He gave gifts:
Each Pastor’s wife was given a gift that was prepared and prayed over by Pastors’ wives in Oroville to represent washing their feet, blessing their identity and purpose. The gifts were given in honor of Sister Angela Crook, a Pastor’s wife in Oroville who went home to be with Jesus November 2015, who was truly a “Mother in Israel.” The gift itself and who prepared it together with the honoring of Sister Angela prepared the women’s hearts to receive this gift from their heavenly Father as an expression of His absolute adoration and joy over them. And, God gave gifts we hadn’t even thought of or planned on: A Pastor friend of ours who is also a talented photographer provided an awesome photo of his that so vividly depicts the seeming futility and isolation we experience at times during our walk with the LORD overlaid with Proverbs 3:5-6 (Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths). He gave us permission to make 100 copies so each Pastor Couple could be given one. Another friend gave several necklaces with a cross, and another purses and lotions. Since there weren’t enough for each Pastor’s wife to have one of these gifts we raffled them along with 10 framed copies of the photograph. The raffle heightened the sense of fun and anticipation that enveloped the entire three days. And to top it all off, one of the Pastor’s wives invited all of the ladies who wished to attend a “spiritual hand spa.” More than 80 of the 97 women came. Their faces and comments conveyed that they connected with God through each other in the depths of their spirit in ways that only eternity will reveal.
“You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in My Name, He may give it you.” John 15:16 KJV
We praise God for the fruit He’s brought forth through Raven Ministries! Earlier this year, we asked the Father to showus fruit from our labor among Pastors and their families. Fruit is evidence of God’s works among the children of men and provides opportunity for specific praise. Fruit is also a source of encouragement for the laborers. Our faithful and mighty Father has pulled back the veil and shown us some of the fruit from the past 15 years, and we want to give Him all the praise honor and glory!!
Over the past few months several Pastors and Wives have shared how God has used Raven Ministries in their lives. And, we are even more convinced of the need for and the power of encouragement. We know this Pastor Couple Retreat in June is from the heart of the Father. We have labored intensely and joyfully in El Salvador these past few months to see it come to fruition; conducting 14 meetings to plan and make arrangements for the retreat, meeting with 16 Pastor Couples to encourage them, preaching in 20 Churches and teaching 15 Deacon & Leader groups about the Biblical principles of encouraging their Pastor and his wife and investing in their marriage. To date, God has provided the money for 40 Pastor Couples. Sixty more to go! We trust the LORD with our whole heart and have enthusiastically worked toward this goal. We know that He is Faithful. We ask that you continue to hold us up in prayer that our faith will not fail and to thank Him for the provision of everything needed (Mostly His Presence) for the retreat to fulfill its purpose.
“What was sown on rich soil is the one who hears the message and understands it; such a person will surely bear fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was sown” Matthew 13:23 CJB
We praise God for the fruit He’s brought forth in El Salvador! What a blessing to hear the stories. During lunch last week with Pastor Ticas, his wife Maria and their daughter Jamy, Maria was eager to share what’s been happening in their city and to thank Pastor Gabriel. In 2008 Pastor Gabriel and Raven Ministries hosted a one day retreat for 15 Pastor Couples from different denominations. Afterwards, that Pastors wives decided to continue meeting together weekly to develop relationships and pray. She said it has brought an amazing unity and compassion for Pastors and women. As they’ve prayed for their husbands, the Lord impressed on them to help some poorer Pastors in their community as well as some who were ill. Over the years they’ve had a variety of fund raising events to meet these needs. Three years ago they had a 3 day fast that ended with a prayer gathering. Since then, they’ve had two meetings for women from all over El Salvador. One thousand women attended the first meeting and 700 came to the second. They witnessed many healings and decisions for Christ. Words do not adequately convey the enthusiasm and joy with which Maria shared this testimony. Through the years, we’ve hosted many one day retreats. Many times we’ve wondered whether they have produced “fruit”. Wow! What an encouragement it was to hear what God used one retreat to ignite. We praise God for the faithfulness of Pastor Gabriel. And, also want to encourage those Pastors’ wives that get together to pray…..God will honor your faithfulness!
And may God, the source of encouragement and patience, give you the same attitude among yourselves as the Messiah Yeshua had, so that with one accord and with one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. Romans 15:5 CJB This is our goal that the Body may be stirred to encourage and forbear one another so we can, in unity, magnify God! Our Father was so very gracious to let us see fruit last night.
As part of their vision to develop a desire within their churches to take care of Pastors and their Families, the Directors of FIBAM asked Ron to revisit the churches with the message of Raven, focusing specifically on Deacons and Leaders. The message to Leadership is two-part: first establishing God’s commission to the church and His design of order in His House; secondly exposing the scheme of the enemy to destroy leadership in the Church, the strategy of Jesus to pray for the leader and the responsibility of leaders it encourage their Pastor. Since it’s a message the enemy of our souls particularly hates, there are typically a lot of distractions and many times it hits “a brick wall.” Because it’s also a message we (Ron, José, Pastor Gabriel and Luan) are very familiar with it could easily become stale and we could fall into the trap of “just going through the motions.” So, prior to meeting with a group of Deacons and Leaders last night, Ron prayed that the Word would be preached with a fresh anointing, those praying would be aimed purposefully and that the message would be received and bear much fruit.
God promptly answered our prayers. The Word was preached with the passion, power and influence that comes from the Holy Spirit. After Ron finished several of the Leadership group spoke to the Pastor Enrique and Sister Cecy, expressing gratitude for what they have done and the attitude with which they have served. Some also asked forgiveness for, at times, not being an encouragement to them. It was a holy time bathed in love that deepened relationships. Despite our limited Spanish, we could see and sense the work that was being done by the Holy Spirit to bring unity of heart.
Praise YHVH for His Goodness and for His Faithfulness to the children of Men!
In March we (Pastor Gabriel, José Elias, two Directors of FIBAM, Ron and Luan) met with a representative from the resort where we will be taking the Pastor Couples. As the El Salvadoran culture is very relational, we shared breakfast together before discussing the specifics of the Retreat. During the conversation, Pastor Gabriel felt led to ask the representative (Roberto) about his relationship with Jesus. Long story short…he made a decision to follow Jesus. Before we returned home in April, Raven Ministries gave Roberto a Study Bible on behalf of our three Ministries (Raven, Siervos.Com – Pastor Gabriel & Berali’s ministry and SOL - José & Adriana’s ministry).
Yesterday we had a brief meeting with Roberto to pay an additional $7,600, which was the remainder of the deposit (we paid $7,600 in April). After discussing a few logistics for the Retreat, Ron told Roberto that we are grateful to God for his decision to follow Jesus and hope he will grow in his knowledge through the Bible. Roberto said he has been studying the Bible with an evangelical friend who attends a 7th Day Adventist Church. He was very excited about his new faith and what he is learning. Ron told him we were here to pay the rest of the deposit and reminded Roberto that when we put the first payment on our credit card in April we told him we didn’t have the money to pay for it. We only had enough to pay for 7 Pastor Couples (around $2,000). As Ron told him God provided the remainder of the $7,600 before it was due on the credit card, we could see the incredulity mixed with joy on Roberto’s face. He was blown away, saying “this has strengthened my faith.” He went on to say “there are many businesses that come to our hotel that have lots of money and they pay late. I am amazed that you put it on a credit card when you didn't have the money and that you are paying all the deposit in advance.” What a testimony of God’s faithfulness to this young man, his family, his co-workers and his boss! Our Father has so much more in His plans that we can ever hope for or imagine.
And Yehovah turned to him and said, "Go in this - - thy power; and you have saved Israel out of the hand of Midian - - have not I sent you." Judges 6:13 Praise Yehovah! When we don't know how we are going to ever do what He has called us to do, we can rely on "go in this your power" - that He has sent us. What a blessing to know that whether we understand what's going on or not; whether we see how it's all going to work out or not;.....He is with us!
During our March/April trip we met twice with the Directors of FIBAM to develop a strategy to teach their Deacon/Leader groups the importance of supporting and encouraging their Pastor, as well as to plan the logistics for 35 of their Pastor Couples attending the retreat. We also spoke to several of FIBAM’s Churches and Deacon/Leaders groups. To the churches, Ron preached the "Amour Bearer" message that challenges Christians to not just be sheep but to be soldiers standing with their Pastor. To the Deacon/Leader groups, he shared the importance of following Biblical protocol which includes respecting and honoring their Pastor - not just as a person but as God's person sent to lead them. Additionally, we met with two other Pastor groups to invite them to the June retreat.
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9
The LORD is working in us to experience peace and rest coming from the choice to believe that He is with us. Stewarding a church and undertaking a project of the size and magnitude of a 100 Pastor Couple Retreat, whilethe thought is overwhelming is a huge understatement. But God is walking with us through everything and we’re getting to experience Him in amazing new ways. We are so blessed! He is way beyond explanation or imagination!! The way our Father orchestrated this past trip to El Salvador and walked us through some potentially difficult situations, especially considering that the trip was put together at such a rapid pace is beyond description. All the objectives we had for this trip were accomplished and so much more. During a 2 week period, we met with the Directors of FIBAM and established a working plan, and also met with the Lead Pastor of the two other groups that are invited and have their buy in (These three groups represent 90% of the Pastor Couples invited). Ron also preached in 2 Churches and spoke with 3 Deacon and Leader groups, revisiting Raven’s message. The unexpected and special treats came in the form of time spent individually with 6 Pastor Couples as well as a Pastor’s daughter and her husband; listening to their heart, seeing a Pastor’s wife tear up as Ron thanked her for her sacrifice, encouraging a Pastor Couple in the midst of a 2 year financial struggle, praying with a Pastor Couple facing hard issues with one of their children and watching the contentment on a Pastor Couple’s face as they shared their story remembering what the Lord has done. We were not created to solve their problems only God can do that, but He has used us over and over again to bring encouragement. It comes in many forms and there is nothing as impactful or powerful as renewed hope! To God be the Glory.focusing on being the child and friend of God as well as the spouse and parents that He desires us to be…to say