Playing Her Part

November 28, 2016

Serving God as a musician is one of the joys of this mother's life.

By Kristi Riler


t was my privilege to be born into a Christian home. My mom was raised in the Apostolic Faith Church, where my grandfather was a pastor. She loved the Lord as a child and was saved at a young age. My dad’s mother also loved God and raised my dad and his siblings the best that she knew how. When he was grown, he was invited to special services at the Apostolic Faith Church in Puyallup, Washington. There he heard the Gospel in more fullness and soon gave his heart to the Lord. A few years later, my parents met and then were married on Valentine’s Day in 1970. I was born in November of 1971. My brother, Robbie, was born in February of 1975, and my sister, Andria (Ondi), in May of 1977.

On my sixth birthday, I had my first piano lesson and loved it! I was excited to learn and couldn’t wait to be able to play in church someday.

My parents were very involved in the activities at church. My dad was a minister for many years and eventually became a pastor. My parents taught Sunday school and helped with youth activities, and my mom was also in the choir and orchestra. As I grew up, I saw their example and knew that I, too, wanted to serve the Lord with whatever talents He gave me. On my sixth birthday, I had my first piano lesson and loved it! I was excited to learn and couldn’t wait to be able to play in church someday.

It was just a few months later, on Easter Sunday morning, that I knelt at an altar of prayer in our church in Chehalis, Washington, and gave my heart to Jesus. My parents had been faithful to read the Bible and pray with my siblings and me, and we learned that Jesus died for us and how much He loves us. I remember picturing Jesus on the Cross and truly realizing what He did for me. Being so young, I didn’t have a lot of sin in my life, but I told Jesus I was sorry for anything I had done to hurt Him and that I wanted to serve Him, and He saved me right then. Later, God sanctified me and filled me with His precious Holy Spirit. Those three experiences are such an important foundation for a Christian and that is certainly what has helped keep me on the right path.

During the fourth grade I started playing flute and found that I loved it as much as piano. Before long, it was my privilege to play in the church orchestra and also solos and in instrumental groups. Then at the age of thirteen, I was asked to play piano for a regular church service for the first time. I was so excited! To this day, I consider it a privilege to play instruments and sing in church as my service to the Lord.

After graduating from high school in 1990, I got a job in Portland, Oregon. At eighteen years of age, it was a big move for me, coming from such a small town to the big city. I was careful to pray about my decisions and I thought I knew the plans the Lord had for me. I loved Jesus and always wanted His will in my life no matter what my own desires were—that is still how I feel today. Through some difficult circumstances, I learned to lean on the Lord and dove into the Bible like never before! It was a time of spiritual maturing.

It was during this time that I met a young man named Gary. He played saxophone and I played piano in a small ensemble at church. We laughed a lot and enjoyed spending time together preparing the music. Music was a huge part of his life, too, and we became good friends. I could tell there was something special about Gary and there was no doubt in my mind that God came first in his life. We learned Bible verses and prayed together, which is the best way to start a relationship! It wasn’t long before we realized this was more than just a friendship, and we were married on July 31, 1993.

Soon after Gary and I were married, my brother Robbie died in a skiing accident, just two days before his nineteenth birthday. Thankfully, he was saved and ready for Heaven, but even knowing that, it was an extremely difficult time in our lives. As newlyweds, it could have torn us apart. However, God held us close as we went through it together, and we grew spiritually as we looked for Scriptures to help us continue on. Robbie’s favorite hymn was “It Is Well with My Soul,” and every time I think of those words, my prayer is to always have that peace in my heart and to be able to say that it is well with my soul.

In 1997, God opened the door for us to relocate to Chehalis, where Gary would teach band at the same middle school I had attended as a child. God made it plain that we were to move, and everything fell into place so fast that it almost seemed unreal. A job opened up for me and God provided a house for us to buy right away. It can be very exciting to trust in the Lord and let Him do the leading. We never know what blessings are around the next corner!

One thing I did know was that I was going to continue to ask for God’s will in everything—not my own.

Once settled in Chehalis, we longed to start a family of our own but that did not happen. Again, we had to put our hands in the Lord’s and ask for His direction. After many classes and much waiting and prayer, in January of 2001, we received a phone call while I was at work about an eleven-month-old girl who needed a home. We loved Amanda the moment we laid eyes on her, and hoped that we would be her forever family. There were a lot of unknowns with her case, but one thing I did know was that I was going to continue to ask for God’s will in everything—not my own.

Later that year we got a call about a baby who was only three days old and needed a home where he might be adopted. With prayerful hearts and great anticipation, we picked up a beautiful baby boy the following day. We had absolutely nothing for a baby so we stopped at a consignment store and bought whatever we thought we might need. It was a whirlwind experience, but our hearts were overflowing with love for that little guy. About nine months later Ethan’s adoption was finalized, and the following December, our daughter’s was as well.

There were many uncertainties before each child was adopted, but God was with us through it all and we have been blessed with three precious gifts from Above.

Over the next five years we opened our hearts and our home to two more children whom we loved dearly but were not able to adopt. In June of 2007, we received a call about a one-month-old baby boy who needed a home. We were so excited! We went to meet him and fell in love once again. How could we love another child so much? We brought Jaron home and his adoption was finalized in December, the quickest one yet! There were many uncertainties before each child was adopted, but God was with us through it all and we have been blessed with three precious gifts from Above.

God gave us sixteen wonderful years in Chehalis before He called us to move back to Portland where Gary would be the music leader at our headquarters church. God placed people in Gary’s life who found him a teaching position that would work with his church schedule. Then last year, Gary was hired as the band director at the very high school where our own teenagers attend! What a blessing that is.

Moving back to Portland was like coming home for Gary because he grew up here, but for the rest of us, it was a bit more of an adjustment, and we are thankful to all who prayed for us as we made the transition. For the most part I have been able to be a stay-at-home-mom, something I only dreamed would be possible, and have helped out at the church office which has been such a blessing to me. God has been so good to us.

As Gary and I continue to serve the Lord together and raise our children in the Gospel, my constant desire is to stay close to the Lord, seek His will in my life, and serve Him with my whole heart. When I look back on my life and reflect on all that God has brought me through, I know that whatever the future holds, He will never leave me or forsake me.

About the author

Kristi Riler attends the Apostolic Faith Church in Portland, Oregon. She is an accomplished pianist and flautist, a member of the choir and orchestra, and frequently participates in musical ensemble groups. Her husband is the Director of Music and is also on the ministerial staff.