Our guest today comes to us from the Pacific Northwest. She intercedes for and ministers to the abused, lonely, hurting, and discarded as they go through what seem like impossible situations. She walks alongside and encourages others to seek Christ, press into Him and share Him with others.
And she and her husband have some interesting ways that they are able to weave ministry and business. But we’ll get into that a little later as we talk with Renee Rivera.
What we Talked about
Getting to know Renee Rivera
Thumbnail sketch of how Renee came to Christ
I went from religion to relationship.
Before Renee met Christ, she was hopeless, discarded, and abused. She thought she had no value or purpose. She felt like she was owned by someone else.
At a Campus life meeting in High School, she heard someone talking about Jesus in a whole new way. As she pressed further, she learned the difference between following rules and trying to be good enough, as compared to a real Jesus who loved her and respected and valued her.
She wanted that, so she gave her life to Christ on that day.
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm [46:10])
What does it mean to be an urban missionary?
Renee and her husband were church planters in Chicago, IL. At the time, they didn't consider themselves urban missionaries. But God called them from Chicago to Seattle, WA. And He was specific: they needed to consider themselves missionaries.
We needed to live where we were called.
Once there, they learned (and unlearned) so much. God took Renee through some specific experiences, including a dirty hill with a log. Over the months, God used that place to break Renee's heart for the people and area where He'd called her.
As she began to recognize what was going on and who was doing what, she didn't realize that God was honing her for intercession. Then God began to direct Renee to specific people for ministry.
From popcorn to adoption (and beyond)
Renee and her son asked a local theatre if they would donate some popcorn to local skaters and homeless people. They ended up with two large garbage bags full of popcorn to distribute.
And as they were, one specific boy stood out because he kept coming back. When they asked to talk to his parents, he said that “his staff” was here. When talking to them, they discovered that he was part of a boys' home.
Renee considered volunteering but a few people suggested that they consider adoption: her son, her other son, God, and finally her husband. So they pursued (and succeeded with) the adoption.
The staff tried to convince them not to adopt the boy because of some of his challenges. But they moved forward anyway.
Life was hard with him. It took the whole family to raise him.
So Renee protected her heart. Friends and family suggested they return him to the program. But they had a word from God.
God didn't give us different marching orders so we had to obey.
They'd heard from God but nobody else thought it was a wise choice to continue. And Renee had another meeting with God – in a traffic jam. She was praying about the situation and asked God if they should give him back or move forward.
And God showed up: “Renee, you need to love him unconditionally.”
God reminded me that He is always faithful, never failing, and His love is unconditional. And this child deserved that.
How do you love a child unconditionally when you've been assaulted?
You learn to give your fear and your limitations to Christ.
Engaging Missions Leadership Minute
Scott McClelland of FX Missions shares about how keeping a safe distance from those we lead actually decreases our influence. Listen to discover what happened during some missions training exercises and what you can do if you have failed similarly.
If you have a question about leadership that you’d like to have answered on the show, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Focus on the ministry
Renee shares the story of a transformed life
Renee had formed the Diva Club to discuss topics of modesty in their apartment complex. One of the ladies she met there left after a while. And after she left, they discovered that she was involved in an alternative lifestyle.
It all started with a boyfriend who sent her off to do tricks and sell drugs because they needed money. She got out of that relationship and connected with another person who saw her “giftings” and decided to turn her into an entrepreneur.
So, instead of being a prostitute for a boyfriend, she partnered with a man and became deeply involved in a dark lifestyle. Her life was manipulation, prostitution, and still selling some drugs.
Then one night she called Renee at about 2 AM. Renee prayed about it before returning the call because she needed to make sure that she wasn't enabling her lifestyle. But at [2:30] AM, God gave her permission to call her back.
She was crying on the phone.
Lady: I'm done.
Renee: What are you done with? (because she needed to hear her say it)
Lady: I'm done with my “Johns.” I'm done with these names. I'm done doing tricks.
Renee: So, what are you going to do about it?
So she started throwing away her music and deleting phone numbers. And she realized that she needed to get right with God.
That night, she recommitted her life to Christ and left that life.
And then – the bombshell: she discovered that she was pregnant.
So she prayed and felt like God was leading her to give the child up for adoption. She shared that with the Diva Club and they grieved. But it wasn't done yet.
The adoption agency she found told her that it was going to be hard to place the child.
So Renee got in contact with a friend and they found some families for her. They found the lawyers they needed. They were there for her every step of the way.
She becomes Renee's “Timothy”
Renee has been working with and discipling her. Now she goes on the bus and recognizes pimps and addicts. She knows what to look for because she was on the streets for so long. So, she's ministering on the bus and on the streets.
She's brought a friend to Christ.
She's in the neighborhood loving on some of the disabled in the neighborhood.
She shares stories of Christ with the disabled.
She even ministers to the caretakers.
God's working through her big time.
How are you able to combine business with ministry?
Renee's husband works almost full time at an optical lab. And they also work together, part time, as event directors for an apartment complex. They live on site and work about 70 hours a month, which includes hosting parties, events, and affinity groups each week.
Because of that, they meet many of the 2,700 residents in the apartment complex. Through the relationships they build and facilitate relationships among the residents. So they're meeting a real need for both the residents as well as the property managers.
Outside of the events, though, they run into residents they know. And they're able to do life and make more touch points with their neighbors.
What's beautiful is that God continues to bring people that are hurt.
Finally, they also serve on the leadership team of a ministry. They are able to coach other couples in similar areas doing the same kinds of things.
Oh, and they came as Field USA missionaries.
What's the biggest challenge people in this kind of position tend to run into?
Because they live on-site and minister to people in the community, it can be hard to learn where the boundaries need to be. As people get to know them and rely on them, boundaries become very important to have family time.
People are our ministry but people can also be our pain.
Also, there are financial strains because stepping into the role means stepping out of many careers. Most of the couples have only one person working. The other spouse is full-time doing this as they work together.
Focus on YOU, the listener
The power of prayer
The coverage of prayer has actually put satan at bay.
They come up against spiritual warfare a lot. And they often ask people to pray as they enter difficult situations.
How God restored and sustains Renee's sight
She jokes and says it was a wedding gift. She woke up one day and was blind in one eye. Even to the point that she became blind for a week. And while she was going through that time, some friends at church gathered around her and prayed.
At the time, she didn't connect it. But looking back, she believes it was the prayers that made the difference and she could see again.
Over the last couple of months, her eyes have been failing again. The specialist she's been seeing can't give her answers. And she was getting frustrated.
She couldn't tell whether the issue was spiritual or physical.
She went on a retreat and one of the guys said he felt like they needed to pray for her healing. She was doubtful and wasn't really valuing herself. She wanted the healing for others who were dealing with other physical things.
They stopped the conference just to pray over my eyes.
She was humbled but nothing happened. She returned home and the next Monday, she was able to use her eyes and read the entire day.
She still has low vision and is still blind in the other eye. But she got sight back.
What would you share with someone who doesn't really see the value they have as a person?
Instead of getting their own opinion or someone else's opinion, I'd challenge them to ask God.
Is there an internet resource or a book you'd like to recommend?
- Field USA
- It's Time Inc.
- My ‘I AM' Journey Self-Study Course
- The Bondage Breaker
- Strongman's His Name…What's His Game?
- The Discipleship Cycle
Check in with Christ first.
Care for the missionaries, not just the people they work with.
Questions, Topics, and Times
[00:28] – Introduction to Renee
[01:05] – Thumbnail sketch of how Renee came to Christ
[02:59] – Meaningful quote or Scripture
[03:38] – What does it mean to be an urban missionary?
[09:00] – From popcorn to adoption (and beyond)
[16:49] – How do you love a child unconditionally when you've been assaulted?
[18:26] – Engaging Missions Leadership Minute
[21:38] – Renee shares the story of a transformed life
[28:57] – She becomes Renee's “Timothy”
[30:24] – How are you able to combine ministry with business?
[36:01] – What's the biggest challenge people in this position tend to run into?
[38:50] – The power of prayer
[40:00] – How God restores and sustains Renee's sight
[44:28] – What would you share with someone who doesn't really see the value they have as a person?
[45:07] – Is there an internet resource or a book you'd like to recommend?
[47:38] – Parting advice
[48:34] – Contact info
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- Field USA
- Renee also suggested that you check out the book Playing Dead Choosing Life by Annette Eastis. It was not available at the time this interview was published but should be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. beginning November 2015.
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