Deuteronomy 6:6-9 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when get you up … Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Every visitor to Weldaloy Specialty Forgings can’t help but see it.
There on the central wall of its office lobby is a vision statement. That, in and of itself, is not news. Nearly every business has a statement of why it exists.
But few mission statements read like this:
“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To demonstrate the love of Christ Jesus to everyone we encounter.”
Who lives like that? Weldaloy CEO Rick Warren tries his best to do so every day. You don’t hear Warren say that about himself. You hear that from everyone who works for him.
“My passion is real simple. It’s Jesus Christ,” Warren said. “I’ve had people come in and they look at the wall and they see the vision statement and one guy said to me, ‘There’s like no wiggle room in this vision statement. That’s pretty air tight.’”
Warren is a born again Christian; a devout man of God. He serves on multiple boards — from his Highland Park Baptist Church in Southfield, Mich. to Moody Bible Institute in greater Chicago to Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference, a church camp in Muskegon, Mich.to help guests “vacation with a purpose”. He also serves on the Westside Christian Academy board, an inner-city Christian school in one of Detroit’s roughest neighborhoods. More information regarding Warren’s background can be found on his personal website theotherrickwarren.com
If you were to ask someone who knows Rick Warren to describe him, you would likely get answers such as: a stand-up guy. A man of integrity. A man of his word. A faithful husband and father.
But it wasn’t always that way.
Warren and his wife, Sara, didn’t marry until he was in his mid-30s. He made her sign a prenuptial agreement.
“When our children came along, we felt like we should find a church,” Warren said. “We began attending a church with a similar, empty theology as my childhood church. I even served on the Board of Trustees. All this time—from my youth until mid-40s—I thought I was a Christian. The truth was that I really didn’t know who God was or what He said in His Word. And I certainly wasn’t living in a way that reflected His design for the good life … particularly in respect to marriage.”
He cheated on his wife and got divorced. But that’s not where the story ends. It’s really where it starts.
“I was in my late forties, had business success, owned a nice home and cars, enjoyed financial stability, but my life was in shambles.”
A few women who worked for Warren challenged him. ‘Does a Christian man cheat on his wife and divorce her?’ One of them gave him a video of Charles Stanley, presenting the Gospel message. It worked.
“I came to the conclusion that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I fell down by my bed, bawling, and cried out, asking Jesus Christ to come into my life.” To a Christian, this is the pivotal moment, when his or her heart changes. Salvation isn’t rewarded to those who do good. It’s a gift from God to those who simply accept Jesus as their Savior. They ‘die’ to their selfish desires and make God’s will the priority.
Inwardly, Warren was a new man. Outwardly, nothing looked different. For the next four years, he and Sara remained divorced. Warren even dated another woman seriously. But God wouldn’t let Warren rest.
“God continued to convict me that I needed to reconcile with Sara, not just seek her forgiveness. I wrestled with that, knowing that He would have to change our hearts. In time, I sensed the Lord moving, and I drove to her house and asked her to remarry me.”
Sara said no. In fact, she laughed at him. At this point, most men would just give up. But God was persistent. About a month later, she accepted Warren’s second marriage proposal. In May, 2002, Rick and Sara married a second time.
More than 90 percent of couples who remarry each other end up in divorce a second time. Less than one-tenth of one percent of Christian couples who pray together end in divorce. So, they prayed. Every night. Together.
“I quickly figured out that it’s impossible to genuinely pray with someone when there is tension or anger between you. We kept very short accounts with each other because we prayed together daily. I also paid special attention to Sara, picking up on things she shared with me and remembering to pray about them during our prayer time. After a while, she realized I really was listening to her. This was helpful in softening our hearts toward each other and healing our marriage. It placed God right in the center of our relationship.”
Warren wasn’t done. He set about to be a man of God at work too, displaying it on the wall, a statement of accountability for all to see.
For a company that specializes in forging metals, having a foundation based on faith in God might not seem all that important. To Kurt Ruppenthal, it meant everything. He wouldn’t be at Weldaloy if it weren’t for Warren’s conversion. They got to know each other well, beginning in 2008, in a men’s, small- group Bible study. Warren served as mentor for the group.
At that time, Ruppenthal was helping to establish a startup in an unrelated industry. Ruppenthal knew nothing about forging, but that didn’t matter to Warren. He knew his character. In 2014, Warren offered Ruppenthal a chance to help him run Weldaloy.
“His faith is very apparent,” Ruppenthal said, who has since been promoted to vice president and general manager. “He doesn’t hide it. It’s uncommon, I would say, to have somebody who’s known as being extremely successful in business, to also be willing to kind of share outwardly their faith… After I worked here for a year, I went to him and I just said, ‘I want you to know that you are absolutely the guy you advertise outwardly to be. You’re 100 percent that guy.
“I think it’s very challenging to run a business with that vision statement.
“People interpret the vision statement differently, based on their own experiences, based on their own viewpoints and place in life. And so, it’s not easy. I don’t think it’s easy, but it doesn’t mean that you shy away from it or regret it in any way. Not at all.”
Like Ruppenthal, Katelynne McDougall, Weldaloy’s marketing assistant, was drawn to Weldaloy because of the company vision statement. But she wondered if it turned some customers away.
“One visitor told me, ‘No, you didn’t lose any business or anybody. God has provided and he always will provide for you.’ It’s little comments like that really encourages us to continue to minister through our work. We always strive to treat everyone who comes into our facilities with the utmost respect.”
McDougall joined Weldaloy in December, but she came there in the most circuitous route. Her last job was making cookies for a specialty baker while attending community college. During this time, McDougall was directionless. She wasn’t sure where her life was going and went through the motions of her education. Complete your electives now, and one day you’ll figure it all out
After a medical scare forced her to take a semester off of school, McDougall took this life interruption as a chance to evaluate the next steps of her life, and figured out what she wanted for a career. This eventually led McDougall to complete a communications degree at Southern New Hampshire University. Although she was eager to start the next phase of her life, McDougall was met with a season of disappointments as she struggled to find work in communication and advertising fields. She felt helpless and wanted to give up, but she trusted in God’s plan for her life and remained patient for her next opportunity.
Then, a very unexpected opportunity came along. Through a mutual connection at Weldaloy, McDougall had the opportunity to interview. She knew it was a Christian company—but didn’t expect to feel what she did.
“I walked in here for an interview and, right away, I could feel the presence of God. And even though it’s literally written on our wall, our vision statement, it’s like He’s just here. He’s here in the people, if they believe in God or not. He’s here in our work and what we do every day. I just felt so comforted here.”
For Warren, Ruppenthal, McDougall and so many other employees at Weldaloy, their vision statement is not just writing on a wall. It acts as a daily reminder of reflecting God through their work. To be faithful stewards and followers of Christ, and to demonstrate His love for humanity. And just like McDougall, they have found their place, their chance and their calling.
For this, the Weldaloy team thanks God every day. Even for the trials and tribulations. It’s God’s own forging process, making them stronger every day.