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Answering the call -- Novak to visit sixth continent

Profile image for By John D. Harden / Staff Writer
By John D. Harden / Staff Writer

Rynell Novak can’t help but smile and chat about the images hanging on the walls in her home. Decorated with maps and photos of international locations, her home looks more like the pages of National Geographic or an international atlas.

One photograph shows Brazil’s “Meeting of the Waters,” where two branches of the Amazon, each a different color, meet but do not merge.

“This is one of my favorite photos,” she said.

Another photo depicts a silhouette of the St. Vitus Cathedral on a pinkish sky in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. In another room, there’s a picture of the Great Sphinx and the pyramids of Giza.

She took each photo, and each holds several stories she and her husband, Joe Novak, said could take days to tell.

Rynell Novak’s travels are largely church-related activities or missionary trips. And on Monday, she will begin a three-week trip that will only add to her collection of stories.

The 83-year-old will begin what’s expected to be her longest and possibly last international trip after 42 years’ worth of global travels. The trip will include stops in Spain, Portugal, India and finally Australia before she returns to Denton. In each country, she will meet with friends and other consulate contacts.

“I don’t want to think that this is the last one,” she said. “It kind of makes me sad to think about it that way, but I’m sure things will come along. But it may be my last international [trip], though.”

Several of Novak’s trips were funded by an inheritance she received. Now, those funds are almost exhausted. However, with a combination of saved airline miles, the cost of the entire airfare for this trip is less than $1,000.

“We figured that was a pretty good indication that it was OK to do one more,” she said with a laugh. “If that isn’t a sign, I don’t know what is. Usually, [for] a trip like this we would be looking at higher costs.”

Because of safety reasons, Novak’s religious activities will be limited when she arrives in India. When she lands she will act only as a tourist, and will not be allowed to show any religious displays.

“There are some restrictions, but it’ll be OK,” she said. “It will allow me just to be a tourist and take in all the sights while I’m there.”

When Novak was growing up in Altoga — a community northeast of McKinney, with a population of 250 in 1929 — she thought the world was just that big.

But as she grew older, Novak generated interest in missionary work. She said God called her to serve, and she was willing to go wherever he wanted her to go.

“We tease about this and how I’m the girl from little Altoga and the places I’ve been able to go,” she said. “But since my teen years, I’ve been interested in doing church-related activities.”

She has been active in Baptist church work and mission activities since her teens. Since 1970, she has traveled to five of the seven continents, and on this trip, she’ll visit her sixth — Australia.

“I have no interests going to Antarctica, I hear there’s not much there,” she said jokingly.

Novak’s travels, which include personal trips, have taken her to Brazil, Europe, all 50 states and each province of Canada. Several of the trips included her husband, Joe, and other family members.

Over the years, Novak said she’s learned that people aren’t as complex as many might think.

“People are people. No matter where you come from, people have the same needs and we all need the Lord. And his love is internationally understood.” she said. “Whether they’re in Egypt or down the street at the grocery store, we’re all the same.”

Though she’s traveled for 42 years, serving God in multiple countries, Novak said it still amazes her to think that a girl from a town barely visible on a map has been able to visit destinations some only read about.

“I’ve definitely been blessed,” she said.

JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is .