A conversation with Dick Ady
He may be the most techno-savvy great-grandfather in churches of Christ.
Dick Ady, 73-year-old elder of the Metro Church of Christ, works more than 12 hours per day, mostly in front of his computer.
When he’s not answering e-mail questions about his ministry, World English Institute, he’s working with the ministry’s teachers, students and new Christians in Albania or other parts of the world. Metro oversees the ministry, but more than 100 churches across the nation support it with finances and provide teachers.
Metro minister Ron Clark said that Ady “keeps us thinking beyond our own walls.”
The former missionary to Taiwan was thinking of Asia when he began writing Bible lessons that teach English in the late 1980s. But as the Iron Curtain fell, workers in Eastern Europe saw an immediate demand for the material.
Ady was part of a campaign to Albania in 1992 and has been back almost every summer since. He remembers the words of one Albanian convert: “When you first came to Albania we thought that English was more important than the Bible. But little by little, the Bible caught up. Now we know that the Bible is more important than English.”
Today the ministry has about 200,000 students in 174 countries. Metro’s elders served as the ministry’s first board, but recently WEI moved to a nationwide board, including church leaders from the Pacific Northwest and Tennessee.
Tom Langley, a church member in Maryville, Tenn., coordinates mission trips for WEI and is Ady’s planned successor.
Ady and his wife, Maudine, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. The couple has two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandson.
How did the idea for the program develop?
We were in Taiwan from 1968 to 1969, and went back from 1972 to 1974. We discovered so many Chinese students who really wanted to learn English.
I could walk across campus at a university in Taipei City and 40 or 50 students would follow me, wanting to speak English and wanting to ask me questions in English and hear my reply. We decided that was an open door of opportunity.
So the ministry originally was focused on the Far East instead of Eastern Europe?
We actually had China in mind when we developed this idea. It started out from ground zero. We didn’t have any students – didn’t even have the material written when the Iron Curtain fell (in 1989).
The Tiananmen Square massacre occurred just as I was finishing writing the first book of the Bible course. I kept writing even though I was discouraged about China.
And, lo and behold, in November the Iron Curtain fell and there was a tremendous opportunity in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
How did WEI get connected to Eastern Europe?
Truitt Adair and the late Bob Haire had gone into Bratislava (then Czechoslovakia). They had run an ad in a Catholic newspaper advertising a free English course. Truitt had examined all the materials he could find … and he decided that the WEI material was ideally suited to use in Europe.
We hadn’t even printed these materials yet, and he was putting pressure on me. “Get that stuff in print, we’ve had 15,000 letters come in – in one week.”
Almost the same time, Bill McDonough had made a trip into Romania, some 30 days after Nicolae Ceausescu was executed, and had run some ads in a popular magazine offering free English courses. He had WEI in mind. “Get this stuff in print,” (he said), “We’ve had 50,000 people respond.”
Fifty thousand, my goodness!
How did you respond to the demand?
I didn’t know how we were going to get it printed. We needed at least at least $11,000 or $12,000 (for) the first set of material.
About the same time Prentice Meador came to Portland as a spokesman for GNEW (Great Northwest Evangelism Workshop). He told me that the Prestoncrest church in Dallas had been asked to head up a program to respond (to Eastern Europe).
They (had) a rally for Eastern Europe in April. As a result, millions of dollars came in from all over the United States.
They gave WEI $12,000 to print the first batch in May (1990).
What was the response?
From there it just took off. Sunset (International Bible Institute) started using our materials in Czechoslovakia. It took off in Romania.
In 1991 Bill McDonough … called me and said “I’m going to lead a campaign in Albania. Albania is opening up.” He couldn’t’ stay the whole time. Could I go?
So I went in the summer of 1992 and he left after two weeks, and almost immediately after he left, we started baptizing people – about 42 people in the month of August and 15 more in the month of September. Russ Burcham from Kennett, Mo., came in right before the regular campaign was over and they baptized 15 more. So there was a congregation of 55 members.
That’s the way it got started. Every summer I’ve been back until this summer.
Who supports the ministry today?
Metro is the one that kicked it off. Lots and lots of churches and Christians join hands with us in this work. As churches are planted church leaders are trained. More and more (the work) is being turned over to the local church members.
The idea is to work ourselves out of a job as the nationals take over. Our goal is not to develop people who are dependent on America for funding, but people who can take the Gospel and run with it without any support from the outside.
What is the appeal of WEI to non-Christians?
Students are attracted by the English first, and then of course they get hooked on the Bible. God has a way of doing that.
They’ve been trained in atheism. They’re taught that the Bible is bunch of fairy tales and, when they get into it, they find that, “Wow, this has meaning!”
One of my students in Albania was a medical doctor. When she first came, she said, “I’m not interested in all this God talk. Do you have anything else to offer me?” I said, “No, this is all we have to choose from.”
She left in a huff. I thought she’d never come back. (But) she came back and studied the WEI material.
Two weeks later she said, “I’m amazed. I’ve never seen such beautiful words as I find in the Bible. I’ve never had any words of hope and comfort for my dying patients until now.”
She was baptized in a swimming pool because we couldn’t find anything else at the time.
How does WEI interact with Metro?
We have a wonderful working relationship. The elders were the board of directors for more than 10 years. They’re still totally behind it. They felt that we needed to broaden our base and involve other people to take advantage of all the opportunities God presents to us worldwide.
We have our mail-out parties every other month. We have a group called “Nothys,” a wonderful group of retired people. They come down and help stuff newsletters.
Junior high and senior high students here take students their own age overseas and teach them the WEI material.
Some have taught their fellow students in local high schools this material. They’ve asked for the material. We’ve not asked them to teach it. They have asked for it because they were teaching their friends and trying to lead them to Christ and they thought, this is one way to do it.
Is your wife OK with your work schedule?
She works with me, so we’re together most of the day. I go home and eat dinner and we visit a little bit, and she’ll rest a while and I’ll come back and work till about 11 p.m. She doesn’t complain.
I’m sure she would like for me to be home more often. In fact, now I have a computer at home – a laptop that is up to date – I plan to stay home and do some of my writing there. And I’ll be in the next room. When she needs me, she’ll be able to say, “Can you take out the garbage?”
I depend on her a lot.
OTHER METRO INTERNATIONAL MISSIONS
• Fort Portal, Uganda: Jeff and Cheryl Cash work in this African city. The Glenwood church, Tyler, Texas, supports the couple, and Metro provides working funds.
• Lushnja, Albania: Tom Bonner, Metro’s former singles minister, moved his ministry to this Eastern European country, with Metro’s support.
• SIBI: Rudy Wray, Metro’s former pulpit minister, now works for Lubbock, Texas-based Sunset International Bible Institute. Metro members help support Wray’s work, which includes new opportunities in Cuba and other parts of the world.
• Toluca, Mexico: Though not in Metro’s budget, church members provide support and volunteers to assist missionaries Raul and Kim Solis. Kim Solis was baptized at Metro.