By Judith Ryder
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” II Timothy 3:16-17
After joining Cranston Christian Fellowship (CCF) in 1981, Jim Ricci began serving in a pastoral role as an elder in 1986 and, since 1989, has served as a Staff member in numerous capacities. Currently, as Biblical Counseling Pastor at CCF, he conducts 1400 counseling sessions per year including with clients from other churches. But recently, Jim returned from a sabbatical having received new clarity from the Lord about the future direction of his life’s ministry.
After initial discussions and prayer with the CCF Elder Board beginning last January, and consultation with other Christian leaders in and out of state, Jim has decided to launch a self-sustaining Regional Biblical Counseling Center, one of the first in the area, under his leadership and direction. He hopes to realize his long-time goal of a counseling ministry that can change lives and positively impact churches for God throughout the tri-state region of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. By taking this move, he desires to maximize his gifts and passion for the glory of God by helping area churches reach their fullest potential.
To advance his expanding ministry, Jim’s role at CCF has been revised to Pastor/Elder so that he can focus on two main priorities: continuing his present counseling of individuals and married couples, and starting the Regional Biblical Counseling Center. A non-profit para-church organization, the Center eventually will have a six or seven member Board to provide oversight.
CCF’s Elder Board has commended Jim to the leadership of the new ministry beginning this winter, under the Board’s transitional oversight and with its full support. Procedures and resources have been designated for the remainder of the fiscal year, including necessary start-up funds. After July 1, 2017, while still using CCF as his home base, Jim will be a separate entity working for a non-profit, tax-deductible, para-church organization accountable to its own Board. But until then, starting this month, while working toward procuring a non-profit/tax-deductible status, Jim will begin requesting donations (to be forwarded to CCF) for his counseling services.
In practical terms, this means that, although so far counseling has been free, donations will now be requested. However, since Jim will still be receiving a salary from CCF, any CCF clients will be asked, though not required, to make a donation between January and July 2017. During that same period, clients from other churches will be expected to give a suggested donation based on a sliding scale according to their income. Jim emphasizes that he won’t turn anyone away, but a plan has been devised whereby, after July 2017, clients from CCF who cannot afford his fee may receive partial subsidization from a designated fund set aside by CCF for this purpose.
Other churches sending clients to the new Regional Biblical Counseling Center will likewise be urged to designate special funds to assist their members with supplementing, if needed, their counseling fees. Soon, Jim will make himself available to church leaders for seminars and pulpit communication to explain his new ministry, the various counseling topics he addresses, and how churches can help their members with needed financial aid for counseling.
In addition, Jim is open to Motivational Speaking in churches and other arenas such as civic organizations, veterans groups, libraries, schools, Chambers of Commerce, Kiwanis, businesses, sporting venues, life-skill retreats, etc. Typical messages fill his audiences with hope, helping them to see the world and their circumstances from a new and victorious perspective. He recently accepted a speaking engagement at a Word of Life Conference early this year. On December 4, Jim received an enthusiastic reception at CCF when he announced the roll-out of the new ministry. Later this month, his new website will be up and running with lots of information but, for now, Jim is glad for anyone seeking Biblical Counseling to contact him through CCF. Down the road, Jim plans a book, and is already speaking to publishers.
A trend towards regional Biblical Counseling centers, which are popping up nationwide, has developed in response to the need of many pastors who lack the necessary time for counseling and wish to refer church members elsewhere. Due to the breakdown of society, broken and blended families, and the overall cultural decline, counseling has become complicated and specialization is necessary. A Biblical Counseling Pastor with nearly 30 years of experience, Jim counsels clients on a variety of topics such as addictions, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), co-dependency, alcoholism, anger management, anxiety disorders/phobias, crisis/trauma, depression, grief/loss, impulse control disorders, life transitions, relationship issues, self-esteem, sexual abuse, spirituality, substance abuse, domestic violence/abuse, post partum depression, and parenting issues.
Born in 1948, Jim attended CCRI from 1966 to 1968 (Associate of Arts) and, in 1990 and 1991, took a six-month course in Old and New Testament with a major in counseling at Bible School in Columbia, SC. In between, Jim joined the Army and served his country in Vietnam from March 1969 to December 1970. In an elite company assigned to the 34th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog Unit, Jim specialized in walking point. He and his dog, Casey, were trained to identify booby traps, trip wires, ambushes, and snipers in trees. Jim received numerous commendations for outstanding courage and heroism, but the most prominent came in December 1970 when he was bestowed with the third highest honor awarded to a service man in the U. S. Army: the Bronze Star Medal with Valor.
After serving in Vietnam, Jim returned home to marry Louise, his childhood sweetheart, now beloved wife of 45 years, and mother of their two wonderful daughters, Erica and Jeanine. For 15 years he worked as Sales Manager for an automotive company, where he once hired a salesman who read the Bible during lunch breaks. Curious, Jim asked him many questions about being a Christian. At last, in April 1977, seven years after returning from Vietnam and just before entering the OR for minor surgery, Jim cried out to Jesus to save him and forgive him of all his sins. That day he gave his life to Him and became a Christian. In 1981, Jim began attending CCF where, in 1989, he went into full-time ministry. Believing that God was calling him into counseling, Jim began training for Nouthetic Counseling by taking a three-month course under Lloyd Jones. Thus equipped to move towards getting his certification, Jim underwent extensive, demanding additional training over the next twenty years, eventually becoming a Certified Biblical Counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). As far as he knows, he is the first and only certified nouthetic counselor in RI.
What is “Nouthetic Counseling”? The Greek noun “nouthesia” (verb: “noutheteo”), means “admonish, correct or instruct”, and probably best describes Biblical Counseling. Focusing on using the Bible as the prime source of change, Jim’s approach to counseling is balanced, holistic, and integrational. He believes that the secular world of Psychiatry and Psychology properly exists when its professionals specialize in treating those whose problems have a verifiable, measurable physical origin (e. g. brain tumor, genetic defect, or biochemical issue). Jim recognizes the effect of stress on the body, knows how the body recovers from emotional overwhelm and chronic tension, how the immune system can be affected by one’s mental and spiritual state, how brain damage or disease affects mental function, and how one can try overcoming or transcending an impaired central nervous system. Sleep-loss studies and biochemical research are also helpful. However, Jim parts ways with the secular field of counseling when it ventures into the realm of values, behavior, and attitudinal change. Having no standard by which to determine what constitutes proper or deviant attitudes and behaviors, such counselors lack any concept of what man should be like, and have no power by which to achieve the inner changes of the heart and thought which are necessary for lasting transformation.
Focusing entirely on the secular counseling world without biblical integration leads to questioning how people should change, and whether all change is good. For example, while Jim acknowledges the possibility of stopping clients from smoking using psychological means, they may develop transference addictions such as overeating, drinking, or popping pills. Again, secular counseling sometimes helps people lose weight, but at what price – starvation, extra-marital affairs, psuedo diets, or drugs? Secular counseling might help people to become free from stress or anxiety, but then they often gravitate to Yoga, Transcendental Meditation ™ or other New Age therapies that can lead them far afield from the God of the Bible, opening the door to demonic influences.
Yet focusing only on Biblical Counseling to the exclusion of Psychiatry and Psychology may result in missing certain integrational elements that could aid in the healing of souls through Biblical Counseling. For instance, Jim points to the latest scientific findings that some people may suffer from depression due to brain damage or other diseases such as hypothyroidism, Parkinson’s Disease, certain cancers, AIDS, and disorders related to drug and alcohol ingestion and withdrawal, Alzheimer’s Disease, brain tumors or abscesses, ballooning brain vessels, encephalitis, hyper and hypoadrenocorticism, and hyperparathyroidism.
As an integrational biblical counselor, Jim helps people understand several basic theological principles that align with their physical and spiritual natures. All scriptural goals may be summed up in this one: “to glorify God”. Christian counseling seeks to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col. 1:28; Romans 8:29). This implies using whatever tools are available, whether secular or biblical. During the mid-20th century, Jim explains, many Christians believed they could integrate secular theory into their counseling programs, mixing the Bible with psychology. That practice (called “Christian” counseling), was based on the false assumption that man can discover God’s truth apart from the Bible. Nouthetic counseling brings biblical counseling back into pastoral ministry. For counseling to be biblical, it must be Bible-based, Christ-centered, and local church-oriented. However, an integrated approach is acceptable when it comes to using science and the medical field in one’s counseling ministry. Nouthetic counseling is premised upon the belief that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is totally sufficient for meeting all our needs.
Nouthetic counseling is, Jim says, “a refreshing return to a strictly biblical method of problem-solving. Rather than focusing on the problem and expecting years of therapy, Nouthetic counseling focuses instead on the biblical solution and expects the counselee to change by the power of the Holy Spirit, thus conforming to the biblical model presented in Romans 8:28-29. Nouthetic counseling is effective for believers and begins with evangelizing those who are not believers, because biblical counselors realize that only believers can understand the deep truths of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Since all believers have the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to help change them (I Corinthians 6:9-11, Galations 5:16), Biblical (Nouthetic) Counseling depends on the Holy Spirit to change the believer using God’s Word as it was intended: to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness.”
As Jim shifts into an expanded ministry, he acknowledges his long-standing call to shepherd God’s sheep by concentrating now, even more intently, on pastoring the people of God who have specific counseling needs. Now, as in the past, his mission is calling people to the life-changing power of God’s Word.
“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he may be the firstborn among many brethren.” Romans 8:28-29
My thoughts on Vietnam: Tour of duty 1970
By Jim Ricci
In 2013, many people pride themselves in being Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to the Vietnam War. They look back and say, “We should have never put our nose in another countries business. It was an unjust war and we should have stayed out of it. How can you as a soldier of the Vietnam War justify your actions of going to war and killing people ten thousand miles away?”
However, the year was 1965 and we did not have the luxury of being a Monday morning quarterback. There was only the moment and the possibility of nuclear war breaking out at any time. You have to remember the cold war, and our fear of the “red menace” (Soviet Union). The U.S.S.R. had nuclear arms aimed at us, and we had nuclear arms aimed at them. China was also a Communist Country. And there was Castro and Communist Cuba just 90 miles from Florida. Remember the Bay of Pigs in the early 60’s? We were on the brink of nuclear war.
The thought at the time was that if we allowed these countries to become communist, then they would all fall like dominoes. We had “advisers” in Vietnam from the early 60’s onward both Democrats and Republicans urging us to intervene and resist Communism at all costs. Therefore, America believed that Communism was a threat to the United States and if you believed in the Domino Theory, which said if Vietnam were to fall, so would the rest of Southeast Asia like a row of dominoes. I believed that, as thousands of Americans did back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Yet, as the war was drawing to a close, the country was turning its venom and malicious anger on its returning soldiers more than on its politicians. We were scorned, ridiculed and demoralized when we returned to civilian life. Some Vietnam Vets were even spat upon. Many Vietnam Vets have not recovered from that, to this day!
At the time, the young culture and progressive elites in academia had this delusional idea that the soldiers actually have a say in what they will and will not do while they are in the military. Soldiers go where they are told to go and their only other choice is to be jailed in a military prison and then have to finish their contract after their punishment is finished. But protestors don’t think about who they should attack so they just attack the people that are closest to them. It’s easier to get to a soldier than it is to get to a politician, so that’s what they did.
I certainly took the brunt of that as a returning veteran and had to mentally and emotionally work my way through the unrest and ungrateful attitude that awaited me upon my return. I tried explaining to folks every chance I got that there is no justification for the way vets were treated on their return home from Vietnam. Why? Because, every war ever fought had its atrocities and collateral damage, it’s just that the Vietnam War was the first war with daily television coverage. The public was informed and/or saw the action in Vietnam almost instantly as opposed to previous wars.
After World War II, the soldiers had a 2 week cruise home from Europe, time to re-acclimate themselves to a country that wasn’t torn and divided. They came home to applause and ticker tape parades and given tremendous accolades. However, Vietnam vets were in the jungles fighting one day and were home in less than 24 hours with no time to debrief and get re-acclimated. They crawled back into society with no pats on the back, no applause, no ticker tape parades and no praise from their fellow countrymen. It was a demoralizing blow to thousands of men and women who are proudly served and fought for their country like their father’s before them had done.
I and many of my fellow Vietnam Veterans choose to believe that the United States lost the proxy war in Indochina but prevailed on a global level in the Cold War. The USSR not only lost the Cold War but ceased to exist in 1991. “The evil empire fell!”
The next question is whether or not the war was conducted properly or morally. I don’t believe it was. War should be a last resort, but once you unleash the military power of your country and engage the enemy, you have a responsibility to end it as quickly as possible with a minimum loss of life, while still attaining your objectives. The U.S. didn’t do that. Instead, it tried to use the conflict as a bargaining chip. The rules of engagement were ridiculous – supply lines were allowed to stay open, aircraft could not be attacked on the ground, there were no fire zones and limited areas of engagement, etc. If the U.S. had bombed the daylights out of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, cut off supplies elsewhere, bombed Strategic targets like factories in North Vietnam, and pressed the ground war heavier, they might have brokered a peace much earlier, and with better results.
Instead, the U.S. fought a half-war, constantly scaling back the offensive and allowing the enemy to regroup, almost daily changing the rules of engagement that the soldiers had to obey, etc. Also, far too much of the war was controlled by Washington, which micromanaged a lot of what should have been decided by commanders in the field who were in a better position to know.
Contrast this with the Gulf war – after Bush decided to attack, he turned the conflict completely over to his military command. It was total warfare, until one side capitulated. Imagine if Baghdad had been off limits, if airports couldn’t be attacked (or even aircraft once they land), and if the advancing army was only allowed to move a short distance and then told to dig in while negotiations with Saddam take place. Then, as a show of good faith, the government ordered the troops back, and then weeks later commanded them to re-take the same ground they took the first time… If the Gulf War had been fought like the Vietnam War, it could have been a quagmire that cost far more lives than it did, on both sides. To this day, I am disappointed in the strategy our government used to fight the war in Vietnam. It became a political war instead of a military war.
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I was assigned to the 34th Infantry Platoon Scout Dog Unit in Bien Hoa, Vietnam. My job was to walk point in the jungles of Vietnam. I was attached to a military company working jungle patrols. They were called, “Search and Destroy Missions.” My job was to detect booby traps like (trip wires & land mines). I was also to locate snipers in trees, underground, and lurking in the muddied waters. I was to alert the company of ensuing dangers ahead like full frontal attacks and ambushes waiting up ahead of us. My Scout Dog (Casey) was trained to alert on any and all of these dangers previously mentioned. My job was very dangerous because I had to walk in the front of the patrol. When danger struck, I was the first to encounter it. The Vietnamese Army feared Scout Dogs and their handlers so much, that they actually had a price tag on our heads. If the enemy could take back an ear of a dead scout dog and a patch of a dead scout dog handler, they were immensely rewarded.
My life was in constant danger for one full year! Every time you went on a mission, a million thoughts would race through your mind. Will I make it this time? Is my number up? How would it feel to get a bullet in me or step on a land mind or get blown up by a grenade? Will I lose a leg, an arm or be disfigured in any way? I often thought of my home life. I jettisoned back to the good old days. I thought about Playing football in high school, going on dates with my girlfriend who became my wife, eating at MacDonald’s, laughing with my family and friends, and enjoying the good life in the greatest country in the world, the United States.
I often wondered what other individuals would think, if they lived in an oppressive country like Vietnam, Thailand, or Cambodia. I thought about people back home and how often they take their freedoms and liberties for granted. How could they ever imagine living in a jungle with snakes, scorpions, lions, buffalos, leeches, bombs dropping all around them, and witnessing your comrades being killed and watching their blood and body parts being broken and spilled on foreign soil?
How could they ever understand the oppression the South Vietnamese lived under? How could they fathom the destruction and oppression Communism brings to a people? How could they understand a people who would strap bombs to their children and sacrifice them to blow up American soldiers? How could they ever understand the consequences that destructive ideologies bring to a people? Mostly, I pondered how cavalier Americans could be when it came to their own Judeo Christian foundations and the freedom and democracy it has brought to our country?
I often wondered about those who ridiculed and protested against America but would never dream of leaving it to live in a totalitarian, despotic, dictatorial country. They complained and protested but always came back to live in the good old USA. Often times, the greatest critics of democracy lived behind their walls of security and shouted their obscenities and protests from a safe place. Yet, from the time of recorded history, statistics have proven that we have experienced less than 200 years of peace. This proves that FREEDOM COMES WITH A PRICE! War not peace, has described the history of the world throughout the years.
Vietnam is passed but now there is Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Kuwait, Pakistan, Somalia, and all of Asia and the Middle East. What will the battle cry be now for those protesters of war? What will be our next Vietnam and how will those who walk with the King who has no clothes on, react to our future oppressors? FREEDOM COMES WITH A PRICE! I fought in Vietnam and have no regrets or guilt, in the part I played as a combat infantry man. I responded to the wisdom and knowledge of the time. I heard my calling and responded to it! I did my duty and I’m a better person for it. People often ask me, “Do you ever forget the gruesome things you saw and did in Vietnam?” I tell them “No, but I have learned to make friends with them.”
While I was there, the troops were getting negative feedback from the homeland. From the anti-war music to the anti-war protests, I witnessed the morale of our troops become sickened and demoralized like a cancerous growth that kept increasing and sucking the life out of the men. Drugs, alcohol, and survival became prime components for the majority of the men nearing the end of the war. Our motivation was withering and hope was diminishing. “It don’t mean nothing” became our mantra. Nothing meant anything as we sunk into a primal animalistic state in which there was no right or wrong but only survival and getting through the day by any means we could.
Many of the men returning home from combat had been saturated with intoxicants, immorality, and a rationalization that primed the pump for an “Anything Goes Society.” Partying and doing your own thing is what many of the men took home with them from Vietnam. The hostile “welcome home reception” only added fuel to their demoralization and quest to drown out all of those negative voices of the war and their homeland.
It was then that I began to question my faith and my relationship with God. War has a way of either drawing you closer to God or pushing you further away from Him.
For me, it drew me closer to God. I began praying and searching for answers to life. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What is the meaning to life? What does my future hold? What will happen to me if I die in combat? Where will I go? Heaven? Hell? Many questions raced through my mind. The War had planted the seed for soul searching but it took seven more years until I was able to put it together and to understand that I was a sinner in need of a Savior and Jesus Christ was His name. In 1977, I personally accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I was fortunate in my readjustment to the homeland. I had a great support system with family and friends and I was a searcher and seeker of truth. I learned that holding things inside or anesthetizing my pain would only do more harm to me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So, I learned to turn negatives into positives. I took all of my horrendous experiences from my military years and gave new life to them by helping others who were hurting and broken and in need of hope and healing. I drew upon my experiences and put them in parables and stories and in practical terms that people could understand. I shared my pain instead of internalizing it and it brought healing to me and restoration to others. It finally led me to my current position as a pastor and a full time counselor.