B.A., History, California State University, Fullerton
M.A, Educational Leadership, California State University, Los Angeles
Founding Director of Charis National Academy
Indonesia Field Director for Mustard Seed International
Paul Richardson: Faith on the Edge
A CERTAIN RISK
As the son of missionaries, Paul Richardson was raised in a village carved out of the remote jungle on one of the islands comprising Indonesia. His father, Don Richardson, wrote the classic book Peace Child, telling the story and discoveries of living among the Sawi tribe in what was then Dutch New Guinea, 1962 to 1977. The Richardsons were living in virtual isolation from the modern world, among a tribe that was known to be cannibalistic headhunters.
Paul remembers sitting in the laps of warriors, eating native food in a smoke-filled thatched-roofed house while his father translated the Bible into the local language. Paul would run barefoot through the jungle, chasing egrets with a bow and arrow while his mother, a nurse, treated patients in her medical clinc. When the Richardson family relocated back to the states, Paul had to readjust to a more civilized life; however, his love for the islands never left.
In 1999, Paul and his wife Cyndi were preparing to move their family to Indonesia from California to head up a Christian school when the unthinkable happened. Paul came inside from a swim, moments later he found himself scrambling to find baby Josiah. Their search led them back to the pool and the horror of seeing Josiah at the bottom of it.
Paul dropped to his knees, crying out to God like never before. Meanwhile his brother vigorously performed CPR over the limp body before he was helicoptered out. The incident left Josiah in the hospital brain dead, but the combined prayers of loved ones and saints raised him up.
Six weeks later the family was ready to take off for their new assignment. Paul says, “I came [to Indonesia] with the intention to reveal God to others, God brought me here to reveal His heart to me.”
Paul and Cyndi were warned that the government of the largest Islamic nation on earth would never tolerate the launching of openly Christian schools, especially by people whose stated purpose is to impact the world for Christ. Every attempt to secure permission to open a Christian school from Islamic authorities required another miracle. Since those initial days of creating the first school, others have emerged, hundreds of teachers have been trained and aproximatly 2,900 children are being impacted in these programs each day.
Paul challenges everyone to embrace the work of God in their lives—to dream God’s dreams for them. God’s dream for Paul was to pioneer openly Christian schools in the largest Muslim country on earth.
“Chasing God’s dreams always entails a certain risk,” he says “the opportunity is right in front of us, everywhere we go, we are being asked if we could open a school in this village. Nothing is going to stop the gospel.”
Paul also created a school for gang members in Compton, CA, one of the toughest communities in America. Through Paul’s time in Compton as a youth minister, he reached many at-risk kids who were suffocating internally. Many with little to no hope left for their future.
One particular boy, Anthony, a gang member, was known for his fearless attitude and was looked up to by many gang members older than him. At 14, Anthony lead a gruesome attack on a rival gang member. On his way back home after a party, Anthony’s gang jumped the boy and beat him unconscious. Stuffing the boy into the trunk of the car, they headed back to their own territory. The next afternoon they released the boy from the trunk just to watch him try and escape. After they had their laugh, the gang proceeded to beat him to death. Anthony spent two years in a detention facility charged with the kidnapping and the eventual murder of the rival gang member.
Paul met Anthony after he did his time. Later on a youth group camping trip, Paul lead Anthony to the Lord kneeling on the white sandy beaches in Mexico. Paul’s time working in Compton was a definite time of stretching for him, resulting in learning lessons he will take with him the rest of his life.
FAITH ON THE EDGE
From God’s perspective, faith emits the sweetest, most beautiful aroma in all of his creation. Paul is about faith, not the intellectual sort of faith so much as a faith that reveals itself through attitudes, decisions, movements and actions. This kind of faith doesn’t necessarily draw us to places like Africa and Asia, but it always carries us beyond ourselves.
Here on the far side of fear is a freedom that most never dream possible—a freedom to go deeper and closer to who you are supposed to be. Like diving into the abyss of the ocean, faith is initially counterintuitive. It defies human nature, which is why it is associated with risk. Diving into God is dangerously simple, because His dreams for us are worth giving our lives for. The faith God is holding out for us is one that sets us free to be guided by his voice, to see our world with His eyes and respond with the passions of His heart.
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