This past Sunday, November 28, we ordained Darrell Smith to the gospel ministry.
It is a usual practice to have the candidate for ordination share his beliefs, his salvation experience and call to ministry before an ordination council behind closed doors. Thus, if any questions arise as to the necessity to continue the ordination process before the church, it is done in a private setting and causes no embarrassment.
I don't do it the normal way at The Vision Plus Church here. I always spend so much time in talking and "grilling" those who are ready for ordination that I am confident in their readiness to stand before the church body as a whole. So, on this past Sunday morning during the worship hour, we took time to question Darrell Smith openly and at length and to listen to him as he shared his life and understanding of the Scriptures. It was quite evident through his testimony that God has called him specifically to prison ministry. It was a blessed time, as many would comment to me later.
Family and friends were there for the special day.
As a reflection on life and how God brings things to fruition along the way, I have always wondered (and enjoyed) how God would use the various work stations of my life. As I look back at my time at Coronado Stone, it has become more clear why God put me there for those few years. Someone even made the comment this Sunday about how many from Coronado Stone have been ordained in the last five years. There have been five who worked there that we have ordained to the gospel ministry - George Nelson, Jim Lunak, Ed McDowell, Michael Dotson and now Darrell Smith. It is always amazing to see how God uses our relationships and friendships and workplaces to bring about his plan for the ages.
As a sidelight and then another highlight to the wonderful morning, Sondra and her brother Alden were to follow me for lunch after church. We called my brother David, as he had attended church in Fontana where Roger is one of the lead pastors there. We arranged to have David meet us at Cuca's Mexican restaurant in Rialto to eat, with Roger and Julie and family (Jennifer, Daniel and his friend from college) coming along as well for a fun gathering. (Roger's daughter Melissa attends another church in the area and was not able to join us for lunch.)
As I pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant, I saw Greg Freeman and some of his business associates walking in. We had a table set up for us all, as we decided to make it one big lunch group. All totaled, there were eleven of us ready for a good Mexican dinner.
As we sat down, some friends from the past were being seated immediately at the table next to us. The Gonzalez family saw us and we greeted each other and caught up on family news quickly.
In the early 1970s the Gonzalez family was part of the First Southern Baptist Church of Rialto, where Sondra and I attended as a young married couple. It was the church I first worked as a volunteer youth minister, and the church where I was licensed to preach. The Gonzalez family was special and close, as Cesar (the dad) won the California Lottery in the late 1980s and asked me to be on his board of directors for a non-profit organization he founded to use his money to further the gospel in Southern California and Baja California. Cesar also worked at Kaiser Steel during the years I was employed there. In addition, his sister-in-law was married at the Rialto church and this lady's husband reminded me Sunday that I sang at their wedding 36 years ago to the day! Cesar passed away last year due to cancer, but our hearts are still bound together through the years as we see each other from time to time. Sunday, it was like a homecoming day at Cuca's!
We had a wonderful time of eating and sharing with all at both tables. And, to top it off, Greg's business friend ( a man named Danny) was a loving and generous man. He gave his credit card to the waiter prior to ordering and said, "I'll pay for all this table." I went home that afternoon feeling so blessed and happy. God is so good.
One final note: I am a huge San Diego Chargers football team fan! The Chargers punished the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, so I went to bed very happy that night. I know this doesn't sound very spiritual, but my loyalty to San Diego stems from my years of growing up there.