Simi Valley, California, is most famous for being the home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. If you’ve never seen the beauty of the area firsthand, just recall scenes from “Little House on the Prairie — as they filmed the show in the valley.

I’m beginning a new series of interviews with Christians who have worked to take “Jesus into the Public Square” by running for local elected office. Many of these people attended Issachar Training workshops — campaign and election training sessions for Christian pastors who are considering a run for public office.

Some will win and some will lose. Organizing for a Christian return to the public square will involve both hard work and also wearing out the knees of our pants in prayer.

I caught up with Simi Valley resident Raymond Cruz this week and talked to him about his involvement with campaigning for local office and his prison ministry too.

Tell me about your background. You’ve worn several hats during your life. Describe that for us.

I used to be a corporate banker in New York. Then we moved out here to Southern California. The bank bought out another, and I wound up out of work. I went into nonprofit consulting, and then during the last 20 years, I went back to school for my mediation certification. And I got my pastoral and counseling credentials too. Then, about three years ago, I was ordained as a pastor.

Now I work with an organization called Awana Lifeline. Awana is part of that organization out of Chicago that does children’s ministries. But Awana Lifeline does jail ministry. We take the gospel inside the jails. I am a counselor for inmates who are preparing to leave and get out. I work with what is called “re-entry ministry” — helping them leave jail with the hope that they don’t go back. Obviously, this work is a big change from corporate banking.

You currently serve on the California Republican Party’s Central Committee for Ventura County, an elected position within the GOP. What does that involve?

California is broken up into 55 counties. In Ventura County, we have the GOP committee made up of four representatives in each of 11 cities. I am from District Four, Simi Valley.

As part of our responsibilities, we help other candidates that are running for public office with their campaigns and with fundraising. We call or we vet the candidates. Some we are able to say, “You’re going to have the support of the Republican party,” and others, “You’re not going to get it” or “We will support you, but this is what we’re going to recommend that you do.” …

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