Everything Doug Thompson has done in life has flowed out of a deep love for Jesus and others. Ward Church has paid witness to much of Doug’s journey and had a hand in shaping him into the man he is today. On Celebration Sunday on June 13, Doug will move fully into retirement from Ward Church, after 34 years as a paid staff member.
Life with Ward
Doug’s parents began attending Elizabeth W. Ward Memorial Presbyterian Church, the mother church of Ward Church, when he was only two years old. It was all thanks to a golf league, when Doug’s father met a group of men who attended Ward Memorial Church. Doug’s father was impressed by the caliber of the men and how likeable they were. From that point on, Doug’s family was also a Ward family. Doug’s early life was largely shaped by Ward Memorial Church’s influence, but it wasn’t until a mission trip to Mexico in 1966, that he truly found his calling.
“When I met these missionaries in Mexico, I realized they were sharp people and loved Mexican people. They were happy serving poor people,” said Doug, who up to that point couldn’t understand why people would serve in overseas missions. “They didn’t have electricity or running water and they were happy. To me I thought, it just doesn’t make sense. That’s what got me thinking about missions.”
The following year, he graduated from high school and attended Schoolcraft College and then later Wheaton College. He studied French, which eventually led him to a program studying at The Sorbonne in Paris, France. That’s where his love of French culture began to take root. Still, God had different plans and after graduating from Wheaton in 1971, he took a job teaching high school French, Bible, and algebra to 500 students in Sierra Leone, West Africa with the Mennonite Central Committee’s Teachers Abroad Program.
Doug says he loved his time in Sierra Leone, despite occasional dangers. It was there he also encountered a melting pot of Christian influences and it’s where he first learned of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. So, in 1974, he returned to the states to attend Fuller, where he received his M.Div. and met his wife, Linda. He was teaching assistant to Dr. Bob Munger, author of “My Heart, Christ’s Home” and was deeply influenced by him. After his graduation in 1977, Doug felt God calling him to missions, the career he had felt called to so many years earlier.
First World Outreach Missionaries
In 1983, Doug and Linda became the first overseas church planters of the EPC’s World Outreach to do church planting. Doug was recruited by the French Free Church to plant churches in the southern part of France, in Toulouse near the Pyrenees mountains.
“We lived there for 10 years and started three churches and helped a fourth get well and grow,” said Doug. “We didn’t do it, the Lord did. We just were able to help.”
Doug said the opposition to faith in France is extreme and overcoming intellectual objections to any faith is an uphill battle. “It is hard to serve as Christ followers in France, in that they are very secular. The French don’t believe that it’s possible for a thinking, intelligent person to believe in God.” Yet, despite the challenges and obstacles, Doug and Linda overcame with the power of God. “It was all God; it was God that did it. He just used goofy people like us. We loved living there and thought we’d be in France for the rest of our lives.”
Return to the States
But God had other ideas and in 1993, he returned to the states to serve under Dr. Wally Hostetter at Faith Church in Rochester Hills and later he helped to plant another daughter church for Faith in Oxford. It was in 2003, that Doug returned home to Ward as the Pastor of Care Ministries.
Doug has used all that God taught him throughout his career, to help him love and nurture the Ward Church family for the past 18 years. There is so much Doug loves about Ward Church, but the generosity of the members is what sticks out the most. He recalls a time when working in France that Linda’s father was dying. Linda is from San Francisco, and to see her father before he passed, Doug’s family of five would have needed to fly halfway around the world. A man at Ward Church mobilized a group of people from Ward to raise money for their airfare, which Doug found out about when a travel agent called to arrange the trip. The generosity of this small group overwhelmed Doug and Linda.
“Ward has been such a loving, kind, generous church,” said Doug, due to the generosity, he has been on over 12 short-term medical mission trips to West Africa, translating for the doctors or triaging the sick that came to the clinics.
Doug has also been impressed with the level of community evangelism he’s seen, especially since Pastor Scott McKee has come on board. Doug is passionate about overseas missions, but acknowledges the importance of local missions, too.
“That’s how Ward people are. They love Jesus and want to make a difference in our community. What I love about Scott, is that he isn’t taking away from foreign mission, but wants to focus on the communities around us.”
Doug has loved every second serving in the Care Ministry at Ward Church. He has come to love and respect all the staff at Ward and are grateful for all those serving with him on the Care Team.
“What I do in Care Ministries, such as hospital calls, responding to emergencies, counseling, etc. – a lot of churches don’t do that anymore.” He is impressed with the line-up of staff serving within Care Ministries and has great hope for the future of the ministry at Ward.
Doug now looks to a future, filled with volunteerism and family time. “I don’t have any regrets. I am very grateful I was able to serve at Ward as long as I did. It’s time to retire and be with my munchkins.”
Doug and Linda will be away for the summer, but plan to return to Ward Church in the fall. Doug will teach a Sunday morning class.
Following both the 9:30 and 11 a.m. worship services on Sunday, June 13, Doug and Linda will be in the Hub area just outside of ReNu to give you the opportunity to greet them, share your well wishes and say “goodbye” for the summer. There will also be a box available should you want to drop in a note or card for the Thompsons. If you do not yet feel comfortable coming into the building, please send notes or cards to Doug and Linda c/o the church and they will be passed along.