From Don Ho Drummer to Gospel Preacher

Inspiration MinistriesBy Inspiration Ministries7 Minutes

How does a Hawaiian-born, Jewish drummer go from performing in clubs at Lake Tahoe to preaching as an ordained minister? Ron Lee’s moment of truth came when he was channel surfing before bedtime and happened to land on an Inspiration Ministries broadcast.

It was May 20, 2002, at 10 p.m. Ron will never forget that date and time, for his life was forever changed as a result of what happened next.

“I heard this churchy-sounding music, so I tried to switch the channel. But it wouldn’t change, no matter how hard I tried,” Ron says. “I thought there must be something wrong with the remote.”

Then he heard a voice in his spirit saying, “You need to watch this!”

As Ron started paying attention to what was being preached, the minister looked directly into the camera and said, “There’s somebody out there who still doesn’t know Jesus Christ. Pray this prayer with me…”

Ron dropped to the floor, weeping uncontrollably.

“I felt as if God draped a warm blanket around me,” he remembers. “I heard the ‘still, small voice’ of the Holy Spirit speaking to me, and I immediately responded, ‘From this day forward I promise to seek You in prayer.’”

Outward Success, Inner Loneliness

Ron had experienced quite a journey before coming to this pivotal time. His childhood home in Hawaii was filled with musical instruments, thanks to his musician father who frequently told young Ron, “Go over there and pluck on something.”

He was playing the ukulele at age five and the violin in grade school, but his special love was always “banging on stuff.” Eventually his parents tired of hearing him bang on their pots and pans, so they bought him some five-dollar bongos and later some cymbals and a snare.

By high school, Ron was playing drums with a band called Linda Green and the Tempos, selected as one of the top bands in Hawaii in a contest judged by Sophie Tucker. This led to radio airplay, a contract with Reprise Records, and the honor of opening for big acts that came through the area. Fifteen-year-old Ron found himself sharing the stage with the Kinks, Herman’s Hermits, the Righteous Brothers, and Jan and Dean.

At graduation, he was awarded a music scholarship to the San Francisco Conservatory, where he met his first wife. Soon he was working clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and this led to a job as percussionist in the 39-piece house band for a club at Lake Tahoe, backing up Neil Sedaka, John Davidson, John Denver, Tony Orlando, and Bernadette Peters, just to name a few.

Despite this outward success, things weren’t so rosy in Ron’s personal life. His marriage came to an end, and soon he was experiencing a lonely life playing in bands on cruise ships.

Songs in the Night

In 1989, Ron met and eventually married a real estate developer named Margie. The following year, he began a five-year role as the drummer for Don Ho, which included playing on his popular TV show.

Ron’s transformation while watching Inspiration Ministries in 2002 seemed highly unlikely at the time. He hadn’t been to church in decades and didn’t even own a Bible. Although he had grown up in a Catholic home, his first wife was a Reformed Jew, so Ron had been a practicing Jew for several years.

After his dramatic conversion, he found himself writing countless songs – something he had never done in his 40 years as a professional musician. Often he received these songs as the result of a supernatural experience with the Lord at night. “I would hear a voice singing and then get up to write down the song,” he explains.

Another Divine Encounter

Despite the great work God was doing in Ron and Margie’s lives, they still weren’t part of a church until another supernatural event occurred. One day when Ron was driving past a church he had often seen before, he unmistakably heard the Lord tell him to pull into the parking lot and go inside.

He wasn’t prepared for what he experienced as he entered the sanctuary. “A fragrance fell from the ceiling as sweet as dozens of bouquets of roses, and I felt God touch my head,” he recalls. Ron found the pastor and told him he hadn’t been in a church in over 20 years.

Not only did Ron and Margie become members of the church, but six months later he applied to attend seminary. He sensed the Lord telling him, “I want you to preach” – something Ron initially resisted.

“I’m a drummer, not a preacher,” he objected. “Put me in a praise band instead!”

However, God persisted, “It’s not about your comfort, Ron. This is what I want you to do.”

So Ron entered seminary at age 55, and he’s been preaching in churches in North Carolina and Hawaii ever since graduation.

Known for gliding easily between the pulpit and his digital piano, Ron’s worship music today maintains stylistic remnants of his performing past. And his sermons have been a big hit as well. As one of his congregates describes, “He uses analogies to the Bible like Hopalong Cassidy, Popeye, and Forest Gump. I’m more excited about church than I’ve been in years!”

No one could have imagined the ripple effect of transformed lives that began on May 20, 2002 at 10 p.m. All because God used an Inspiration Ministries broadcast to make Ron Lee a new man and change his eternal destiny and mission in life.