Interview: Pastor Raul Ries—Part 3

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Blessed in the Ministry: Interview by Don McClure with Pastor Raul Ries—Part 3

Photos courtesy of CC Golden Springs, CA, unless otherwise indicated

In the final of the three-part interview between pastors Don McClure and Raul Ries, Raul discusses faithfulness and discipline in ministry, as well as his family’s health struggles throughout. Pastor Don 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 read Part 1, which describes the beginning of Pastor Raul’s ministry and the founding of his two churches; and, Part 2, where Pastor Raul shares the beginning of CC Golden Springs’ South American outreach and explains some of the challenges of serving God in ministry.

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Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, CA, Pastor Raul Ries salutes the flag at a Los Angeles Dodgers game in 2015, dressed in his Marine uniform. At the game, he was honored for his contributions as a pastor to the greater Los Angeles area and for his military service. Raul served in Vietnam between 1966-1968, earning two Purple Hearts during his tour of duty.

Don McClure: All these things that you have been doing through the years and continue to do, you’ve done while both of you have gone through a lot of physical trials.

Raul Ries: Yes, my wife, has had cancer for the last 12 years—Stage 4 for most of those years. I can’t believe that she’s still alive. God has had His hand upon her; she’s telling me no matter how much cancer she has, no matter what’s going on, she’s gonna go out and she’s gonna do it for the Lord, and that’s what she’s done.

For the last 14 or 15 years, I’ve had these episodes due to combat wounds that I don’t understand. I went to UCLA. Just last month I’ve had five of them. I can’t speak, and I can’t read, so I’ve had to bear with that, and God has pulled me through. At the church here they are very graceful.  It’s been a real hardship for me. When I am teaching and I have an episode, one of the pastors will finish the message. Like Paul, I have said, Lord, your grace is sufficient, if you want me to have this affliction, I accept it…  

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In 2007, Raul returned to Vietnam for the first time since his Marine Corps military service. Here, he spends time with several young boys. Photo by Mike Harris

Don: Is it true that the  medical people think that this probably goes back to issues all the way back in Vietnam? 

Raul:  Yeah, because I’d fire my rifle all the time over my right ear; but also there were the F-16 jets that used to come by and drop bombs. They would shake your whole brain and shake your ears. Then another thing that could have caused the problem—I did samurai fighting for six years, Kendo, where you have the swords and you put on the whole armor, and you fight one another—you often get hit on the head.

Don: And with the Kung Fu, you have how many levels of a black belt? 

Raul: Eight. When you get to 8, you’re a master in Kung Fu. When I went to Kendo, it was so different than Kung Fu, you know, you’re fighting with swords. Then the master in Kendo took me in and I was there for six years training. I’m not dangerous, though … ha, ha. 

Don: Sometimes I  see people that I think do  really well  in ministry, and often times they’re people that have also learned discipline in their life, whether it’s Kung Fu or something else. A non-disciplined  person doesn’t often do well in ministry. Well, what does that have to do with ministry? It has to do with getting up and  discipling yourself and putting yourself through things because there’s something that you want. 

Raul: In high school [as a kid], I played baseball and learned discipline. I learned even more discipline in the Marine Corps. For sure discipline has shaped my life. I like discipline. 

Don: Yes, and so now you just take those things that you’ve learned of the principles of discipline, and [apply them]. Because if you’re not a disciplined person, you’re not going to want to prepare, to study. You’re not going to commit to all the things that you have committed to through your life, and  even to the new steps of faith.

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Raul shares the Gospel at a Kung Fu demonstration with Bjorn Ries, his grandson.

So every time you thought, It’s going fine in the Kung Fu studio.  Well, then you had to move to the theater. And then you had to move to Diamond Bar. Each one was a new journey, a new step of faith which required discipline. And you’ve done that. 

Raul: When we came [to Diamond Bar], the payment when we came here was $145,000 [a month] for 15 years [mortgage].   

Don: And now it’s paid off. 

Raul: Every month we met the payment. Some realtors came to buy a part of our property. We went and sold 12 acres for $15 million. So we took that money and gave it to the bank.

Don: Yeah, but boy, those years of where you found yourself thinking, Where, Lord, am I going to get the money for the next month?

Raul: By faith God provided, and you know, I’ve never been fearful of that. You know, you taught me a lot, Don. I mean, you’ve been out on your own, and you know this, too—faith is the key to the ministry. 

Don:  Yes, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. 

Raul: It’s impossible. 

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During a CCA conference, pastors take time to ask God to heal Raul of his combat-inflicted episodes.

Don: But I think people love seeing not just simply a pastor who can give a great Bible study. They love somebody who,  by faith, lives it and ventures out and  does that.  That’s the thing we want people to see in these articles in the magazine. Not just hearing another Bible study, but that they look and realize that the  CCA [Calvary Chapel Association] Leadership Council, our guys, just like Chuck taught us, you know, to live by faith and how he and Kay had to trust God to provide.  [Visitors] maybe drive up to the church and they say, “Oh, look at this guy; look at this big building. He’s all successful,” and they don’t realize this has been years and years and years of building.  And every time we were almost OK, God would give us a bigger challenge and a bigger building and a bigger thing to do and each time He stretched us.  

Raul: Yes, He is stretching us still. 

Don:  Yes, and  here, you and Sharon, there’s  no slowing down in either one of you. You just keep going and keep doing it.  It’s like when a lot of people say, “I’m done now. I’m  old enough. I’ve earned my retirement or something,” but you’re not that way. 

Raul: You’re not that way either.

Don: If you could retire, what would you do? 

Raul: You know what, I can’t retire. I’ll die doing ministry. 

Don: Yes, I mean many people have a career and can hardly wait to retire. But the thing is, I  can’t imagine not doing [this].

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Raul warmly greets a man in a wheelchair at a CCA pastors’ conference. Despite illness and physical challenges, Raul and Sharon actively continue to serve Jesus and others. “I can’t retire,” he exclaimed. “I’ll die doing ministry.” Photo by Steve Shambeck

Raul: I mean, for me to just stay home and watch TV, there’s no possible way.

Don: Well, what are some parting thoughts to some young person? You’ve put a lot of young people through your schools here in America and down in South America.  And what are some parting thoughts that you would have them know of you and Sharon that you would pass on?

Raul: I would pass onto them that Sharon and I spend time in prayer and the Lord keeps His vision and passion for the world in our hearts. The Lord is looking for servants. He is not wanting to make us famous; He wants us to become His servants to take the Gospel to the whole world––that’s key.

Don: Amen. Well, God has incredibly blessed you and your ministry all over the world. There’s hardly a place on the map that you haven’t affected and all you’ve done has just everyday been faithful. I imagine you never could have dreamed, the  night that you went down to the church and prayed with somebody, that you would be where you are today in ministry. 

Raul: Don, I couldn’t even believe it. I mean, I grew up different, you know. I never liked school. I just liked to party and fight, and the whole thing. And when I came to the Lord, I said, Lord, You gotta teach me how to read; You gotta teach me how to preach. I just don’t know how.

Don: His grace is so wonderful.

Raul: Yeah, it’s all by grace. 

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Raul on his knees during a 2015 CC Golden Springs Easter service, praying for souls to come to Jesus Christ. He acknowledges that all the ministry he’s been able to accomplish since he surrendered his life to the Lord as a young man is “all by grace.”

Don: We really want this to be something that challenges people when they read this.  You know, so often they would come and maybe  open up  a Calvary Chapel Magazine and say, “Oh, here’s what Diamond Bar has done down in South America, or here’s some  conference.” But we just want them to see us like we saw Chuck.  And that these are people on their journey, being stretched and struggling, following and seeking the Lord still, just like Chuck did up to the end. That’s what we’re doing.


Click to read Part 1, which describes the beginning of Pastor Raul’s ministry and the founding of his two churches; and, Part 2, where Pastor Raul shares the beginning of CC Golden Springs’ South American outreach and explains some of the challenges of serving God in ministry.

Visit Calvary Chapel Golden Springs; and, Calvary Chapel Association


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