Call to Service
In 1968, Richard “Rick” Huffstetler, of Mooresville, North Carolina, was working three jobs and attending college when he decided he needed a break and took a semester off. That one semester turned into 32 years.
He decided more than 30 years was long enough to go without a degree, and after his wife, Wanda earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Excelsior College in 1997, he also looked into the online school. From the 1970s into the 2000s, Huffstetler had taken a few college courses at various universities but never completed a degree. Once he decided it was time to restart on that goal, he earned an Associate in Liberal Arts from Excelsior in 2000 and then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts in 2002. In the following years, Huffstetler pursued a higher calling to help others and today owns his own chaplain service and volunteers for the Billy Graham Association.
“I felt called to go into some type of ministry,” says Huffstetler, referring to 2009 when he felt encouraged by a higher power to follow a career serving God and his fellow man. Huffstetler had worked mainly in sales, for a time selling Chevy fleet vehicles for General Motors, but in 2010, he switched gears and joined the Billy Graham Association. Since then, he has answered the national prayer hotline, offering comfort and prayers to callers.
With his degrees from Excelsior in hand, Huffstetler earned a master’s in Christian leadership from Liberty University and took basic chaplain training in Houston, Texas, through the International Fellowship of Chaplains. He became a senior chaplain in 2013 and opened Workplace Chaplain Services in 2015. He is the owner and sole employee, although he can call on others for assistance if needed. As a chaplain, he offers support and encouragement to staff at local companies. “The chaplain is there to minister to those people in whatever way it seems fit. The role of a chaplain is we’re there to help you do your job,” says Huffstetler. “No matter what that job may be—it could be a soldier, it could be a police officer, or it could be somebody making widgets in a factory. But whatever your job is, I as a chaplain, my job is to help you do that job better.” Chaplains, Huffstetler says, help employees sift through the emotional and mental “gunk” they may bring to work with them and need to talk about.
In addition to running his own chaplain services and working with the Billy Graham Association, Huffstetler is a chaplain with the Motor Racing Outreach Association, which fosters and encourages fellowship and faith for the racing community and its fans. He says, “All the major NASCAR teams are probably within 10 miles of where I’m standing right now… Motor racing outreach administers to the racing community. And it’s not just NASCAR—motorcycles, boats, drag racing, whatever it may be.”
Huffstetler says sometimes it’s hard being a chaplain because he runs into rejection. “Not everybody wants what I have to offer for whatever reason. And sometimes when I’m rejected, it’s hard not to take it personally,” he says. But the good outweighs the bad. It makes him feel good to know that he has helped people. “If I have just made a small difference in somebody’s life, that’s good enough.” Learn more about Excelsior College’s Associate Degree in Liberal Arts.
More from Richard Huffstetler
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
“Jimmy Valvano said don’t ever give up. I saw him give his last speech, and they had to carry him off stage. And you know, he’s telling me, you know, not to give up, so how can I give up? So I don’t know, it just always stuck with me.”
What would you tell someone who wanted to go back to school?
“I tell people all the time, especially if you have any credits, you need to check out Excelsior because they’re one of the few schools that will really give you credit…you’re not starting at ground zero.”
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
“My legacy is my two grandchildren out in California. They call me ‘Poppa’…I feel like I live on through them.”
What do you do when you are not working as a chaplain?
“I started making these walking sticks because at the time I had my knee replaced, I thought, well, if I’ve got to have a walking stick model, I’ll do something cool, and I made this walking stick with a baseball on top. I made a bunch of them for friends… I love building model cars because that’s one thing I love about Motor Racing Outreach: it combines my two passions which is chaplaincy and automobile racing. I’ve built stuff around the house: I built a fire pit; I found out that I could build these cascading waterfall things… You know just anything like that.”