Wednesday night, I announced to our church family that God was leading me to plant a church in Los Angeles county. It was very difficult to stand before people that we have loved and served with for the past 8 years and announce that we were leaving. Yet, we are confident that God is leading us to take this drastic step.
How it Began
In college, one of my roommates, Thomas Ross, encouraged me to pray about planting a church in California. I did start praying, and God opened the door for me to go to California the summer before my senior year. I was convinced then that God was leading me to move to California. After graduation, I served as an assistant pastor at Ambassador Baptist Church in Fresno, CA. At the time, we planned to plant a church out of ABC. God had other plans & redirected us to Arizona.
While serving as an assistant pastor at East Mesa Baptist Church, God led us to replant the First Baptist Church of Miami, Arizona. We’ve seen God do many things over the past 8 years in Miami. Our church has grown from averaging less than 20 on Sunday mornings to averaging in the mid-60s. Several ministries have been established for children, teens, and outreach. Many have been saved and are serving in the ministry.
Growth & Trial in Miami
As the church was established, we considered the amazing way God led us to Miami, Arizona & wondered if this was His plan all along. As many of you already know, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years ago & experienced many physical difficulties. This trying time made us wonder what the future would be like and what ways I would be able to serve as the disease progressed.
God raised up a young man, Derek Wheeland, who was able to come on our church staff and do many things that I was unable to do. Derek was saved, baptized, & called to ministry in our church. He has faithfully labored and trained under my direction. For a while, he was my hands and feet in the work of the church. In December of 2011, he was ordained to the ministry.
My health in the mean time went through some difficult times, but I’m happy to tell everyone that we believe God has completely healed me of MS. Since early 2011, I have been symptom free. My last MRI showed that damaged spots on my spinal cord had completely healed and were no longer visible on the MRI. We thank God for His strength to keep going through a great difficulty and also for the renewed strength to serve Him full time once again.
Los Angeles County
Earlier this year, I began to pray over a list of needy cities in California. God increased a burden on my heart for this state. One area in particular seemed especially needy of good churches. As of the 2010 census, Los Angeles county had a population of 9,818,605, making it the most populous county in the United States. Los Angeles County alone is more populous than 42 individual U.S. states. There are 88 incorporated cities in Los Angeles County & the majority of these do not have an independent Baptist church. There are less than 50 independent Baptist churches in the entire county.
The corridor of I-10 heading east of LA is particularly needy. Two cities on that route are over 100,000 in population but do not have an independent Baptist church: El Monte (113,475) & West Covina (106,098). After much prayer, we decided to take a trip to visit those locations and seek God’s direction. Upon our return, we were sure God was leading us to leave our comforts and step out by faith to plant a church in this area.
If Jesus’ return is further delayed by His great mercy, we hope to spend our lives filling Los Angeles county with faithful, independent Baptist churches.
As of October 1st, we will be hitting the road full time to raise support. We’ll be visiting churches and asking them to help us with prayer and financial support. Our goal is to raise as much as possible throughout next year. By the start of 2014, we’ll be moving to Los Angeles county. Once in the area, we’ll start evangelizing and holding Bible studies in our home. We plan to have our first Sunday morning services in March of 2014.
We will dearly miss our friends and family in Arizona. Our lives have been forever impacted by the good people of First Baptist Church. I’m grateful that Pastor Derek shares the same vision that I have for what God can do in our church. He also is the fruit of that vision. We’ll not cease to pray for God’s hand to work at FBC.
Please pray for us in this big step. There are many uncertainties, but we have full confidence that God will use to impact many more families for His glory in California.