The Ravenhill home was one of love, consistency, and self-discipline. Martha was consistent about their home life being in order and about family devotions. She was very faithful to lead the boys daily when Leonard was gone for weeks at a time. David remembers how consistent and self-disciplined she was in the home:
“My mother was a real fanatic about family devotions. Dad was traveling regularly and she would read the Bible with us or some missionary story. We would always have a short devotional time before going to school, reading either a portion of Scripture or from a devotional book and then have brief prayer. There were times when I thought to myself, “Man, we’re going to be late and miss the bus!” But she would not compromise. It was the old way of consistency that some today would call legalism. She had tough love and believed in the ‘laying on of hands’ with her boys.
Mom was more of the disciplinarian than dad because she was there all the time. Dad would do fun things with us, taking us in the car to places or going to a castle or a museum. He loved walking through the fields and the countryside.
Farm life made things enjoyable as well because teenagers we liked milking cows and driving the tractor, then bringing in the hay and all the outdoor work. We would also roam the acreage and go fishing in the lakes. It was a great family life we had during those years.”
Leonard had a high view of marriage and deep commitment to their loving relationship. But like any husband, there were times he had to be reminded of this. One night after Martha and Len had prayed and prepared for bed, he lingered in the living room, continuing to pray. Shortly, he heard Martha call out, “Len, come on to bed.” He replied, “I will come when I finish.” But, Martha’s words were even more insistent, “Len, you also have a wife!” God spoke to him through those words. He got up from prayer, went to the bedroom and slipped into bed. He later said that sometimes the most spiritual thing a man can do is to go to bed with his wife!
Leonard and Martha’s godly influence, advice, and counsel to young couples provided an example of what marriage should be.
Paul and his future wife Irene met in Bible school and they were married at the end of a worship service there. They later moved to Oregon for ministry training, then to New York City for a period of ministry and finally to Argentina as missionaries in the 1960’s. Paul and Irene are still there today and have seen God powerfully work over the years in amazing ways. Leonard often mentioned their ministry in his messages:
“In Argentina, our son Paul is seeing the Lord do great things. They are seeing over fourteen hundred people pray until after midnight. Where could we see that in the U.S.? Here we are so full and satisfied, so complacent, and so indifferent.”
David and his future wife Nancy met also at Bible college when they both were training for mission work. A native of Michigan, Nancy’s family moved later to the Mojave Desert in Victorville, California. God brought them together in marriage on August 24, 1963.
After finishing their Bible college training, they went to New York City, along with Len and Martha, to work at the Brooklyn Teen Challenge. Later they went to the headquarters of Christian Literature Crusade in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, for a period of ministry. In October of 1966, they left America for Barrier Island, off the coast of New Zealand and since that time have served Christ in New Guinea and New Zealand. Since the 1980’s, David and Nancy have been involved in pastoral and evangelist ministry in Florida, Missouri, Washington, and Texas. David now travels extensively in an itinerant preaching ministry around the world from their home in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
Leonard and Martha loved their sons deeply. In a sermon, he spoke of David’s life when he was in New Zealand:
“David always reminds me of the gentleness and meekness of Jesus. He was the most nervous young fellow until the Lord saved him and filled him with the Spirit. Now in New Zealand, he’s pastoring a church of sixteen hundred, with another six hundred in Sunday school. God is using him around the world. I say that not to boast of my son, but there’s nothing wrong in realizing that God can take you and use you. If you are thinking, “God could not use me”, well, He can! It’s not what you can bring to God that matters–it’s what God can bring to you.”
Leonard and Martha’s third son, Philip, was involved in ministry in the 1970’s in New York City with David Wilkerson. He later received his PhD from New York University and then went to Ivory Coast in West Africa. Leonard admired the work ethic and integrity of Philip and his wife Judy. Writing on December 1, 1976, he said,
“Philip and Judy have left for New York. They leave for Brussels, Belgium, and then on back to West Africa. Phil was offered a job there for a thousand dollars a week, but turned it down because he felt it did not give the natives their rights in a certain area. Judy was offered a teaching post at Columbia University, but declined it so she could finish the work in Africa. I am glad they are so conscientious.”
Philip went on to specialize in African art history before being invited by the Smithsonian Institute in 1988 to be the curator of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., where he lived until his sudden death in November of 1997.
Because the Ravenhills were scattered across the world for most of their adult years, family times together were almost non-existent, with Philip in West Africa, David in the South Pacific, Paul in Argentina, and Len and Martha in America. There was only one time in twenty-five years when they were all together all the same time.
Leonard and Martha have eleven grandchildren, including Paul and Irene’s children: Deborah Ruth, David, Brenna, Paulette, and Andrew. David and Nancy’s children include Lisa, Kristina, and Debra. Philip’s children are Geoffrey, Brenden, and Amanda.
The effect of Leonard and Martha’s influence upon their sons was immeasurable. Len once said, “The husband often is gone and goes in and out frequently like I did. So it was Martha that had a profound influence on our three boys.” The mutual love and respect between parents and the sons and daughters-in-law ran deep all their lives. It is reflected in a simple act Leonard did one night that was never forgotten.
David Ravenhill, age nineteen, had the evening responsibility of checking the grounds at Bethany Fellowship’s campus in Minnesota. He went to bed one night later than normal, and still awake, he heard the door of his room open and saw his father tape a piece of paper on the inside of the door which he read the next morning:
Build me a son, O Lord, who’ll be strong enough to know
When he is weak, and knows enough to face himself when he’s afraid;
Who’ll be proud and unbending in honest defeat,
And humble and gentle in victory.
Build me a son whose wishbone
Will not be where his backbone should be;
A son who will know Thee and know himself
As the foundation stone of knowledge.
Lead him, I pray not in the path of ease and comfort,
But under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge;
Here let him learn to stand up in the storm,
Here let him learn compassion for those who fall.
Build me a son whose heart will be clear and whose goal will be high,
A son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men;
One who will learn to laugh, yet not forget to weep,
One who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
And after all these are his, add I pray,
Enough of a sense of humor,
So that he may always be serious,
Yet never take himself too seriously.
Give him humility so that he may always remember
The simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom,
And the meekness of true strength;
Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’
God answered the prayer of Leonard’s heart that night abundantly.
From the biography In Light of Eternity by Mack Tomlinson pg. 125-130