Ken Naegele has lived on the same county road in Indiana his entire life. Yet he’s spent many of his days on the move. From the military to mission trips to a job as a semi-truck driver, Ken has traveled the world, and it has transformed his perspective. Though his journey had a few twists and turns along the way.
It’s a Whole Different Experience
Ken grew up going to church. Though his parents weren’t involved, his neighbors were like a second set of parents to him, and they began taking Ken to church along with them.
“From an early age it took, I guess!” Ken said with a laugh. “But when I went to the army I got sideways with the world. Back in ’69, ’70, ’71, I kind of fell away,” Ken admitted.
Though he knows he acted “like a heathen” during those years, Ken’s military service took him overseas, and those experiences struck him to the core. He interacted with people who had so little, yet their joy was great.
“You can see poverty on TV, but when you’re there in person—the sights, sounds, and smells—it’s a whole different experience. Everyone should go.”
Returning from the army, Ken headed to college and also headed back to church. He was drawn to the opportunities to get involved with missions, helping people like those he met during his military service. He studied aircraft mechanics and nursing and almost became a flying medical missionary. But he was hesitant.
“I felt that was my calling, but the Lord has backup plans for us when we don’t do what we’re supposed to do,” Ken reflected.
“I can’t afford to give it all away, but I can invest to help somebody in the Kingdom. I need to help.” —Ken Naegele
She Became My Mission
Yes, God still had plans to use Ken to impact His Kingdom. One part of this adventure came in the form of short-term missions. For over 20 years now, Ken has gone on trip after trip, using his mechanical and construction skills in some of the poorest countries in our hemisphere.
“The people have dirt floors, open fire cooking, no running water,” Ken described Haiti and Honduras. “We always want a little more, a bigger car and house here in the U.S. But these people I met love Jesus, and they’re more content than we are.”
Sadly, another part of Ken’s journey came in the form of suffering. Ken’s wife, Patty, was diagnosed in May 2016 with ALS. As her health deteriorated, Ken was Patty’s caregiver. “She became my mission,” he said.
After a while, Patty was only able to communicate through a specialized computer where she used her eyes and it typed out her words. In May 2018, she and Ken had lunch, talked through the computer for a bit, and then he walked down the hall to give her some rest. An hour later, she passed away at the age of 59.
“I knew she wasn’t going to escape ALS, but still to me it seemed kind of sudden,” said Ken. “I thought I was better prepared. . . . I reckon I wasn’t.”
I’ve Got to Do Something
The unanticipated road Ken travels now is as a widower. In this season of his life, God is using Ken to impact the Kingdom in an additional way—through his finances. Patty had been the one who was in charge of their accounts, but as Ken took over during her illness and after her death, a Bible story struck him.
“I realized I’m the rich man, as in the rich man and Lazarus in the Bible. We spend all our money on ourselves sometimes and don’t spend it on others who are less fortunate. I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something for the Kingdom.’”
“I felt that was my calling, but the Lord has backup plans for us when we don’t do what we’re supposed to do.” —Ken Naegele
Ken had an interest in giving to his church, North Madison Christian Church, and to missions, and he also remembered an organization he’d known about for years: CDF Capital.
“I can’t afford to give it all away, but I can invest to help somebody in the Kingdom,” Ken concluded. “I need to help.”
Investing with CDF fit that urge to help that God placed deeply in Ken’s heart. Though it may not have been the trail he expected to traverse, Ken continues to commit his travels, his resources, and his life to care for those in need.
Read more from The Cornerstone Winter/Spring 2019
We hope you are inspired by the stories in this issue of The Cornerstone. Thanks for being a part of God’s work to transform churches and lives.