Rickey Strickland has traveled the world for Christ. He has slept on tarps, lived in hostile cultures, and walked countless miles through some of the remotest places on Earth. He has seen miracles performed and lives transformed.
But despite all of the adventures—and there have been a lot—much of his life has been spent waiting. Waiting for connections, waiting for funding, waiting faithfully for God.
He traces his calling back to a mission trip to the Soviet Union in 1977. A college student at the time, Rickey knew he wanted to dedicate his life to mission work. So, when he married his wife, Mary, two years later and she was called to go to Africa, he knew it was where they belonged. In 1986, at the age of 30, the Stricklands quit their jobs as teachers and moved to Kenya full time. But when they struggled to make the right connections with the right people, they were forced to return to the United States.
After much reflection, the Stricklands moved to Kansas City where they worked as teachers and prayed for the road ahead. They would still spend summers back in Africa spreading the Gospel, but God kept them in a waiting period. This continued until 2007 when Rickey was called by God to quit his job and move to Kenya, where he was introduced to the Pokots—a primitive, remote tribe of 800,000 people with many villages unreached by the Gospel.
When the chief of the Pokots, a Christian, asked the Stricklands to reach his people, they traveled to remote villages to spread the Gospel. Sleeping in tents, they drove as far as they could and then hiked up to 30 miles at a time to reach these communities, often with no distinct trail.
It was around this time that Rickey met Bill High, CEO of The Signatry. They discussed the work the Stricklands were doing and their need to start a ministry in Kenya. With the help of The Signatry, the Stricklands started Pokot Now in 2009 and took an innovative approach. Instead of relying on church donations to fund their work, Rickey created a Facebook group connected to their fund with The Signatry to raise money. Despite not being backed by a large church, Pokot Now raised the money needed to get started with the help of The Signatry.
The Pokot were resistant to the Bible, but Rickey was able to build trust with them over time through their chief. Rickey connected with other pastors in the area, and as donations for Pokot Now grew, they took new approaches to discipleship. When they began distributing solar-powered audio Bibles to villages, they were in high demand. Not only did the audio Bibles provide teachings in the Pokots’ native languages, they also were a source of entertainment in remote villages where radio and other technologies were unavailable.
Pokot Now caters to the spiritual and physical needs of the Pokot people, especially during times of famine. The ministry provides food, medicine, and clean water, but the end goal is to help the Pokot become self-sufficient. “We receive contributions, but we want to head to the place of self-support,” Rickey explains. To do this, they use what the Pokot already have. The area is abundant with honey and coffee, so the ministry has helped the Pokot modernize their production. After establishing a market, they now ship the products to other countries as a licensed seller for sustainable income.
With the success of the ministry and the trust built through it, Rickey has now become a Pokot Elder. This is a high honor in Pokot culture and is bestowed for helping their people in times of need. Through Pokot Now’s discipleship and humanitarian efforts, nearly 30% of the Pokot people, around 200,000, have been reached with the gospel in the last ten years.
Rickey says, “The Signatry has helped us build a vehicle, through our website donation page and our fund, that God has used to bring support at the right time. Using the fund is like building a sailboat and letting God blow on its sails. Having this vehicle with The Signatry allows the average Joe like me to hear a call from God and just go.”
While it did not happen quickly or easily, the Stricklands’ steadfast faith in God and His timing have allowed them to take the Gospel into places it has never been. Looking back, they did not always understand why their missions were not building momentum, but now they see it was all part of God’s plan. “The Pokots have a tremendous respect for elders,” says Rickey. “I wouldn’t have been able to gain their trust as a young man.”
Pokot Now is spreading the Gospel and bringing new people to Christ, all while improving their quality of life and easing tensions in a historically violent the area. Donors and partners like The Signatry have played an important role in the ministry, helping to fund initiatives that make a difference.
This is the power of radical generosity. God has given us each the opportunity to be generous in our lives. Whether the radical generosity required to cross oceans and bring the gospel, to the generosity to fuel Kingdom work, it all holds great significance. As we each faithfully live generously in the ways God has called us, together this yields incredible Kingdom impact.