Emma Rose Ravish and her parents, Ed and Annie, attend First Assembly of God in Fort Myers, Florida. They love serving God and actively do so . . . and for most of the rest of the world, that’s roughly about where drawing comparisons to this family ends.
Ed, 89, and Annie, 73, are the founders and directors of The Gabriel House in Fort Myers. Over the last 30-plus years, they have been answering God’s call upon their lives to provide a home for the abandoned, discarded, and medically needy children of the world. And in those years, they have adopted and/or fostered more than 300 children — one of those adoptions being Emma Rose, today a member of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Archery team — who was just days old when Annie brought her home.
IN THE BEGINNING
Although it is a non-profit organization, the Ravishes don’t see The Gabriel House as an organization, but more like an extension of their home where God’s presence resides. The Ravishes have also found themselves drawn to those who come from far-from-ideal circumstances, with many of the children they’ve adopted or fostered having emotional, physical, and/or mental challenges.
And it all started — and very nearly almost ended shortly afterwards — with a phone call from a missionary friend in Haiti in 1991.
The Ravishes, who had spent a number of years working with adults and children with disabilities in Rhode Island, had transitioned to Florida in 1988. They had five children of their own and had begun fostering some children in orphanages.
Their missionary friend knew of the Ravishes passion for children who were disadvantaged.
“She wanted to see if we wanted to adopt a child found on a garbage heap — just dumped there,” Ed recalls. “We immediately said, ‘Yes, we would take her,’ and Annie flew into Haiti on Friday night.”
What seemed to be nothing more than a loving response to a desperate need suddenly turned to an extremely dangerous situation. The following day, Saturday, Sept. 29 ,1991, a military coup took place in Haiti. The violence was widespread, including near the orphanage where Annie was to adopt Baby Nadage. Annie narrowly escaped death.
“How close to death was I?” Annie asks rhetorically. “Well, I still have the bullet that just missed me.”
After what could only be described as a wild series of events — Annie being incarcerated for 32 days, the U.S. State Department being unable to help free her, Ed chartering a plane to go rescue her, and he being held at gun-point for two hours before finally being allowed to leave with Annie and the baby — the Ravishes made their way back to the U.S.
It was at that point that Ed and Annie decided to devote the rest of their lives to children who had been abandoned, mistreated, or were unwanted.
THE HOME GROWS
“In the first seven or eight years of ministry, we had 15 to 20 kids in the house every day,” Ed says. “And they came from countries around the world — Poland, Russia, Germany, South America, Central America, Haiti, Mexico — and every one of them were adopted out.”
At one point in time, they had 17 children in diapers that they were caring for, but Annie says it wasn’t a problem.
“Actually I cannot think of anything truly challenging as we loved what we were doing,” she says. “When God calls you to do something, He will provide everything that is needed. These are His children. So many people thought we were crazy, but I told them, ‘You know what’s crazy? Not to do what God calls you to do.’ God totally took care of us.”
Finances, food, whatever was needed, God provided as hundreds of children came to call The Gabriel House “home.”
“When a child left, yes, a piece of us went too,” Annie says, “but we knew that child was going to have a chance at life that we could not provide. Also, when one left, it gave room for another to come in and receive the help they needed. It saved another life and gave us a chance to teach another child about Jesus.”
Ed shares that one time, while Annie was doing medical ministry in the mountains of Haiti with a doctor, a voodoo parade came walking by. The medical doctor explained that the small baby in the shoe box the witch doctor was carrying was going to be sacrificed as part of a voodoo ritual.
“Somehow Annie was able to grab the baby girl and escape with her to a convent,” Ed says. “She wasn’t allowed to leave Haiti with her unless we adopted her — so that’s what we did. Today, Naomi is 27 and doing quite well despite being handicapped.”
ADOPTING EMMA ROSE
It was another emergency call. This time a call from a social worker in Oregon. A woman, addicted to drugs and alcohol, was about to give birth. Doctors had discovered that the baby had formed with no legs and now the mother didn’t want her — would Annie and Ed be willing to adopt the baby?
“Annie flew out and brought Emma Rose back when she was only three or four days old. We adopted her without any hesitancy,” Ed says. “She’s an extraordinary girl, top in her class — saying she’s brilliant is not an exaggeration — she’s very gifted by the Lord.”
What else is remarkable is that even though Emma Rose had a long-time goal of being a Paralympian, it originally had nothing to do with archery. Her dream was, perhaps like many girls, to compete in the equestrian competitions, and she loved doing whatever she could when it involved riding horses!
A GIFT FOR ARCHERY
But then came Victory Junction, a camp in Randleman, North Carolina, that focuses on engaging kids with serious medical conditions — disease, illness, or disability — in fun and exciting activities. One of those activities is archery. It caught Emma Rose’s attention; her instructor, Larry Wagner, believed she had a natural gift for it.
“Emma Rose then met Tim Walker, a teacher and national archery champion, at the high school she was attending,” Ed says. “He encouraged her to get involved in archery. We also introduced her to John Lackey another person high up in the archery world. Both men helped Emma Rose in so many ways and really invested in her.”
From that point on, her allegiance slowly began to shift from equestrian to archery, until in 2019 she won the USA Archery Target Nationals and became the 70M Para Recurve female national record holder.
“On New Year’s Day of 2019, I heard Him say: ‘Why are you waiting to glorify Me?’ You see, I was planning on going for the 2024 Paralympics originally,” says Emma Rose, who is now 21. “Of course, when you hear Him, you don’t doubt it . . . Of course, God’s hand has been on my life since before I was born, otherwise I wouldn’t have ended up with such amazing parents.”
Self-described as determined, perhaps even a bit stubborn at times, Emma Rose, despite not having legs, has an approach to life that if there’s something that she wants to accomplish, she will accomplish it — whatever it is.
“I always try to keep my faith top notch, because it always helps,” she says. “Through Him anything is possible.”
Although she admits to having some doubts concerning the Paralympics taking place due to the pandemic, in March 2021 her accomplishments continued as she won silver at the Para Pan-Am Championships.
“Not only was it my first international medal, but it also secured the nation a spot for the Tokyo Paralympics,” Emma Rose says. “Then, in the States, those of us in my division competed [to participate in the Paralympics]. When the series of competitions that determined which one of us would go to Tokyo was over . . . Wow! That was a whirlwind of emotions!”
Ed and Annie agree — the whole journey has been nothing short of miraculous.
“We’ve been overwhelmed with her progress and success,” Ed says. “Whether she comes home with medals or not, it’s not important to us; the experiences she’s been having and her development in this and other areas of her life are what’s important . . . she has been and continues to be used by the Lord.”
Emma Rose, whose favorite Scripture verse is Psalm 139:14 (“I praise you because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made . . .”), says she lives out her faith in person and in social media, representing Christ to the best of her ability. And for the last few years, she’s been teaching archery to kids at Fort Myers Christian School — the First AG-affiliated school she attended.
“She’s fully enveloped in God,” Ed says. “And really, she’s beyond her age in understanding the biblical perspective.”
Emma Rose acknowledges that a physical disability can alter a person’s life by varying degrees, but, she adds, the mentality of how a person approaches life makes a difference. “When you set your mind to doing something, it is possible, especially if you have faith on your side,” she says.
She also shares a word to parents who have children with disabilities, urging them to “encourage your child to have goals and dreams — help them to realize that they are not their disability.”
And at the Paralympics, although Emma Rose did not make the medal stand, it was an experience she treasures.
“It was an amazing experience overall,” she says. “The major ‘God moment’ was actually just being there!”
Annie and Ed have seen all five of their biological children go on to achieve success as they’ve served God. However, biological, adopted, or fostered, each one holds a special place in their hearts.
“Every child that came into the home is a success story,” Annie says. “We have received invitations to their weddings, graduations, etc. I know of a few that have gone out into the mission field. We have even had a few ask if they could come back and volunteer. And so far as I know, I would say 98% serve the Lord.”
Even though age is beginning to catch up with the couple a bit, Annie says they’re never too old to respond to God’s leading.
“Would we take another child, if God asked us to? Yes, we would,” Annie states unequivocally. “God never gives us more than we can handle. I learned that years ago.”