Rich Ferreira from GTI study tours is part of a team that has facilitated over 500 biblical study tours to Israel, Turkey, Greece, Jordan, and Egypt. Their goal is to create tours that give participants a true understanding of the land and the culture in which the Bible was written.
When Rich looks in his rearview mirror of ministry, he sees a past that has ranged from snow blowing to selling hotdogs at the youth snack shop. At just 22-years of age, he had just completed seminary and earned his Master’s Degree in Theology. In no time, he was asked to run off-site programs—with almost no budget—including a surf skate camp in San Diego. His first step in the process was hiring young go-getters willing to work hard and grow through mentorship.
“There are those moments in life when God opens doors that you have no clue where they’re going to lead,” says Rich. “It’s often the particular skills that you bring to the table that will get your foot in the door.”
For Rich, that door led directly to the junior high snack shop. While the act of serving chili boats might not have been at the top of his employment wish list, he says it was incremental in demonstrating trust, faithfulness, and leadership qualities.
“It’s being faithful with what’s in front of you that makes you stand out,” says Rich. “It also creates a pathway for somebody else to be seen as faithful. That was the unintended reality, that I got the dividends in a position that might have seemed like an insignificant opportunity. It was stacking unbeknownst to me.”
A turning moment for Rich was shortly after he earned his Master’s Degree, and found himself blowing snow at 2 AM. He slipped on a patch of ice and slid 30 feet down an innertube run, laying soaking wet and discouraged. Frustrated with his situation, he suddenly recalled the words of his dad who said, “We choose what we do.”
That understanding and perspective went a long way for Rich, who knew that work in ministry—no matter what it might be—was part of the things that were given to him for that season.
“We often fail to realize it’s the small, insignificant things when nobody’s looking that really tee you up and forge the character inside of you,” says Rich. “—so that when you do arrive to a place where people can see you, you’re actually made of the stuff that needs to be seen.”
Rich’s commitment to give everything not only allowed God to craft his character, but shaped him to choose a team with similar qualities. The key for Rich was surrounding himself with people who were better than himself, he says. He did this by empowering people who had the ability to learn and work hard.
“You can teach people skills,” he says, “but you can’t teach them work ethic.”
Rich engaged the type of people who would step up to volunteer at the end of an 8-hour work day. He sought out leaders who wanted to be part of a growing ministry. He commissioned people who were worth investing in, despite how messy it might get at times. For Rich, it was about looking at how a person could develop in 3 months, 9 months, and in a year. It was finding potential and committing to their successes.
“You work hard with the people around you and hold an expectation of where you want to see them go,” says Rich. “If you don’t create an environment where mistakes can be made, then nobody grows.”
After years of investing in the lives of his team, Rich shifted to a different kind of impact in leading Holy Land tours with GTI. His passion for Israel and the biblical lands started back when he attended seminary. He still remembers standing on a mountain top in Israel and feeling the history and truth come alive in a way he never envisioned. It was a moment that changed his life, giving him a 3D vision of Scripture.
“I’m different today because I got to taste and touch all of these things I had learned, known, and loved from the Bible,” says Rich.
When the opportunity arose to step into GTI’s near 30-year-old company, he knew he was ready to pivot into a new ministry field. Today, Rich works with pastors who take groups to Israel as a means to experience the journey together. He considers it an honor to come alongside pastors and help grow their churches through these life-changing trips.
During customized tours, GTI’s on-site guides offer historical background, ground support, and travel logistics. This allow pastors to focus on their team and simply step up and share stories that are close to their hearts.
By helping underwrite the cost, GTI is able to help lift the financial burden for leaders who could not otherwise visit the Holy Land. The payoff is watching pastors bring back a love for Israel to the pulpit and to their ministries.
“We see it as building the kingdom,” says Rich. “There’s so much leadership potential in just having that experience together, let alone being in the Holy Land. We’d love to get every pastor to Israel.”
Having gone from youth ministry to biblical tours, Rich says one of his greatest takeaways is learning how to walk through open doors, no matter how narrow they may seem.
“It might be shoveling snow or working in a concession stand,” he says. “But just walk through those doors and see what God’s got for you.”
To listen to Mingo’s interview with Rich Ferreira, click HERE.