BY RHETTA PEOPLES
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
Even though you go through the hardships and the pain, His strength covers you.”
Pastor Riva Tims not only says this with passion, she is a living testimony of someone who has dealt with life’s struggles and is fighting to help others reap the rewards of what she believes God has to offer.
Tims, the ex wife of Pastor Zachery Tims and the mother of his four children, is determined to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward in her own ministry.
The Tims were the cofounders of New Living Destiny Church of Apopka, which has a predominantly Black congregation and is one of Central Florida’s largest congregations. Pastor Zachery Tims was found dead in a New York hotel room on Aug. 12, 2011.
Mom’s request granted
This month, a New York City appeals court granted the request of Zachery Tims’ mother to keep the city’s medical examiner’s office from revealing what killed the pastor.
Madeline Tims has told the court that disclosing her son’s cause of death would be an embarrasment to her, his children, and the New Destiny congregation.
Also this month, Riva Tims organized a short memorial gathering on April 18 to remember her ex husband on what would have been his 43rd birthday. The program was attended by her children, supporters and friends who gathered at the pastor’s burial site at Woodlawn Memorial Park near Orlando.
Tims children ‘moving forward’
After 15 years of marriage, the couple divorced in 2009. The union produced four children – Zoelle, 17; Zachery Tims III, 16; Zahria, 14; and Zion, the youngest at age 12.
“The girls are doing really well. The boys, because they are the ones that spent more time with their dad they are still grieving, but they are moving forward,” Riva Tims said. “Being that we were already divorced at the time of his death, it wasn’t a drastic change as far as our household is concerned. But as far as the times they would visit, being that they aren’t able to do that, that is hard for them.”
Tims says she also continues to grieve for their loss.
“We had just spent time with him in Puerto Rico and he looked great. He looked strong. I didn’t know. I didn’t know. It’s been rough. I grieve. I grieve what could have been, I grieve the man that I married, I grieve him not seeing his kids grow up, the kids not experiencing him walking them down the aisle. I look at his picture and I find myself going through that process. The last six months have not been easy, but it is becoming a healthy place.’
In March, Riva Tims released a new book, “When It All Falls Apart: Find Healing, Joy and Victory Through the Pain’’ published by Charisma House.
In the book, she shares her testimony on surviving a broken marriage, her ex-husband’s death and the controversy that ensued over the battle for leadership of New Destiny. She calls it the “road map’’ God gave her to reach a place of healing and wholeness.
Book called ‘great ministry tool’
Her book is doing well. It’s already in reprint after only being released one month.
“It is a great ministry tool and that speaks to the impact that it’s having across the board. Men, women, widowers, people who have lost anything – they get empowered,” Tims explained.
“People can expect to laugh, they can expect to cry, they can expect to say ‘go ‘head girl, do your thing.’ I don’t hold back. I share everything that I went through. It will tell you how to deal with divorce, the loss of a loved one, any kind of loss.”
Riva Tims explains that she met Zachery when they both were very young.
“We met in Baltimore, Md. I was attending a church there in Baltimore and he started attending as well. He actually introduced himself to me while I was working in the youth ministry and history is from there,” she told the Florida Courier.
They moved to Central Florida and founded New Destiny in 1995. The ministry eventually grew to 8,000 members.
No input on new pastor
Shortly after Zachery Tims’ death last year, Paula White, the pastor of Without Walls International Church in Tampa and popular televangelist, was selected to lead New Destiny.
Riva Tims opposed the appointment, noting that the decision to choose White deprived her children of their lawful inheritance. She also had called the selection process “negligent and illegal” as well as “deceptive.”
To the current and former members of New Destiny, Tims has this to say, “Make sure your focus is on the Lord and not on man, not on circumstance, not on the personality. Go through the full and total grieving process.
“Sometimes we take and say we have faith and fake it ‘till we make it, but there’s a lot of hurt that never gets dealt with. It was a tragic loss. The Bible says when the shepherd is smitten, then the sheep scatter so not only did they lose their shepherd but they lost family members of the church that have gathered other places. It is very traumatic and they must take the time to really get a full healing before they try to move forward strong in ministry.”
Tims admitted that she would have wanted to be part of helping the church she founded get back on track.
“I would have liked to have had the role of helping bring healing there. I would have liked to have been able to be a part of the selection process. If they had asked me to do that, I would have gladly obliged, but it wasn’t something that I went after.”
Never wanted to be senior pastor
Tims said she never envisioned having her own church before starting Majestic Life Ministries.
“I still have the same vision as I had when New Destiny was birthed. That never left. But we also have what we call a team-based ministry, where it’s not one person that is glorified or considered the celebrity of the church. It’s not based on a personality but is truly based on the word. The team-based ministry is unique in that it helps to keep things balanced.
Tims adds, “Every department has a team so that everything continues to move forward and everyone is learning and mastering their God-given balance. Most people are enjoying that aspect of our church.”
It will be three years in October since the start of Majestic Life Ministries and the ministry is growing. Today, there are about 400 members and Tims attributes that to blessings from God.
“When I started Majestic Life, I never wanted to be a senior pastor. I just wanted to evangelize, outreach, and it kind of turned into a church. The Lord told me ‘Don’t grow the church, grow the sheep.’ I never advertised; I never did anything but grow the church,’’ she remarked.
Sister: Family’s even closer now
Tims also has a twin, Rena Jones, who is very active in her sister’s ministry and works at Majestic Life Ministries as the Executive Director of Administration.
Jones said, “Although we are twins, God has given us different giftings and assignments in the Kingdom. We always say ‘I can’t do what she does and she can’t do what I do.’ Administration is my passion. I am honored and overjoyed to be able to do something that I love everyday.
“Even though we are sisters, we both understand the office of a pastor. It is easy for me to respond to her as Pastor and know when to respond to her as sister.”
Jones continued, “Because my sister and I have known each other literally our entire existence, we pretty much know everything about one another. I have walked with her through the toughest times of our lives, and I have personally seen the mighty hand of God move in her life. I have also seen my sister stand on the Word of God when nothing made sense, and I have literally seen miracles come to past. This whole ordeal has drawn our entire family closer to each other and the Lord.”
Plea: Remember good, not mistakes
Jones also had fond words about her brother-in-law.
“Dr. Zachery Tims was my brother and I loved him as a brother. The whole situation with the divorce and his death was devastating to me and to my family. My husband and I have three children and they too grieved the death of Uncle Zach. I have gone through grief counseling to help me to process the pain of his death. My prayer is that the Body of Christ will remember him for all the good that he did and to learn from his mistakes and not to repeat them.”
On the Trayvon Martin shooting, Riva Tims said her ex husband certainly would have taken a lead role in the movement for justice. She said, “I think he would have been a rallier for justice. He probably would have had a big crusade so to speak and I’m sure he would have made a TV presence. Zach was very vocal. And when it came to a fight he always ran to the fight.”
Remarriage a possibility
Love is not out of the question for Tims and she prays that she will one day enjoy married life again.
When asked if she will remarry, she giggled and asked, “Do you know anybody single?”
But her primary focus is her children and the ministry.
Even in an interview, she is eager to invite one to know God. She says people often get caught up with trying to clean themselves up before giving their lives to God.
“Messed up, jacked up…come as you are. He does the rest. He just needs you to make that step to come to Him,’’ the pastor remarked. “You can be dealt a bad hand and life is unfair but…we serve a just God.”
For more information about the book, visit www.rivatimsbook.com.