Interview: Pastor Raul Ries—Part 2

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Blessed in the Ministry: Interview by Don McClure with Pastor Raul Ries—Part 2

Photos by Tom Price, unless otherwise indicated

In Part 2 of Pastor Raul Ries’ interview with Don McClure, Raul—senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, CA—shares the beginning of CC Golden Springs’ South American outreach and explains some of the challenges of serving God in ministry. Pastor Don McClure has been serving in the Calvary Chapel movement since 1971; he is a leader in the Calvary Chapel Association and he and his wife Jean now lead the Calvary Way teaching ministry.

Click to follow this series of interviews… Part 1: Describes the beginning of Pastor Raul’s ministry and the founding of his two churches; and, Part 3: Raul discusses faithfulness and discipline in ministry, as well as his family’s health struggles throughout.

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Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, CA, Pastor Raul Ries led a trip to Colombia of 11 other CC senior pastors in December of 1999 to teach at a conference and encourage the national believers; the country has been engulfed in drug wars for many years. The entourage flew into the Colombian jungle in the DC-3, behind them, to minister at the mission outpost known as El Secreto.

Left to right, (kneeling): Pastors Lance Cook, CC LaHabra, CA; Raul Ries; Randy Walls, CC Upland, CA; David Rosales, CC Chino Valley, CA; Pancho Juarez, CC Montebello, CA, (now The Ark Montebello); Ray Jaramillo, CC Rio Grande Valley, NM; Lloyd Pulley, CC Old Bridge, NJ. Left to right, standing: Bob Grenier, CC Visalia, CA; John Milhouse, CC Moreno Valley, CA; Gino Geraci, Calvary South Denver in Littleton, CO; and Jimmy Orate, CC Rancho Cucamonga, CA.

Don McClure: How did you get involved in South America?

Raul Ries: My wife Sharon’s parents, Ed and Naomi Farrel, were missionaries in South America. So I decided to go visit some of the countries where her parents ministered. I went to Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and then came back home. The Lord spoke to me about Colombia; I had visited the El Secreto mission station. So, I told my wife to go with my kids. The place was in ruins, destroyed in the Revolución. So, I decided, you know what? We’re gonna rebuild this place and we’re gonna make a Bible school out of it. And you know, the Lord honored us. Sharon kept going down there with teams from our church. She’s a total missionary. She is totally involved and I back her. She rebuilt the mission station and we bought more property. We’re getting ready right now to build a conference center, and expand the Bible school. God has provided the money to build it.

Don: And so, how many churches are there down in South America that have been affected by this?

Raul: It is hard to say, at least 50, plus many home Bible studies.

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Raul shares his vision for El Secreto (pictured in the background) with a Colombian. The mission there was begun by Sharon’s parents, missionaries Ed and Naomi Farrel. Eventually, they left the country due to the hostile revolution in Colombia—some missionaries were even killed! Sharon and her older sister were young children at the time.

Don: You go down probably once or twice a year, don’t you? I know Sharon goes more often.

Raul:  Yes, we do like you do. We host Pastors’ Conferences and leadership conferences where people and pastors come from everywhere. We get together, you got to teach. I got to teach. And you begin to see the fruit, and they’re so blessed by us going down there—anybody who’s going. And then they’re training people and sending people out. It’s a lot of young guys, starting Bible studies and ministries.

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A graduation at Seminario Biblico at El Secreto, the Bible school Raul started in Villavicencio, Colombia. Left to right: Director Valentin Barreto, Pastor Hector Martinez, Professor Carlos Benavides, Raul, Don McClure, and graduates. Photo courtesy of CC Golden Springs, CA

Don: Sharon really grew up on the mission field, didn’t she? 

Raul: She did. Her heart is still in South America. Sharon is not going now because of the COVID-19 virus [lockdowns]. She is planning to go back with the teams just as soon as God opens the doors. They have a conference center to build!

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Sharon Ries warmly greets Angie from Calvary Chapel Santiago in Chile. Angie has assisted Sharon on many journeys to Chile to minister.

Don: Well,  the Lord will work it out somehow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody like I’ve seen Sharon in her heart for South America.

Raul: Yes, she’s a total missionary. 

Don: Yes, I mean truly. It just drives her even when she goes and gets another chemo  treatment. And then as soon as she’s healthy, she’s back getting your stuff all translated into Spanish for the website—getting the books translated, getting  everything  she can into the Spanish-speaking hands to help equip pastors in churches. She’s incredible.

Raul: You know, Don, one of our pastors, Hector Martinez, who came out of our ministry in Colombia, has translated all my studies, and Sharon has organized a team of pastors and missionaries who are putting many of these studies on social media and into books. It’s just been amazing to see this. Like when you’re gone and I’m gone, that these works will be still going on in the Calvary movement. 

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Hector Martinez (left) sits with Raul (right) at a conference in Chile. Hector, originally from Colombia, is the missions pastor at CC Golden Springs. He simultaneously translates all of Raul’s teachings into Spanish.

Don: What were some of the lessons that you think that you and Sharon have experienced through  the years, things that you’ve had to learn?

Raul: I had to learn to be a Christian father and a grandfather––to be a shepherd to God’s people and to lead a ministry. For example, you hire someone and maybe they don’t really want to be in the church, so you have to let them go, and that hurts. And then people talking about you, [saying] things that are not true. But Chuck taught me something: If you defend yourself, the Lord won’t defend you. So, I’ve never tried to defend myself.

When I was a young Christian, I wanted to do this the secular way; defend myself and get rid of people. But my wife said that you can’t do that as a Christian, so I learned. Sharon has taught me a lot—she has a real heart for people. A lot of times I get mad at people, but she’s taught me some big lessons, if I just learn to wait on the Lord and love people. It’s a hard thing for me to love people that come against the Lord, the Church, and the ministry.

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Raul prays with a young man while on a mission trip to Chile to encourage the Calvary Chapel pastors in that country. Sharon’s parents moved their mission work to Chile after being expelled from Colombia. The work that the Farrel family had accomplished back then became the groundwork for the Calvary Chapel church plants that continue today.

Don: I know enough about the way you send out pastors. One of the things that Chuck Smith did that you do as well, it seems is that you want to equip somebody, you want to feed them, you want to teach them, you want to see them get a heart for the Lord and a heart for the Word. And yet at the same time, when you send them out, you want them to really go out in faith themselves. Many people these days say, “Give me a check, pay for my job costs for the first year and I’ll go do something.” 

Raul: I never asked for anything, and it’s because we never told anybody [our needs]. I really believe we never told them about Colombia. We really believed that God would provide, and I still do that because I don’t want to ruin their call. If you’re called, then go on by faith, get a job, and learn how to be a pastor and learn to see if God really called you or not.

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Raul and Sharon at the Seminario Biblico in 2014. Photo courtesy of CC Golden Springs, CA

Don: Yes, in South America, we see all these guys who want to preach, some of which you know have to  help support their families.  For them, it’s not like “I might want to preach, but give me a job first.” No. If you want to preach,  you  do it and then God will provide. I think that’s one of the things Chuck Smith taught us well—sometimes he had two jobs just so he could support the ministry.

Raul: You understand, Don. You had to work and know it’s not easy to have a family and be in ministry. But you’ve taught me that if you’re really called, then step out by faith and God will open the doors.

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Bells began to ring as children ran out to greet Raul and the 10 other CC pastors when they arrived in a small Colombian village not far from El Secreto.


Click to follow this series of interviews… Part 1: Describes the beginning of Pastor Raul’s ministry and the founding of his two churches; and, Part 3: Raul discusses faithfulness and discipline in ministry, as well as his family’s health struggles throughout.

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