Local News

Retirement doesn't keep Tito Ramos from serving those less fortunate

At 74 years of age, evangelical minister Sixto "Tito" Ramos has seen his share of tragedies and triumphs.

His work as a Hispanic Christian radio reporter and missionary has taken him from the agricultural fields of Highlands County to regions of Central and South America devastated by disasters.

A former New York City Transit Authority bus driver, business owner and insurance broker, this native of Puerto Rico moved to Sebring in 1990 with his wife, Vicki, and their family.

Ramos played music and served as a pastor with the Faith Hispanic Baptist Mission from 1993 to 1997 and preached the Hispanic services at Sunridge Baptist Church in Sebring.

In 1997, Ramos was awarded the Men of Vision Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for his work with migrants through Redlands Migrant Christian Association and Hope Villas.

Retirement in 1998 brought new challenges for Ramos, who had seen the deplorable living conditions and needs of people in Central and South America. His compassion led him to join Light of the Nations Ministries, serving as a translator and missionary.

After covering the aftermath of the Aug. 15, 2007, Peru earthquake for an Avon Park radio station, Ramos decided to establish the Eleventh Hour Workers missionary group with his friend, pastor Jose Valentin.

The multinational mission team they founded helps provide disaster relief, counseling, financial aid, and Bibles and other religious books to people in countries including Haiti, Peru, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Belize and Guatemala.

"I have made over 50 mission trips since retiring," Ramos said.

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Two months ago, Ramos joined the Jericho Prayer Team, a nondenominational group of pastors, community leaders and concerned citizens that meet every Friday at the Wings of Faith Christian Worship Center on Schumacher Road to intercede in prayer for a five-county region.

"I'm excited to be a new prayer partner with Tito," said Debbie Lees, a retired law enforcement behavioral health specialist. "I've known him for around eight or nine years. He attends my parents' church, so I know him as a very compassionate and caring person. Whenever my stepdad was in the hospital, I knew I'd see Tito. He always came to check on him and pray."

Ramos still calls Sunridge Baptist his home church, serving there as a deacon and retired pastor.

He is also the board vice chairman of WVDV (104.9 FM), the Christian radio station located on the church's property.

On March 1, he helped a group clearing space next to Sunridge Baptist Church at U.S. 27 North and Valerie Boulevard for the upcoming Christ's Heart for the Heartland Crusade, featuring internationally known evangelist Mike Ricker.

"This is the first time Mike Ricker has held a crusade in this country," Ramos said.

He is expecting at least 1,000 people to come out for the event March 25-29.

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Recently the soft-spoken preacher and his wife reminisced about celebrating their 50th anniversary three years ago with a family cruise.

Framed portraits and photo albums displayed in their living room are filled with images of their 10 children, including their five adopted children.

"My wife loves children," Ramos said as his wife talked about life with a houseful of kids, now grown.

Vicki paused on one album page, gently touching the picture of their daughter, Eva, who died in 2005 at age 21 from a terminal illness.

"Everybody came to her funeral. She was well known," Vicki Ramos said of the popular Sebring High School graduate.

Tito Ramos said, "Real peace comes not from what you have or money, but how much you are willing and able to give of yourself.

"The fulfillment - being able to go to bed at night and sleep a good night's sleep - is when you know you have done your share."