Pastor Bobby Riedel was saved as a little boy. He remembers sitting on the floor in Kindergarten, and listening to his teacher give the salvation message! It was at the ripe age of 4 or 5 that Bobby repeated the prayer that millions have since said around the globe. However, before that took place, his world already had some shake-ups. He was raised in a Christian home, son of a Long Island minister, and a mother who worked for the Billy Graham Association for special events. Bobby’s parents later divorced, which in the denomination that they belonged too, brought shame upon his mother. As a single mom, Bobby’s mother (Jo) did all she could do to supply for him. One year she sold everything she had just so Bobby could have a Christmas. She went to a Pawn Shop, was paid decently for the items she sold, and walked out and got mugged. The months that followed, God brought to Bobby and Jo a man that would soon become his real DAD. Enter Otto. Otto was born and raised in Franklin Square, even went to the same school with Jo (but they didn’t know one another), then moved to Kansas for college. After receiving his Physical Education degree in Kansas, Otto was involved in a car accident that injured his arm and hand for life. With no use of that one hand for physical activity, he lost his ability to be a teacher and moved back to Long Island where he was set up on a date with Jo (who was not interested in dating at the time at all). Well, that one night was life-changing. Otto decided that he was going to marry her, and canceled all his future plans to move back to Kansas. Jo made Bobby her number one priority and made sure that Otto would love Bobby not just her. Long story short…Otto legally adopted Bobby! Otto and Jo got married and they became a family…Bobby even went on their Honeymoon to Florida with them!
As Bobby grew up, he went to a prominent Christian School on Long Island from Pre-K to 12th grade (14 years)!!! He learned all the Bible stories, memorized all the weekly Bible verses, was involved with ministry within the school, sang in a special select music group called “Rejoice” that traveled to churches across the island, and was always known to be a “good kid”. He was involved with Bible classes every day at the school, weekly chapel services, special retreats, school assemblies, and always worked at the school during his free time helping many of his past teachers. Many relationships forged at this school still last today, and although Bobby loved his Christian school upbringing, as an adult he realized some things that they failed to do as an adult. Even though Bobby believes Christian school gave him a great understanding of the things of God, and helped develop a relationship with Him; the school was very legalistic and denominational in their belief system. “We were taught that if we fell asleep one night and forgot to ask God to forgive us for that lie we said, or that thought we had, and we died… we were going to hell. We were told that dancing was wrong, secular music was evil, and going having hair longer than the bottom of your shirt collar (for guys) was a “major” sin”, Bobby said an interview years ago. Today he reflects on things differently in regard to his Christian school upbringing. “Although I still loved my years in Christian school, and have great memories from my 14 years there; where they failed is equipping the students on how to defend their faith against other religions…or how to answer the tough questions like “why do bad things happen to good people ?….or what does it really mean to have a relationship with God versus knowing things about God and the Bible. It wasn’t until I graduated from that school, and left my denominational church, that I truly found out what God’s grace was all about, and boy did I need it in the years that followed”.
Soon after Bobby graduated High School, a dream of his came true. He was always a pro wrestling fan, and though all sorts of circumstances, Bobby found himself getting involved with the behind the scenes world of pro wrestling in a variety of capacities. Once a deathly shy kid, that would turn red to speak in front of people, found a new sense of confidence though working in professional wrestling, and sadly; though extreme hurt/rejection from a church in which he attended. After losing friends, some family, his church, and his temper…Bobby though himself into pro wrestling. He started traveling all over the United States, had offers to go on international tours, and very quickly made a name for himself. He was working with all the big wrestling personalities of the time, was backstage at all the different arenas around the nation, and was experiencing first hand the celebrity lifestyle in many ways. Because of his extreme hurt by the church, he totally immersed himself in the wrestling industry. He found a new identity, new confidence, and a new set of morals. Right around the turn of the century, Bobby was involved in a near-tragic car accident while on tour. His car flipped over, he swallowed glass and fainted in the ambulance. That night was a game-changer for Bobby. By this time, he was also working on his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Education and TESOL, and his career was a question mark. He decided it was time to return to his first love and really get to know God all over again. To learn of his grace and mercy, his love and forgiveness, and the power of restoration. In the months after his car wreck, he lost BOTH grandparents, and started to have what they call “panic attacks”. They were so extreme, that it crippled his life, and he barely left his house. One day he decided to trust God and fly to Atlanta, GA for 5 days to spend time doing ministry to outcasts…those the church wouldn’t welcome, and those Bobby def were told to “stay away” from in his growing up years. With Jay Bakker’s help, Bobby met God in a way he never did prior. He found grace. “I made a lot of mistakes. I couldn’t get past some of the memories. I lived in fear. It wasn’t until I truly learned what Grace was all about that I was able to live again. That even though I still fail, God still loves me, and its because of His grace that makes me want to change”. In 2001, he re-dedicated his life to Jesus…the Jesus he now knew, not the denominational Jesus that put condemnation on him. He started to desire ministry work and felt the call to be a pastor.
The very next year, Bobby meets a young Johnny Ova. The story is a long one, with a plethora of twists and turns, but no doubt is the catalyst for where Bobby is today. Through discernment, and prophetic words, Bobby was led by God to minister to Johnny. John was training to be a wrestler at the time, and Bobby used what he knew best…the business of pro wrestling, to use as an instrument to evangelize. However, this was different. In Bobby’s words, “It was like I had a mandate by God. I had to reach John. It wasn’t easy. We are two different personality types, but when God is in something, he softens the heart and gives the wisdom to accomplish what He wants. I spend hours, and days, and weeks, and months, and eventually years trying my best to disciple and mentor him. He was called. He didn’t want to be. He just wanted to wrestle, but I knew he had a very special calling on his life…a specific one, and unique one. Nobody would tell me differently. John came to the Lord pretty quickly. He couldn’t deny the things I was sharing with him about his father who died (that I had never met), he saw the power of God on display, he felt the tangible presence of God, and he saw how God was speaking through me at the time to minister to the needs he was having. Trust me, this is not Bobby doing this. This was all God, and all glory goes to Him, but the story is surreal”. So what does God do next? He brings Bobby back into the business that he wound up leaving…the wrestling business. This time though, Bobby was a different man, and he had a different purpose. He, along with Johnny Ova, started traveling all around the United States, Canada, and other parts of South America. They were in/on magazines, newsletters, TV programs, radio shows, and signed autographs and took pictures wherever they toured. Known as “The Agenda”, and by their individual names collectively, the two not only became standouts for their entertainment value as a team, and entertaining matches, but because they stood for Christ. Everywhere they went, they prayed with their opponents, and they counseled many people…including the stars of the time. God had his hand on both of them, and Bobby started to book the two fo them at churches around the nation. During this time, the wrestling became secondary, and the ministry was primary. The ring became a platform for the boys to spread the good news, Even on their DVD, “Best of the Agenda Vol 1”, a salvation message was given. With favor like they had, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the boys faced opposition, not just by man, but spiritually. Things came against their friendship. Sadly, people of faith tried to destroy the friendship and ministry that they had. Bobby and John were working together, ran a wrestling ministry together, and had a lot of influence. Although there was a rough period, ultimately, God won the war. One thing God hates is sowing discord amongst the brethren. (Proverbs 6:19). Bobby and John came out victorious from the evil that came against them, and immediately God went back to work by expanding their territory and platform. God opened the door for them to appear on the Jim Bakker Show, TBN’s Praise the Lord, and they were invited to speaking engagements again. However, individually they paid the price Bobby remembers…”Johnny was dealing with his own stuff for a while. He was dealing with issues stemming from his first wife, and I was learning a tough lesson in not making any one person my top priority, but God. All I did was think of how I could better Johnny, the ministry, my wrestling clients as an agent, and be there for my friends. I was never there for myself. I didn’t have a mentor. God had to put me in my own pit so I could rely fully on Him for my mental and spiritual health. It was a dark period for me. I was broken and believed what the enemy was whispering in my ear. But He isn’t let me stay there…He refines you, puts you through the fire, and makes you useable again. (Jeremiah 18:1-12) The ultimate in restoration… Here’s how…
Once I was fortified and came out of the fire to be used, God truly took me to places I never thought! I can list many accomplishments here…I have sung with Patti LaBelle, I’ve been backstage with Joan Rivers, I’ve joked around with Celine Dion, been to parties with Cyndi Lauper, had lunch with the captains of “Star Trek”, was inducted a wrestling Hall of Fame, produced wrestling events, concerts, and ministry events, I even got to lay hands on and pray with Whitney Houston backstage in London, met President Trump, sang at Radio City Music Hall, the Nassau Coliseum, and chilled out with some of the biggest celebrities on the last century…I won music awards, hung out with some of the biggest TV preachers of our time, was in the nations “Who’s Who”, worked TV Award shows, been behind the scenes at major Pay Per View events, and received my Master’s Degree, and the list can go on and on…All this to say…My biggest and most important function is my call to ministry. Around 9 years ago, Johnny Ova asked me what I thought about starting a church. I will admit I was kinda surprised at the prospect, but nothing would surprise me at this point. Well, in just about a year, Johnny, who got married to Rachel… the woman of his dreams and my prayers (LOL), together they started Sound of Heaven Church. They first asked me to be their Evangelist, but later the Pastor. Folks! If you remember earlier in this testimony, I was called to be a Pastor in 2001 (but because I thought it was “too late for me to go back to school”, I didn’t pursue it). God gives you the desires of your heart. He knew my heart…so did my Kindergarten teacher who told my mom, “Your son always hangs out with the kids who are either made fun of or seem to isolate. He befriends them, and that is a very pastoral quality”. Well, who knew? All these later, I got ordained to be a Pastor at Sound of Heaven Church, and no other accolade matches that. God gave me the assignment to head up the Long Island Awakening…an interdenominational prayer event for our city and country. That took off so much so that we branched out to concerts, worship events, and get this…pro wrestling ministry events using stars from the glory days right at Jones Beach! To live out your call, the will of God for you is the best feeling in the world. I still have growing to do, you never stop. You never “arrive”, and I am grateful for the times where I needed to “be still” so God can do some further construction on me to make me not only a better Pastor but a better person. I pray you to allow Him to do the same with you. Thank you for reading.