July 26, 2012 | 10:44 a.m.
By Tricia Theurer, Communications and Marketing Specialist for University Relations
The Bethel Seminary Alumni Council unanimously recommended Dick Varberg as 2012 Bethel Seminary Alumnus of the Year, and he received the award in May at Bethel Seminary St. Paul. Varberg is a 1955 graduate of Bethel College and a 1958 graduate of Bethel Seminary. He served more than 40 years as a missionary in the Republic of the Philippines and had a hand in planting more than 100 churches. In 1958, he and his wife Elenor sailed to the Philippines with their three-month-old son, Paul, 12 years after the U.S. ceded its sovereignty over the region. Leaving their Iowa farm behind, the couple raised five children overseas, two of whom now serve as missionaries in the Philippines.
Varberg retired to the United States in 1997 and served as the director of Internal Church Planting, Training and Mentoring for the Baptist General Conference (now Converge Worldwide) until 2003. He asked to be replaced so he could write his memoir—a hefty 768-page volume titled From the Iowa Farm to the Philippine Field. He recently wrote a second book about his missionary service entitled Why Didn’t You Come Sooner?
Ralph Gustafson, Bethel University’s vice president for constituent relations, says, “Dick is a hero to me and many others. He has always been an entrepreneur—he thinks outside the box and approaches things in ways that haven’t been done before. Dick knows how to resource ministries and churches and is a gifted storyteller and evangelist.” Of Varberg’s service with the conference, Gustafson notes that “Dick played a significant part in encouraging people to be generous to missions.”
Converge Worldwide Senior Vice President Doug Fagerstrom also expressed his admiration. “Dick and Ellie Varberg represent the finest quintessential model of Converge missionary service,” he says. “While their life story reads like the book of the Acts of the Apostles, their life of love for lost Filipinos and faith in an almighty God sets them apart from many global ambassadors. Every person considering evangelism needs to read their story.”