My name is Richard Eugene McNiel, a title I proudly inherited from my father and grandfather. I have been in full-time ministry for almost 14 years and was blessed to be taught by some Spirit-filled, Christ-like ministers.
For twelve years, I pastored Lakeview and Humphrey’s UMC in St. Albans, WV. My wife, Leslie, has worked for thirteen years at CAMC Memorial Hospital in Charleston. Working as a pharmacist has been Leslie’s ministry. She felt called into pharmacy every bit as much as I felt called into ministry.
I felt God pursuing me at a young age. At 16 years old, after a summer basketball league at a Baptist church, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior with the youth minister of that church. After that, I went on a Chrysalis Flight (the youth version of Walk to Emmaus- a ministry of Upper Room Ministries). God used that experience to teach me how to have a personal walk with Christ. When I went to college at Marshall University, where I ran track, I began drifting away from those truths God had been teaching me. Eventually, I pushed God away and experienced my version of the prodigal son. I renewed my relationship with Christ, and in my senior year at Marshall, I knew God was calling me into full-time ministry. I contacted a mentor from my Chrysalis Flight to find out how to pursue full-time ministry with the Methodist Church. This mentor was Tex (Frank) Frye, who ironically is now my father-in-law. He helped me get started with Seminary and on the path to ordination in the Methodist Church.
As my part-time job in Seminary, I worked at Dayton Correctional Institution as an assistant chaplain. That experience still shapes the ministry God has given me. The inmates taught me more than I could ever teach them. My supervisor there, Chaplain Earnest Graves, taught me so much about ministry and life. I was also blessed to complete a CEU for chaplaincy with the Dayton VA hospital. I have a deep love and respect for our veterans and active service military and am honored to be in their presence to serve them.
It has been 14 years since my graduation from Seminary, ten years since ordination in the United Methodist Church, and God still teaches me something new every day. My wife and I share devotions and pray together regularly. From the time our daughters were born, we have taught them about God’s love for them and have shared His word with them. I have no greater joy than hearing my Rylee (6 years old) and Sophie (9 years old) as they belt out the words to worship songs.
Since 2002 I have been blessed to do 12 revivals. God has put a true love in my heart for preaching His word. Another essential part of the ministry that God has given me is the personal relationships that I have developed at each of my churches. It is vital to the body of Christ that every member of the congregation feels loved and appreciated, just as Christ has loved us. I make every effort to visit all members in the hospital, nursing homes, and at their homes (not just shut-ins).
I also believe in the power of reaching out to our community; we are the only chance at experiencing Christ that some people will ever have. We must take every opportunity to show His love and spread His Word. At my first church in downtown Charleston, St. Marks UMC, I began bringing the children from the domestic abuse shelter to our church gymnasium. We had dinner, a Bible lesson, and then a fun time. Getting those children out of that setting to a place where they knew they were safe and could have fun did so much to reach those little hearts for Jesus.
Another way that I attempt to reach people for Christ is through the athletic ability He has given me. I play basketball with a group of men. Many of these men have never heard the Gospel. They call me “Rev” and often ask for my opinion on things, and through that, I can share the Gospel with them.
It is incredibly humbling to see how far God has brought my life! In childhood, the diagnosis from a learning disability was that I would never read, but now, I read God’s word daily and preach it with God-given authority. Also, my doctors informed me that I would never run or walk without braces. Now, I use basketball to reach the world for Christ! 2 Corinthians 12:10 “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It is so good to be in Huntington, WV. My family and I are grateful to be numbered among you at Beverly Hills United Methodist Church.