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Marvin Wray Interview
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Watch video interviews at the end of this article.

I grew up in Edmunds, Washington and at the age of 12 responded to my first altar call at the Church of God where I attended. A doctor in the church came and knelt beside me and told me how glad he was for me, and how he knew my heavenly Father was very happy. Heavenly Father—that immediately caused a disconnect for me.
 
My father, was an atheist, alcoholic and hated kids. When I was five years old, he told me, “Don’t call me Dad anymore. I made two mistakes in my life. First there was your sister, then there was you. I hate all kids, but I hate mine more than everyone else’s!” After that, there was no hugging—it was hand shakes and I was to call him by his first name, Rollie. My father was somebody to be avoided and to tread carefully around.
 
I actually cursed God because I felt He, like my father, wouldn’t accept me. I must have gone to 20-25 altar calls—at camp meetings or junior camp—seeking His acceptance and I never got it. Not God’s fault, obviously, but something that I certainly felt.
 
I left home and became my father—an alcoholic. I married my high school sweetheart and went to college in Bellingham, Washington—studied music. I conducted choirs in the Church of God and in the Eternity Lutheran Church on Sundays. After church I would take the little stipend that they paid me and go down to the tavern and drink the rest of Sunday away. Sitting on a bar stool, I would find myself thinking that I really wanted to be a minister—that I was supposed to be a minister. I remember wondering, how did I get here and how will I ever get out of here.
 
I ended up divorcing my wife and moving to Portland, Oregon. Here I met my present wife, Ingrid, a Seventh-day Adventist who married me when I was a two-pack-a-day, smoking alcoholic. Don’t ask me why. I can’t understand it. I’m just so thankful that she did. I started attending church with her periodically.
 
A bit later, we moved to Ukiah, California. One fall Saturday afternoon, The Heritage Singers performed at the Ukiah Seventh-day Adventist Church. At the end of the concert, Bill Truby sang The King is Coming and made an appeal. I thought, oh my—that same sense of calling and yearning struck my heart—stronger than it ever had before. I didn’t want to go to the front—nobody else was going. I finally did and I felt God’s acceptance like I’d never felt it before. I gave my life to Christ.
 
I knew immediately what I needed to do. Within three weeks, I had quit my job at Bank of America and enrolled at Pacific Union College as a senior theology major. I hadn’t even finished my Bible studies or been baptized yet! Here I was, in Harding’s Daniel and Revelation class looking up Daniel and Revelation in the table of contents, because I didn’t even know where they were. A year and nine months later I finished pastoral training—Greek and homiletics included. My family—three children by now— moved to my first church in Davenport, Iowa. I’m just so thankful that God gave me one more call.
 
We had just returned from a six-year stint in Hong Kong where I had been ministering as an health educator at an Adventist Hospital and we decided to visit my parents. My sister called and wanted to confirm that we were going to see the parents, and asked if the whole family was going. I said, “Yes, we are.” She asked me several times and I said “We are, what’s the problem?” Then she dropped it on me. She said, (our daughter Julie was 12 at that time) “don’t leave Julie alone with grandpa.”
 
I found out that my sister had been abused by my father for five years. That just hit me right between the eyeballs! I loved my daughter so much. But I was my father’s son, I had to seriously question my relationship with her. Am I doomed to this? God spoke to me, “You can choose your father. I chose my heavenly Father as my father in every respect.
 
When I made that decision, my relationship with my dad began to heal. Two years before my father died, we embraced for the first time and we were able to tell each other “I love you.” My dad told me, “I’m proud of you.” You’re never too old to receive that kind of blessing! I was able to receive it because I knew that my heavenly Father had been proud of me since the day I was born. He had called me in my youth and had prompted me to respond to that call all those years before.
 
When I became a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, I determined that I was going to be the best pastor that I could be. I got rid of a side of beef in our refrigerator; I got rid of my bowling balls; I got rid of my chess sets; I got rid of all the stuff that might get in the way. I was very legalistic and very rigid! But I had this breakthrough. I realized that God’s grace was everything. It didn’t negate our doctrines. It didn’t negate our standards. It put Jesus Christ in the forefront—as everything. I was saved without the doctrines and standards. They were just there to help me see Christ more clearly in many different respects, but it was all about Jesus.
 
The greatest joy in all these years of ministry, and I can’t believe that it’s been 41 years, is my relationship with people—people whose lives God has allowed me to touch. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen miraculous healings. I know God is at work and He works through me.
 
I’ve had two distinct challenges to my ministry. A relational one happened when I was pastoring a church where there were struggles over the worship style, music, and some who questioned, my grace relationship and emphasis. Some of the leaders in my church called the conference and set up a meeting with the conference president, ministerial director, and the leadership of the church. They grilled and questioned me. My call to ministry was never in question in my mind, but it was in theirs. They questioned it to the point where I was done. I met with my conference and union president. I told them, “I’m done. I’m done with ministry. Here are my credentials.”
 
I went home that night and I couldn’t sleep. This went on for a week. I finally called my president and said, “Can we undo our conversation from a week ago? I can’t do this. I cannot lay it down. God has called me.” I stayed at that church for another year and it was good—a lot of healing took place. I learned to listen to criticism even if I felt it was unjust. There were things that I needed to hear, changes that I needed to make. Fair enough.
 
A year later I became the ministerial director for that conference. I loved pastoring the pastors. My license plate read REVSREV. But while I was getting opportunities to work in an administrative capacity, God was speaking to my heart saying, “This has been a good experience for you Marvin, but I called you to local church pastoral ministry. That’s where your gifts are, that’s where you belong.”
 
My next church was a horrible experience for me. There was a group in the church that from three weeks into my time there, sent around an anonymous letter questioning my theology, They undermined everything that I tried to do, and it was a painful experience. I got terribly depressed and again, this became a real threat to my ministry; but God had a plan.
 
The door opened for me to interview at the Napa church. I was very blunt with the interviewing group there. The vote to invite us to come was 14 to 5. This concerned the conference president,  but I was delighted. I said, “Good. They were listening. They’re not sure. Let’s see.” I still wasn’t sure, even though it was a majority decision. So I told them, “I’m not going to give you an answer until I can meet with the whole church.” So 200 people came and we talked. I walked away from that meeting saying, “All right, I believe that God is in this.” It felt right.
 
I can happily say, 15-plus years later, it still feels right. There are not many Adventist pastors that get the opportunity to serve in one church that long. It adds such an amazing aspect to ministry to be able to serve a congregation through the years. I’ve asked people from my congregation,”Talk to me. Be honest with me. When there needs to be a new voice at this church, it’s okay, because it’s not my ministry, it’s not my voice, and it’s not my church. It all belongs to God.
 
Over the years I have faced several physical challenges. I’d had granulomas on my vocal cords—had them surgically removed the first time about 14 years ago. A couple of years ago they started to grow back—bigger this time. I met with an ENT specialist and they removed a large granuloma. Three months later they checked and it was back. I did this five times and every time, the granuloma came back bigger than ever. The doctors said, “You know, we cannot keep removing layers of your vocal cords.” The granulomas had been benign, but the doctors informed me that the more times they cut them off, the higher the chances that they might become malignant.
 
“We’re going to try one more time.” they informed me. They surgically removed it and this time injected 30 units of Botox to somewhat paralyze my vocal cords—a month later it was back.
 
My head elder, led in an anointing service on a Sabbath morning with my whole church gathered around. I said, “God, you can do anything you want with my voice. It’s not my voice anyway, it’s your voice. If you want to take it and turn me in another direction, you can do it. It’s yours. Take it, leave it, whatever you want.”
 
I went back to the specialist and she said, “We can’t cut anymore off your vocal cords. I’m going to just do 60 units of Botox. That’s twice as much as I’ve ever used before.” After, I could only whisper. I preached like this for three months. My church, bless their hearts, worked with me through the process. God gave back my voice and allowed me to continue ministry. I’m retirement age, but I’m still loving it. It’s been over a year and a half now and my vocal cords are as clean as a whistle! No growths.
 
I’ve also had a series of issues with kidney stones and back surgeries. I’ve learned to not be concerned about what’s coming tomorrow. I’m still going to ride my motorcycle and pass my kidney stones and preach as long as God gives me breath and voice— it’s all part of the call.
 
When my paid ministry is over, the call is not over. I’m called for life to serve Him and to follow Him in whatever He’s got planned for me. When I retire, I hope to still preach—maybe do interim pastorships—I’ll do whatever I can do. I’m called to ministry until until He calls me home.
 
 
 
Marvin Wray - Short Interview
 
 

Marvin Wray - Full Interview