LIMA — When Tom Ahl became a Christian, he thought about selling his successful car dealerships and heading into the field to do mission work.
His wife put her foot down, and instead his work spreads farther as a fundraiser and part-time missionary.
“There’s no way I could have ever, in the mission field, ever gotten ahold of the number of people being impacted by these programs,” he said. “It’s amazing. Here I am, just a car dealer, and all these people are coming to Christ through us.”
Ahl’s efforts with several faith-based programs, including Teens For Christ, TV-44 and bringing Christian concerts to Lima, earned him a 2017 Jefferson Award for Public Service. He will be among eight winners to learn who will attend the national event in Washington, D.C.
“I doubt that there is one person in the Lima community that has done so much for so many people than Mr. Ahl,” Jerry Johnson wrote in his Jefferson Award nomination.
Ahl scoffs that he deserves the award. He sees himself as more of a fundraiser than a true missionary. Still, he’s been a part of Teens For Christ’s growth along with Buck Sutton, including expansion into Africa, where it now had more than 250,000 teens in Kenya and elsewhere, as well as an expansion into the Philippines. A new branch recently started in the middle of Beirut, “in the nastiest parts, with Hezbollah and guns everywhere,” Ahl said of a recent visit there.
He’s also seen the work done in Africa firsthand. His daughter and son-in-law are missionaries in Liberia, teaching pastors to be pastors.
He also helps raise money for the Salvation Army, with a portion of car sales helping the organization. He’s also fond of the work done on TV-44, where he served on the board for many years. He’s also proud of his work helping Heartbeat of Lima.
“First, I usually like to see if they’re fruitful ministries,” Ahl said. “These are organizations that really make a difference in people’s lives.”
He also supports greater communitywide groups and events, such as the Star Spangled Spectacular. He helped start a series of Christian concerts that brought in stars such as the Newsboys, Big Daddy Weave and Rend Collective.
“It comes from a love for Christ and a love for our community,” Ahl said. “I want to serve Christ in the community.”
Reach David Trinko at 567-242-0467 or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.