Volunteers are appreciated at any age, and although a 99-year-old volunteer may not break the record for the oldest, it is likely close. Ernie Rarick, a volunteer for Hermano Pablo Ministries, has been serving the ministry continuously for almost 30 years.
Assemblies of God missionary Charles Stewart, the president of Hermano Pablo Ministries, says, “Ernie is our partner in broadcasting the gospel message to millions in the Spanish-speaking world. Ever since I came to the ministry more than 25 years ago, we have depended on Ernie to label, package, and mail out the shipments of all our programs. He was sent by God to fulfill an integral part of our mission.”
Stewart is referring to the program, A Message to the Conscience, which has been on the air continuously since 1964. Originally sent out on long-play records and then reel-to-reel tape, the four-minute program was first broadcast only on the radio. In 1980, it became a television program and began to be shipped out to television stations on professional video tape and then on VHS. Ernie put the labels on the packages to be shipped to the stations in 33 countries and determined whether each station should receive media for only radio, only television, or both. He always counted to make sure all the numbers matched, and as the media formats changed, Ernie learned and adapted.
When the transition was made to DVDs and CDs, the packages became smaller, but there were even more of them to prepare. Ernie was thankful when about half of the stations finally were able to receive their programs digitally by downloading them, because that meant fewer packages to prepare. Even so, as a donor himself, Ernie was also pleased that the ministry could save so much money on shipping.
Irene Celestino has been at the ministry the longest amount of time. She worked alongside Hermano Pablo (missionary Paul Finkenbinder), who was the founder and original voice of A Message to the Conscience.
Regarding Ernie, Celestino says: “I met Ernie close to three decades ago [while] working at Hermano Pablo Ministries. He is the most faithful volunteer I have ever known. When he could no longer drive to the office due to his age, he would walk, sometimes in the hot sun and other times in the rain, to make sure our evangelistic program shipments went out on time.”
Jeriann Severson, Operations manager for the ministry, says: “What is so impressive about Ernie is his passion to still fulfill his purpose in life. He says he may not be able to get around, but he can pray. And does he! We went to visit Ernie and [his son] Dale today. Ernie sat at the table to eat, and then asked if he could pray for us. He also prayed for his neighbors who had just lost their mom this morning. How beautiful!”
Though Ernie can’t speak Spanish himself, that never stopped him. His heart for winning the lost knows no boundaries. From the very beginning he appreciated the fact that the programs are written specifically for the person who does not yet have a relationship with Christ. Each program begins with a captivating story which is then followed by a practical and a spiritual application. Because of this non-religious format, all the airtime for radio and television is donated by the stations, including commercial stations. The ministry does not pay for one penny of airtime, even though the program is broadcast more than 4,000 times each day.
Ernie’s wife, Pearl, who passed away after Ernie’s 99th birthday, was an ardent collaborator of the ministry, especially through prayer and financial support. Their son, Dale, began driving Ernie to the ministry office when Ernie was no longer able to walk. And when COVID caused the ministry office to temporarily close to volunteers, Dale came and picked up work that Ernie could do at home.
The question on Ernie’s mind these days is, Who is going to label, package, and send out the programs now? At 99, Ernie’s strength has declined and he can no longer do the work that he so faithfully did for almost three decades. But that doesn’t mean that it no longer matters to him. He still cares intensely about spreading the gospel and giving everyone at least one chance to accept the Savior that he himself has served faithfully for so many years.
Hermano Pablo Ministries needs another Ernie. And other missionaries and missionary organizations need their own Ernies. Whether you have a few extra hours or a few extra decades, God likely has work for you to do as well.