe you could live on a deserted island. Maybe you could exist for many years without having someone in your life. God knew I would need a husband. God knew I would need a family.

I was born into the best family I can imagine. Our community of modest-income families knew the things that mattered most—Jesus, Christian morals, integrity, and love for one another. My family gave me the opportunity to go to a Christian college. That’s where I met my husband.

I was asked to play piano for a singer in the college talent show taking place in our chapel building off campus. Someone arranged for me and several others to ride to the talent show rehearsal in Wally Rendel’s car. Both of us were students at Cincinnati Christian University.

I thought he must be rich. After all, he had a car. I really did not immediately recognize any special qualities about him other than I just thought he was a rich kid with a car.

I had heard of a “Wally” who was very popular at college—president of some of the organizations, voted “king” at the Heart’s Day Banquet. He arrived at college a year before me and seemed to know everything and everybody. But, I didn’t know him.

I really didn’t pay much attention to Wally initially—so many people were piled into his car. When we returned to campus, we all went to the “coach house,” the social and recreational spot on campus.

Wally came up and asked if he could take me to the talent show as his date. I said no, adding that I didn’t know him. I told him I would be going home immediately after the talent show. But he countered every excuse I came up with. He even suggested we double date with Bob Russell and his date, but I didn’t know Bob Russell, either. And I really didn’t know what a “double date” was, since I had never had an “official” date before coming to college. In the end, he wore me down and I agreed to go with him.

Meet the Parents

After a number of dates, he asked me to go to Oklahoma to meet his parents. Wally grew up on a farm near Miami, Oklahoma. I can’t believe my parents actually allowed me to go. I had never been further than Cincinnati without them, and they didn’t know Wally very well.

It was a great experience to meet his family and visit the farm. They were one of the most gracious and warm Christian families I had ever met. I never knew either of my grandmothers, but his grandmother actually lived with them! She immediately became my grandmother, and I will never forget that wonderful relationship.

Blessed For Ministry

Wally had the opportunity to preach while still in high school. He had his first weekend ministry at a small church in Sanders, Kentucky. By the time I knew him, he had begun his new weekend ministry at English, Kentucky. I went to visit one weekend and immediately realized he had been blessed by God for ministry. His preaching ability was incredible. I had heard many student preachers, but he was the best I had ever heard. He truly was anointed by God at a very young age.

I was drawn to him in so many ways—his beautiful smile, warm personality, wonderful Christian family, leadership ability, and his anointed preaching. I was hopelessly in love. But more amazing to me is that he loved . . . me. He wanted to marry . . . me.

One of his greatest passions is evangelism. During college and immediately after, he preached many revivals. He thought it would be his life’s work, but soon after his graduation, Wally was asked to be a church planter and founding minister of First Church of Christ, Burlington. It was beginning with 10 people in a fire station in Florence, Kentucky. He accepted that call, and that decision began the most wonderful ride of our lives.

In just seven years, we went from a fire station through two building programs, starting up children’s ministries, women’s ministry, small groups, nights of personal evangelism, raising money, and much more. Wally was the senior minister, youth minister, music minister, and the “everything-that-needs-to-be-done” minister.

The church grew spiritually and flourished in numbers. During this time, we grew up. Barton, Jodi, and Jill were born. While all of this was happening, Wally continued to have his great heart for evangelism; he knew we must reach the whole world with Jesus. He helped initiate three more church plants in Northern Kentucky during this time: the Lakeside Christian Church, the Nicholson Christian Church, and Valley View Christian Church.

The next step was about to begin. Southland Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, wanted to plant another church and called Wally to lead that work. The Southern Acres Christian Church began. After reaching thousands through that 34-year ministry, Wally has accepted another ministry as director of church relations with Cincinnati Christian University. He has served the college many years through his service as a member and chairman of the trustees.

He also served the North American Christian Convention for many years, including a year as president.

Used by God

I share all these things only to say that none of them make Wally special, but that this does: he allows God to use him, a farm boy from Oklahoma. He spent time with his children, Barton, Jodi, and Jill—playing, listening, teaching, loving them and telling them he loves them. He’s proud of them, and he will always be behind them, cheering them on.

To the churches he has served, the things that have mattered most are his character, genuineness, loving care, service, and dependability.

God has been so gracious to me. I could never have planned or anticipated the life he has given me. Wally has seen me through sickness and on to great health. He shared God’s grace with me when our daughter, Jill, died. He has shared with me in the joys of being parents—and now grandparents.

More than just telling me he loves me, he shows me he loves me every day. At this new time in my life, I feel the need, even more, for “a Jesus with skin on.” God knew this is what I’d need. And so he gave me Wally.


 

 

Barbara Rendel is executive director of university advancement at Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University.

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