PLAINFIELD – On March 2, Lynne Caldwell, a new member of Friendship Baptist Church in Plainfield, had her first long conversation with associate pastor Rick Mullan.
Lynne, of Romeoville, had popped her head into his office to say “hi” after attending a women’s Bible study. To her surprise and delight, Rick talked to her for 45 minutes.
“He was very open, very loving, very much a man of God,” Lynne said. “You could tell that he cared about people. You could tell the love of God was there.”
The next day, Rick was rushed to the hospital. Rick was 57 when he died March 5 from complications of an aortic aneurysm.
Lynne said people drove from miles away to attend Rick’s memorial and share testimonials on how he’d helped them.
“It went 30, 40 minutes longer than planned,” Lynne said, “because people were sharing from their heart. I was just so touched by all that.”
When Odis Weaver, a senior pastor, came to Friendship Baptist Church 12 years ago, Rick had already served there for six. Odis said Rick was a great colleague in ministry and a great asset to the rest of the Friendship staff.
Odis said Rick worked with small groups, conducted Bible studies and trained teachers to bring up new leaders.
“He was a very gifted person, very hardworking,” Odis said. “He even taught himself to play guitar after I came here because he felt that was needed to enhance our music and worship.”
This love for music and worship drew Rick and his wife, Lanette Mullan of Plainfield, together. Although they had met in passing at college, Lanette and Rick officially became introduced when he sang at her home church in Mississippi.
“He had a beautiful voice, and I fell in love with that voice,” Lanette said.
Of course, Lanette also thought he was handsome, she said. And that he had a great personality, always upbeat.
“He asked me out soon after that. Our first date was on the Fourth of July,” Lanette said. “We went to my hometown Fourth of July celebration in the park. Two weeks after our first date, he proposed and I accepted. We were married June 25, 1983. I’m not an impulsive person. I just knew it was the right thing.”
Lanette completed her last year of college and then they moved around for several years because of Rick’s ministry. First, it was Texas for three years while Rick was in seminary. After that, Rick went to a church in Springfield and then Fairview Heights for three years.
After that, it was St. Petersburg, Florida, for two years and then Orlando for four at a small church that Rick pastored, Lanette said. The rest were associate pastor positions.
“We came to Plainfield in December 1998,” Lanette said. “And we’ve been here ever since.”
Lanette said they stayed at Friendship because they wanted to settle in one area while raising their two children.
“This church has been a wonderful experience for us, and he was just energetic in the church,” Lanette said. “He always wanted to share the gospel.”
One way Rick shared the gospel was through wild game dinners held at the church. Rick, an avid outdoorsman – a hobby he shared with his daughter, Kyrstin Mullan of Joliet – felt wild game dinners were a good way to connect hunters with God.
“A lot of men today don’t go to church like they used to, say 40 and 50 years ago, but yet, they believe there’s a God,” Rick said in a 2015 Herald-News story. “We just want to share Jesus with them.”
But even as Rick shared the gospel, he encouraged attendees to share their stories.
“Outdoorsmen love to tell you hunting stories,” Rick said. “It’s like asking a grandfather to tell you about his grandkids.”
Yet the wild game dinner was not bait to get people into the church. In fact, Rick stressed the necessity of being authentic, especially to outdoorsmen.
“Be real,” Rick said. “They can smell when someone is not authentic.”
Despite Rick’s pastoral responsibilities, he still found time to coach the Special Olympics basketball team that his son, Jonathan Mullan, played on, Lanette said.
“He loved building relationships with the kids and other coaches,” Lanette said.
But for Rick, no matter the activity or outreach, God was central.
“As we walked through the visitation time and the funeral, and folks responded to how he had touched their life, at the very top was his faith,” Odis said, “and his desire for others to have the same faith.”
• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.