If you are involved in Christian ministry in South Florida, especially worship or youth ministry, there’s a strong possibility you’ve encountered a member of the Bramos family. For Victory Life Church Senior Pastor Ron Bramos, his wife Cheryl, their four biological children, two affectionately “adopted,” and their spouses, ministry is definitely a family affair.
An administrative assistant at Calvary Christian Academy, Cheryl Bramos also facilitates the women’s ministry at Victory Life Church in Plantation. Their daughter Maegan Wallace serves alongside her husband Joshua “JW” Wallace, the executive pastor at Victory Life Church and formerly West Broward area coordinator for First Priority for eight years. Josh Bramos, worship leader at West Pines Community Church in Pembroke Pines, founded the Village Hymns, a group that is uniting worship leaders from churches across South Florida for community and to encourage the writing and recording of worship songs for the local church. Having recorded several albums of his own, Josh Bramos previously performed on tour with his brother Jacob playing drums. Jacob Bramos is now on staff at Victory Church in Boca Raton, where he is currently the youth pastor. Their brother Luke Bramos, formerly chaplain of his senior class at Coral Springs Christian Academy, has chosen to serve his country by enlisting in the U.S. Army Reserves with plans to study engineering in officer’s candidate school. Currently working in construction and real estate, Luke said he spends his Sundays at any one of the churches where his brothers minister.
Then there are Kevin Rariden, associate/youth pastor at Plantation Community Church, and Sara Cammack, who married Andrew Cammack, a pastor’s son who studied youth ministry and now resides in Glenndale, Georgia, where they are involved in their church. Both Kevin and Sara were welcomed into the Bramos home where they found love and support during pivotal years of their youth when their biological families were spinning out of control. Today they call Ron and Cheryl Dad and Mom and are considered full-fledged members of the Bramos family, spending holidays together and pictured in family portraits.
Robey Barnes, senior pastor at West Pines Community Church, said, “I just love the Bramos family. Ron and Cheryl have left an incredible legacy in South Florida just the way they not only minister to their church, but raised up such godly children. That is the highest mark of success. It’s just a powerful thing the way they’ve blessed the whole region… They love each other deeply, and there’s a really fun, rowdy, competitive spirit among them.”
Victory Church Senior Pastor Don Karpinen observed, “Something that impressed my daughter was that Jacob knew everyone’s names in youth group within a week, and she asked him, ‘How do you do that?’ And he just simply said, ‘You know what, if you care, you’ll remember.’ He truly does care for people and people feel that.”
Pastor Ron and Cheryl currently have ten grandchildren, and raising their brood is also a family affair. On a Friday morning at Victory Life Church, the Bramos men corralled the kids while the ladies decorated the sanctuary and crafted props for their upcoming Vacation Bible School. Returning from a funeral service at Plantation Community Church, Kevin was handed their son, Malakai, while his wife Hannah set out for a counseling session. Grandpa quickly scooped him up, so Kevin could finish his conversation. Beaming, Pastor Ron explained it’s common to have the grandkids at their home swimming in the pool a couple of times a week.
Seated beside a collection of candy jars behind his desk, Ron shared his church’s vision of living God’s way. “Some have a smorgasbord religion, but for us it’s a way of life,” said Pastor Ron, referencing Micah 4:2. While Ron said it has always been his prayer that their children would grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and with man, he also set out to make walking with Christ a fun experience.
Encouraged to invite friends over when they were young, Jacob said, “We were like the party house, but it was a good party house. Clean. Fun. Nothing crazy. My dad was always the one buying food and getting everyone riled up, and my mom was like, ‘don’t break anything.’ …Dad always says, ‘It’s living God’s way. How can you be a witness by your lifestyle?’”
Yet because of what Pastor Ron Bramos experienced as a child, Josh said, “My dad defies all odds. He should have been an abusive, alcoholic father because of what he went through. But because of the power and love of God, He literally gave him a new mind and a new heart.”
Raised in Detroit, Michigan, with five other brothers, Ron said, “I was the black sheep of the family. It seemed like I was in trouble my whole childhood life: trouble in Catholic schools, trouble in public schools, trouble at home because I was in trouble at school. Privileges were suspended at home. I started stealing in first grade and was a very insecure and paranoid little boy. After finishing 9th grade, my dad told me to go in the Army on my 17th birthday. That trouble continued in the Army.”
After receiving an honorable discharge, Ron was unable to return home and became a travelling magazine salesman. “People started sharing Christ with me. And the first day I stepped foot in Texarkana, Arkansas, I went behind a gas station and invited Jesus into my life. Three things drastically happened immediately: my lying left me, my foul mouth left me, and God gave me a home… I had asked God to give me a home and two days later I knocked on a family’s door. They had four kids, three girls and a boy, and they let me move in with them. I lived with them for three years. And that family loved Jesus better than any family I ever knew in my life.”
Ron grew in his faith and went on to Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, where he met his wife Cheryl. “I tell people she was in a beauty pageant and won Miss Congeniality. That’s the kind of wife I have.” He got his masters at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and pastored several churches before moving to South Florida where he has pastored Victory Life Church for 22 years, as an associate then senior pastor.
It was Ron’s story, however, that drew Kevin Rariden to open up to him. And Ron eventually welcomed Kevin into their family the way he had been given a home in Arkansas. “Our paths are pretty identical,” Kevin confided. “I come from a very dysfunctional past. We lived in the hood, so that was what I surrounded myself with. I thought my ticket out was to go to college, and when I came home I feared I’d get mixed back up in that.”
While he had never been to church, Kevin was drawn to pictures he had seen on Facebook of an Israel Tour Calvary Chapel Founding Pastor Bob Coy led in 2010. “I started clicking through these pictures of the Garden of Gethsemane and the Skull of Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, and I was amazed… And the Holy Spirit said to me, ‘There is a story behind all these pictures you know nothing about and a relationship that wants you, but you’ve been dodging it all your life.’”
Kevin approached Dylan, the only friend he knew that went to church, and Dylan introduced Kevin to the Bramos family. After visiting their church and home several times, Ron led Kevin to the Lord on their back porch and said this could be his home away from home.
The Bramos family also became home to Sara Cammack, who said, “Everybody they come in contact with will tell you they changed their lives. They’re just incredible the way they love people and serve God in everything they do.”
Sara originally visited Victory Life Church when her biological father was invited there by a friend. She recounted, “I didn’t want to go, but right away Maegan and Josh welcomed me – just the way they were so open to say hello to me – from that moment on I was like, I love it here.”
She began riding the city bus to church when her father refused to take her. “One day I was invited by Josh to hang out with their family, which turned into an every Sunday thing.” When her biological family, who struggled with drug addiction, moved away, Sara said she started going down a bad path and things got really bad, until one day her mother called Cheryl Bramos and asked if they would consider taking her in for the school year. “My biological mother sat me down and said, ‘You know I love you, but if you stay here you’re going to end up like us,’ and it was really bad. It probably wasn’t easy for her, but it changed my life forever… I wasn’t great, but they never gave up on me.”
Watching these lives change had an impact on Jacob. “My brother Kevin – he was going off this passion and conviction… When I was 19-years-old, we shared a room, and he was the one that – through his testimony, it caused me to be like, wow, this has got to be real!”
It was their father’s transparency that impacted Luke. “Letting us know he wasn’t perfect, if we ever messed up growing up , he didn’t come from a place of, ‘I can’t believe you did that.’ He’d say, ‘I’ve been there before. This is why you don’t want to do that.’ His approach came from a very humble and nonjudgmental manner. He’d listen instead of yelling.”
Luke remembers his dad often referring to Psalm 1. “He always wanted us to be around the elders and men of the church, bringing us to some of the Men’s Bible Studies where he encouraged us to speak up.”
However, with a family so involved in ministry, Josh “JW” Wallace said his father-in-law has related, “Work is work and play is play. We’re not talking shop all the time. When we’re out on the golf course, we’ll talk a little ministry, but it’s life. We are dad and son or friend to friend. It’s been smooth and easy.”
While there are several ministry families throughout South Florida, it is rare that so many sons would become pastors. Considering studies indicating about 70 percent of Christian youth leave the church after high school, how did the Bramos family defy those stats with all of their adult children maintaining a vibrant faith?
“It’s a work of God,” concluded Kevin. “I would say it’s definitely the foundation of their marriage, what they instilled in their children at an early age… Before I was a part of their family, I remember sleeping on their couch and my dad (Ron) would have a Bible study with Luke in the kitchen. I’d listen to that Bible study and I was thinking, I’m going to do that with my children. I’m going to wake my kids up and do that with them before they go to school.”
For Josh the answer was simple, “When you have a father who makes living for Christ a blast, why would you ever want to leave? …There are a lot who view living for Christ as the no’s. No, no, no. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. But it wasn’t ever no’s for us. There were things he had to teach us, but when it comes to having fun parties at our house, it was every night. Kids – everyone was invited to our house. Movie nights. We had a foosball table. We had a ping pong table. We had a rope swing in the backyard. We had a lake. We played paintball in the woods. We played basketball. We played football. We had bikes. We had rollerblades. We walked to 7-Eleven. It was have fun. Bring your friends. You be influential here… And my dad was always good for… you live for Christ along the way.”
The picture is refreshing when placed in contrast with the chaos many experience in the world today. It’s easy to become disillusioned.
Cheryl shared that an older woman once suggested to her, “I just don’t know, if I was young, if I would want to have children in today’s society.” Cheryl told her, “I’ve got 10 grandchildren right now, and as I look at these grandchildren, who are going to be growing up in this world as it gets more ungodly, and it will – they’re going to be warriors for Christ. That’s my hope for my grandchildren. I am not fearful of them growing up in this world because I know that they will be warriors for Christ.”