Sondra and I returned late last night from a trip to the Bay Area. The annual California Southern Baptist Convention was held Tuesday and Wednesday in Fremont, just south of Oakland.
But first, let me share about last week. A week ago yesterday (Wednesday, October 19), we picked up my brother David from the local Ontario airport. He flew back from Seattle, after spending a week there with his daughter Lisa. It was a wonderful trip for him, especially since he has his passport in hand and is getting ready to move back to Chiapas, Mexico.
Last Thursday evening was a special night of fellowship with old friends. Jim and Sandy Woolard, friends from our church days at First Baptist Church Rialto in the 1970s, live in San Bernardino and came over for dinner. We had a great time of memories and laughter.
On Friday night, we drove over to Highland (about 20 minutes away) to visit our old friends Bobby and Torie Anderson.. They are both college friends when we attended California Baptist College, where I started my freshman year in 1968. Bob truly has been one of my best friends over the years. We did a great many things together, including a six-week backpacking trip across Europe in the summer of 1970.
Bobby's parents (Bob and Velma Anderson) live down the street from Bobby and Torie, so we went to their house to visit. There were two times I lived with Bob and Velma (the parents). The first time was for the month of December 1969 when I dropped out of school. The second time was when Sondra and I returned from Germany in 1973, after I was honorably discharged from the Army. We lived with the Andersons until we bought our first home in Rialto. They are sweet and loving people. Bob (the dad) now has Alzheimer's and has great difficulty with his memory. We were saddened by his condition but delighted to share an evening with all four Andersons!
Saturday was the annual meeting of our Inland Empire Southern Baptist Association. Our Pastor to the Homeless, "Big Jim" Ward, was there with his grand-daughter Hailey to sit at our booth for the Missions Fair. I went to help and sat for a while, sharing with many about our ministry to the poor and disadvantaged homeless at Fairmount Park in Riverside.
"Big Jim" Ward at our Missions Fair booth
Sunday was a busy day with church. There were quite a few who were sick with the flu and some out of town, but we had a good gathering with a great spirit of worship. In the afternoon, Sondra and I took off to pick up Pastor George Nelson in Chatsworth (one of our mission churches in the Los Angeles area). We picked him up and drove to Bakersfield for the evening.
We spent the night with Sondra's brother and his wife (Danny and Marci Langdon). We had a relaxed evening catching up on family news and going to dinner for Chinese food (Great Castle Restaurant on Union Avenue). We woke up early to head out for the Bay Area, as the annual Pastors' Conference began that day (Monday). Pastor George had spent the night at the home of our other mission pastor, Pastor Michael Dotson. Michael is starting the Vision Plus Church of Bakersfield. So, we picked him up and got on Interstate 5, headed north.
After checking into our hotel in Hayward (just a few miles north of Fremont), we ate and then went to the Pastors' Conference. Listening to the preaching and seeing old friends was a delight. Tuesday morning the Pastors' Conference concluded.
The annual State Convention began on Tuesday at 1 pm. It was interesting to see what issues were raised and how the convention continues to move forward to reach people and build churches. The main reason we went was to see the Church Planter Recognition Service at the evening session. There were around 80 pastors of new church starts that were presented one by one. We had several to be proud of -- Pastor Michael Dotson of Bakersfield and Pastor George Nelson of Chatsworth. In addition, Kirk Overstreet (son of my sister Marti) was there as he is starting a new church called Paradigm in Yucaipa, which meets on Saturday evenings. Also, a man (Pastor Abel Galvan) who served with me in two of my churches (29 Palms and San Diego) as a Youth Pastor has begun a new mission church in Anaheim, and he was part of the special ceremony that night.
Pastor Kirk Overstreet of Paradigm, Yucaipa
Pastor Michael Dotson of The Vision Plus Church, Bakersfield
Pastor George Nelson of The Vision Plus Church2, Chatsworth
Galen and Pastor Abel Galvan of Elevation Church, Anaheim
Some long-time friends were there and we spent some time reminiscing the "old days" -- Rick Cunningham from Cal Baptist years, Tom Jones from both Cal Baptist and Golden Gate Seminary days, Robert Hendricks Sr. who is a former pastor of the Rialto church where I was licensed to the ministry. These and many other friends from college and seminary days made the trip special as it brought back special memories of the past years of ministry and education.
On Wednesday (yesterday), I played hooky from the convention (which was to close out at noon). We took Pastor George and Pastor Abel into San Francisco for a sight-seeing day. I will write about it in my next blog.