Rich Niccolls and his wife, Traci, stand in Guest Central at the Grand Prairie Campus greeting visitors between services. But not long ago, they were on the other side of the handshake.
Rich and his family’s path to Gateway started in 2013. For years, their friends attended the Southlake Campus, while the Niccolls family was happily serving at another church. But God spoke to Rich and said, “It’s time to go.” He listened but didn’t know where God was leading them next.
Around that same time, their friends who attended Gateway were struck by tragedy. Their 10-year-old daughter passed away. The Niccolls attended her funeral, which happened to be at the NRH Campus. “That was the first time I had actually been in a Gateway building. I saw the way the church came around their family, and I was really blown away,” Rich says.
Rich’s interest in Gateway was piqued at this point, but he and his family still weren’t sure where God was leading them. Rich grew up in a church of 500 people and had been attending a 1,200-member church—so a church the size of Gateway seemed massive. “I pictured an arena of people, like at a convention center, where it’s cold and impersonal,” Rich says. He was also very hesitant that the senior pastor wouldn’t be speaking live at his campus.
With all of that in mind, Rich and Traci visited the Grand Prairie Campus a few months after the funeral. They arrived 15 minutes early to the 9:00 am service, and it was empty. A handful of people arrived, and then worship began. Rich completely forgot he was supposed to be in a “big church,” until he turned around halfway through and saw that the auditorium had filled up with people. At that moment, he knew God had strategically brought him—and his family—to the right place. When he walked out, he also realized he’d been completely unaware he was watching the message on a screen via simulcast.
God directed the Niccolls family to the right place, but what they didn’t know was that hard times were coming for their family and being at Gateway was part of God’s plan. In October that year, Rich’s search-engine marketing business of 12 years was struggling. His job was to help businesses get their websites ranked highly in search engines such as Google so they could be on the first page, but that stopped happening. “I was at a complete loss,” says Rich. “Our income went from a decent amount of money to zero.”
So after being at Gateway a month, Rich went to the altar for prayer about his financial situation and failing business, but God had something else in mind. The altar minister said God had spoken to him and asked if he could share some things with Rich. “He started talking to me about tithing. And up to that point, I had rarely tithed. It had been my personal theology that tithing was really not a part of the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit revealed to him that my dad had left the church over money,” Rich says. “I realized that my personal theology was not accurate. In fact it was wrong, really wrong. I was blown away by the fact that God cared enough to reveal that to me.”
Rich and Traci immediately began tithing and watched God continually, little by little, provide for their family.
Rich’s son, Josh, won season passes to Hurricane Harbor, a small blessing in itself. They went on the last day of the season, only to have their keys, cell phones, and wallets stolen right out of a locker. They tracked down the thief that day and got their car keys back, but everything else was gone. In the end, the young thief’s parents wanted to make financial restitution for their losses, and they received checks in the mail that allowed them to pay their bills. The phone company even replaced Rich’s phone! “Something bad happened, but something better came out of it,” Rich says. “God just brought us money from strange places to help take care of us during that time.”
By the time December 2013 rolled around, another tragedy struck. Rich got a call at the end of his 25th wedding anniversary trip to Disney World that his mother passed away after dealing with an ongoing illness. “Even though we were not making as much as before, we had saved enough for this trip,” Rich says. Traci called Gateway for prayer and to let them know what was happening. When they learned about their financial situation, Gateway responded by helping the family out with gas cards and other needs so they could drive overnight to Illinois. “They didn’t even know who we were. We weren’t members yet, but they took care of us,” Rich says.
God didn’t just provide financially during Rich’s time of need—He also provided relationally. At Gateway, Rich met Don, a man who had lost a business in the past and really connected with him. Rich also got to know Pastor Mark Jobe, whose mother was going through an illness at the same time as Rich’s mother. “He understood what we were going through, and he was also praying for us,” Rich says.
While struggles may keep some people away from church, the Niccolls family fully immersed themselves in Gateway. After becoming members, Rich and Traci started their own Gateway Group and began serving at Guest Central. Their son, Josh, became very involved with Gateway Students (he even serves on the Next Level Internship program now), and their daughter, Lauren, attends The King’s University. Leah, their oldest daughter, has also volunteered at many events, including Fall Festival. “The more we got plugged in, the smaller Gateway got,” Rich says. “And we’ve made some great friendships.”
Everything isn’t perfect, but God has continually provided for their family. Rich has been able to find odd jobs on the side while looking for his next career move. Last April, he wrote a blog post about his family’s first 18 months at Gateway. When a prospective employer read about them, he ended up having the perfect job for Traci! “It doesn’t feel like a story at all. It’s just my life,” Rich says. “It’s a riches to rags story that led us to getting plugged in. It’s a story about God’s grace and mercy.”
The Niccolls family attends the Gateway Grand Prairie Campus.