Resurrection Life Church
- A History - 1977 to 2005
We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come!
As we stop to look at photos of the past 25 years of Resurrection Life Church, we begin to realize in a new way that God really has been doing great things among us, despite the fact that we have always been a relatively small group and that the trials we go through day to day have perhaps tended to cloud our awareness of God’s greatness in us and His glorious work He has and is doing through us. Great to be a part of it! We will not live in the past, but we can pause to bless the Lord Jesus for all that He has done. And this opportunity to pause and consider will encourage us to press on ahead unto that great day of Jesus Christ. Those veterans who have always been with this church know its history so well. As all things in life, it has made a lasting and meaningful impression. For those who are relatively new to the church, our anniversary can be a great opportunity to discover our roots, our purpose, our trials we have experienced, and the desires of our hearts for Jesus. So, onward, brethren!
Resurrection Life Church was born as Antioch Community Church in 1977, and Antioch was born in much heartache and prayer and blessing and hunger for life and reality in Jesus. The heartache came from a small group of people, perhaps two dozen in all, being turned out of another church. The leadership of that first church had gradually embraced the repressive teachings of the Covenant Discipleship/Shepherding movement – all the leadership, that is, except one of the two co-pastors, Jim Kerwin. On the last Sunday in August, in a difficult, but polite and unrancorous Sunday meeting, the majority of the church declared its allegiance to the Movement. But those of us who refused to go along were asked to leave and did so. And that’s when the prayer life of Antioch really started. Meeting several times a week – Sundays at the Women’s Club on 18th Street in Costa Mesa, and during the week at Jim & Denise’s home, the thunderstruck saints began to seek the Lord and His will for them. There was never an assumption that He would ask us to become a church. We were open to His leading, even if it meant that we should all disperse to other churches in the area.
But after three weeks it was clear that a new church was precisely what the Holy Spirit had in mind. Jim and Denise went away during the week to Oak Glen Pines Christian Camp and Conference Center to fast and seek the Lord. It was during that week that the burden for prayer, solid, deep teaching, and missions was made clear. The name Antioch came from the Lord that same week and the appropriateness to the burden was clear. The historical pre-Christian city of Antioch in present-day Turkey was notorious in a sinful heathen world for its sin and wild lifestyles – not a lot different from how much of the rest of the country sees Southern California. And yet the original church in Antioch in present-day Turkey became second only to Jerusalem in its spiritual influence in the early church. It was known for its leadership’s ministry to the Lord, as a sending center for missionaries, and as a place where prominent prophets and teachers gave forth the word of God. Our church in Costa Mesa unanimously recognized the burden and the name as theirs, and a new church was born.
October saw three main events. Firstly, we set about to incorporate. Secondly, we began to meet Sunday mornings at the Kerwins’ home on Center Street in Costa Mesa. Lastly, Jim heard and fellowshipped with a dear elder brother and preacher named Mr. North from England, and realized the kindredness of spirit. Future visits from Mr. North, Bernard Hull, Norman Meeten, David Weatherly, etc., all sprang from this important weekend.
November saw the completion of the legalities of our incorporation. It also saw the continuation of a special time of healings in our midst. The most remarkable and medically-verifiable healing I can remember was that of a woman who had been diagnosed with uterine cancer. At her request, we went to her house to pray, thinking that she had the flu. When she told us the diagnosis, I specifically remember feeling all of my faith being sucked down a drain. The others present felt the same way. But that’s the point – it was our faith, not God’s. Rather than charge into some formulaic prayer time, in our emptiness and helplessness we waited on God, to know His leading. After about 30 minutes of quiet waiting and worship, we experienced a wonderful visitation from the Lord and the operation of the gift of faith. Several days later, tests and x-rays revealed that the tumor, which had been a large one, was completely gone.
Early in 1978 we leased rooms and began having Sunday meetings in another facility in Costa Mesa. The church continued to grow, with 60-70 adults meeting with us on Sunday mornings. This year also saw the start of monthly missions meetings. One Sunday night per month, we invited representatives to speak to us. We had determined from the outset that we would give at least 10% of the church’s gross income for missions. Some of the groups who visited over the years included Slavic Gospel Association, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Jews for Jesus, World M.A.P., Underground Evangelism, O.M.S., and Christian Nationals Evangelism Commission (CNEC). Through this group, we supported a Kenyan evangelist named Wellington Mulwa for many years. Kenya was much on our hearts because for a year we helped a Kenyan national, Rhoda Osuka, and her children in resolving a host of legal problems, finally aiding her in returning from the States to her homeland.
In the summer of 1978, one of our home groups became the core of a team that moved to Lewiston, California to plant a church that became Lewiston Christian Fellowship. Dan Murphy, a recent graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary, his wife Julianne and their children with others all ventured north to the new work. During the same summer we aided Pastor Tim Dickson and his wife Veralyn in their first steps to form a church in the Wrightwood, California area.
Many things took place during the next years. In 1981, with a lot of prayer, planning, and teamwork by virtually everyone in the church, we had a huge (well, for us, anyway) outreach at the new community building in Costa Mesa Lion’s Park on May 23rd. We showed the animated version of C.S. Lewis’s classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Over two hundred were in attendance. Jim and Warren Dayton wrote and designed a special tract for the occasion, Your Ticket to Narnia and Beyond. Several people began to attend the church as a result of the outreach. And in December of that year, Pastor Percy Gutteridge was able to come and minister to us.
Not everything was “serious, spiritual stuff.” We knew how to have fun, too. Back in 1978, elder Steve Bryson inaugurated the annual Antioch Mini-Golf Tournament. It was a rowdy, fun, event (so writes the former pastor, at least back when he was the three-peat champion). And, December saw the golfing world turned upside down by the Fourth Antioch Community Church Open!
John Tyler, one of the elder brothers in the church, died quite unexpectedly in January of 1983. His death was a blow to all of us, especially the church children, to whom he was, in a very loving sense, “Grandpa.” The memorial service for him, on January 26th was the most glorious, God-is-sovereignly-present meeting some have ever attended. Not only did all of Antioch turn out, but many members of the old church also came, and there was a glorious unity given to all that day.
Memorial Day weekend marked a public outreach of a different sort. The Lord led us to have public meetings, held in the Mesa Verde Learning Center. Our Conference on Holiness wasn’t a great success in terms of numbers, but affected many in a wonderful way.
In one way, the year ended as it started. One of our youngest members, Meri Cooley, daughter of Warren and Kathy Cooley, died due to complications related to Downs Syndrome. As small and young as she was, Meri had been a teacher to many of us, as members of the church laid down their lives to work with her and her parents on Meri’s physical therapy and many needs.
1985 was the year of big changes. Jim arrived from India early in January, and by this time he and Denise had a sense that God was moving them on. Words of confirmation to that effect were brought in a timely way by Bernard Hull, and, later, Percy Gutteridge. Jim spent another week at Berean in Georgia, seeking (and receiving) more confirmation that this is where the Lord would move them. Richard and Kathy Porowski visited from Illinois, exploring the Lord’s will about moving out to pastor Antioch. The Kerwins celebrated their daughter Becky’s birthday on November 16th during a final get-together with the church, and then headed off into the sunset. (Well, technically, that’s not possible, because it was evening and they were driving east.)
A Change in Leadership
1986 was a transition year for Resurrection Life Church. The Kerwins had been involved with the church from its beginning. Jim had faithfully lead the work. But he had been sensing for some time that it was time to move on from southern California. While the Lord was stirring the hearts of the Kerwins, He was also preparing His replacements in the far-off land of Illinois. Kathy and I were born and raised in Illinois. We were born again of the Spirit there, and became dedicated to the Lord’s work in New Life Christian Fellowship that was based in a couple of small towns outside of Chicago, first in Rolling Meadows and then in Palatine. In 1978 I was made an elder of the church, and continued in that role during our days in Illinois.
Sensing from the Lord that it was time to move on, we sought God about where. In the wonderful timing of the Lord, Bernard Hull, who often visited the church in Palatine, came again in 1985. In talking to him about our situation, he commented that he was aware of a situation that might be a perfect fit, but he did not want to mention where at that point in time. One of his stops after leaving Palatine was Antioch Community Church in Costa Mesa, California. Unbeknown to us was the fact that God was speaking to the Kerwin's hearts about moving on, and they were wondering how the Lord would provide leadership for the church. Without Bernard saying a thing about it, Jim shared his heart with him about the whole matter. After they talked, Bernard called us and told us of the possibility. Feeling right in our hearts about a visit to California, and after talking with some of the people here in the church, we came out for a week. We had an excellent time together, but, not wanting to crowd the Kerwins at all, we felt that if the Kerwins moved on, we would be very happy to come.
From that point things moved quickly. The Kerwins made their decision, we got a letter inviting us to come, we said yes, I came out in early December to look for a job and a place for my family and me to live, and… in January of 1986 we arrived in Costa Mesa with our two young girls Christy and Kim! Wow! California! We have always believed, and saw it proven again, that where God sends His people He provides for them. And we can look back on those days knowing that God was in the whole thing, considering the amazing timing of things, and Bernard’s key input. It was a brand new situation for us and for the church. We began having the church meetings at our home, meeting on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, as the church had been doing for some time. It was a big change for most of us, and for many the time of adjustment would last for two or three years. There were many times easy and wonderful, and some hard and difficult. The Kerwins were sadly missed by many, and we were just as sadly missed in New Life Christian Fellowship back in Palatine, Illinois. Yet it was also an exciting time for the church here as we pressed on with the Lord, fellowshipping in the truth we love, and all-out to reach the lost for Jesus.
Sandy Robertson, the pastor of Stouffville Christian Fellowship in Stouffville, Ontario, who had known Kathy and me for nine years, came to visit in that first month when we arrived in our new place. That marked the beginning of a great friendship between Sandy and his wife Beth and our church, one that has continued in a wonderful way through the years. With our arrival also came visits from other brothers and sisters we knew, which brought a freshness of ministry and interaction among brethren, something that often happens with the change of pastors and their families.
Bernard Hull, who had already visited the church many times, came in April for a precious visit with us. He was used of the Lord to encourage us all during the time of transition we were going through. In June Fred Tomlinson, another dear brother that we knew, came for the first time to Costa Mesa. At that time Fred was the pastor of Mississauga Christian Fellowship in Mississauga, Ontario, not too far from Stouffville where Sandy lived. Fred was much used of the Lord for the establishment of several churches in that area, including the Stouffville church. He had also contributed much to the growth of New Life Christian Fellowship in Illinois where we had been planted before coming to California. And early on in the life of the church, back in March of 1977 I was born again under his ministry, with all thanks and praise to the Lord Jesus.
In May of that year the church had a retreat up at a place near Big Bear named Pinecrest. We had a great time together eating meals and doing some hiking and so on. We all had a good time of fellowship together, and in many ways a new personality or identity was developing among us. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that, in August of 1986, the church changed its name to Costa Mesa Christian Fellowship.
Also in 1986 Percy Gutteridge, who had been involved from time to time with our church in years past, came and ministered one evening on "the Word." Some of us can remember his unique and interesting way of teaching from the scriptures.
Reaching Out to Colima and Other Churches
It is amazing the way Jesus moves in the world, linking individuals and churches both near and far. We know that His desire is always to knit brethren together in fellowship that is close and rich and blessed. In September of 1986 Wayne Leffler and I traveled to Colima, Mexico, to visit Javier Bravo, his family, and the little church that was meeting in his home. It was the beginning of a close relationship between our two churches that has lasted until this day.
Colima is the old provincial Spanish capital of the state of Colima. It has a large population, a beautiful central park, and is relatively untouched by the tourist trade. Javier has been a professor of linguistics at the University of Colima for many years, and has been used of the Lord Jesus to lead students and teachers to Him.
It has always been on our hearts as a church, ever since its inception, to reach out to other parts of the world. The link with Javier existed before we came. Jim Kerwin had visited him and his family sometime before 1986. I got linked with Javier through Sandy, who had traveled to Colima to see him in January before visiting us. After Javier invited me to visit, I took advantage of the opportunity to continue the link between Javier's church and ours. The weather in Colima is hot, there are scorpions and mosquitoes and other things to contend with, but the trip was well worth it! Javier and his family and church are dear brethren, most of whom speak both Spanish and English.
In October of 1986 we had another visit from Fred Tomlinson. Then in November Dave Medlock of Reading, England, came for a visit on his way to Colima to see Javier and the brethren. Javier and Elenita met Dave in Reading some years earlier when the Bravos were living there. Javier was there to earn his doctorate in linguistics. With hearts longing to know Jesus and to experience freedom from sin, Javier and Elenita were graciously led by the Lord to the Reading Fellowship and to Dave the pastor, who were all instrumental in leading both Javier and his wife Elenita to the Lord.
The Link with Many Fellowships
Our church is linked with many, many churches throughout the world. The links these churches have made have been formed in a myriad of ways. Back in the 1960's, a dear man of God named George North, who we have always affectionately referred to as Mr. North, was used of the Lord in the growth of a large house church in Liverpool, England under the charge of Norman Meeten. At that time God was moving in many places throughout the world. This move of God also reached down and affected even our little lives. Regarding the churches we are linked with, links upon links began to be made among people and churches, first in England, and soon with churches and contacts in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. Though things have changed and evolved, Mr. North was certainly seen in those early days as a father figure in the particular work with which we are linked, and rightfully so, because his ministry was so blessed of God. He preached with fire, with love, with authority about holiness, purity of heart, and the knowledge of God, and he had a wonderful grasp of the workings of the new birth and new life of God in man. He was and is so tremendously respected for both his life and his words. Men and women that many of us have known such as Norman and Jenny Meeten, Bernard and Hazel Hull, dear Dave Wetherley who has gone to be with the Lord, Fred and Shiela Tomlinson, Roger and Pam Shuttleworth, Sandy and Beth Robertson, Paul and Lesley Evans, and so on and so on were born under Mr. North's ministry or greatly affected by it. And to this day, if you travel to England, or Germany, or France, or Italy, Scotland, Wales, China, Australia, Africa, the United States, or most any other place, we can point you to a church where you will find the same deep life of God and the precious Spirit that we drink of.
Before our arrival in California, Mr. North had already come several times to the church. When we came, we wanted to encourage an even clearer, stronger link with Mr. North and the fellowships. The wonderful ministry of these people reached us in Illinois in an interesting way, and consequently in a greater way in the church in Costa Mesa. Back in the 1960’s, Fred Tomlinson was born of the Spirit into the Devonshire Road Christian Fellowship in Liverpool, England, when Norman was the leading elder and Mr. North lived close by, ministering weekly to the brethren. As time went by, and because of faithfulness to the Lord Jesus in his walk, Fred was brought into eldership. After some years Fred and his family responded to the call of God and moved to Ontario, Canada, and eventually established the Stouffville Christian Fellowship. God moved radically there in the lives of many people like Sandy and Beth Robertson. Meanwhile, a young man named Doug Abel, through a series of events, had gotten involved in the fellowship in Liverpool and had met Fred. Later Doug needed to return to his home in Illinois. So it was natural that the link should continue in America between Doug and men like Dave Wetherley and Fred. Mr. North came down to Palatine, Illinois in 1976, and Fred in 1977. And there, by the grace of God, Kathy heard the precious ministry of Mr. North in '76 and I heard Fred’s in March of '77.
So, how intricately the Lord moves, how planned out are His ways, and how wonderfully He allows us all to be a part of it in some way or other! So in December of 1986, as had been customary for many years, there was a leader's gathering in Mississauga representing churches in North America linked together in the manner already described. Javier, who had come up to visit us in Costa Mesa, and I went together. Represented were brothers from churches in Stouffville and Mississauga in Canada; Minneota, Minnesota; Rolling Meadows, Illinois; Costa Mesa, California; and Colima, Mexico. That gathering, as similar gatherings before and since, was tremendous in many ways. Though the churches have been small by today's standards, God has blessed us all in so many wonderful ways. As William Penn of the early Society of Friends would often quote, we are "as unknown, and yet well known…" (2 Corinthians 6:9).
The Ongoing Work
The year 1987 saw Fred and Shiela Tomlinson visiting our church twice, Sandy and Beth Robertson visiting us twice, and Norman Meeten visiting us for the first time. I was able to continue the contact with Javier and the brethren in Colima, visiting there twice, once with a brother from New Life Christian Fellowship in Palatine, Illinois named John Sinclair. And in that year, Wayne and Jenny Crossley of our church had the privilege of going to Perth, Australia, for six months to be with Bernard and Hazel Hull and the church there. Bernard and his family had recently moved there to pastor a church. On the home front we began meeting as a church in Orange Coast College in April of 1987. As a church we had the desire of becoming more visible to the community and sought to reach out by moving to a public place to meet. Also in December there was another leader's gathering in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
In 1988 we had visits from Fred Tomlinson and Sandy Robertson. I was able to visit Colima again in April. And in May Kathy and I and our girls moved to Santa Ana to a house we would rent for eleven years. The church began meeting there in our large living room shortly after our move. Later that May there was a men's conference hosted by New Life Christian Fellowship in Illinois. It was a great time when about fifty men gathered for several days. On the Sunday morning we gathered with the whole New Life church. God moved in great ways there, in ways we will never forget. John Norris and Roger Shuttleworth, among others, brought ministry.
In 1989 we had visits from Fred Tomlinson, Sandy Robertson, Norman Meeten, and Javier and Elenita Bravo. I visited Colima again, and also began to visit a Hispanic church in Los Angeles named Centro Misión Belén, which means Bethlehem Central Mission. This link came through Javier Bravo, through whom we had the opportunity to meet Otoniel Ayala, the faithful El Salvadorian brother who has pastored Centro Misión Belén for about thirteen years now. Since that time, many of the brethren in our church have visited there and the link we have between the churches has grown year by year. Since then I have been visiting Centro Misión Belén once a month or so.
In August we began to meet at Rancho Santiago College, now called Santa Ana College, again having the desire to reach out more to the community. In September we had the pleasure of the Robertsons joining us for a special retreat up in the mountains at Big Bear. We'll never forget the basketball games where Sandy jammed his finger (ouch!); the kid’s ministry where they decked themselves out in the armor of the Spirit; and the ministry in the main meetings which was deep.
In April of 1990 our dear brother Wayne Crossley was brought into eldership in the church. More and more Wayne ministered and taught the things of God in the church with much insight. It was good to have him in leadership, and was a clear and natural fit.
In May, friends that some of us had known in England named Paul and Lesley Evans came for a visit with their son Jonathon on their way to Malawi where they were going to live and minister as missionaries. Soon after they headed on to Africa, our church decided to give to them monthly for their work. Through the years we have been able to give money to help in many situations: to the poor, to missionaries, to ministries, to brethren in our church, and so on. We have seen both the privilege and responsibility of giving. God has blessed us.
Having been blessed so much at the retreat at Big Bear the year before, we organized an all-out conference for August of 1990. It was great. We met at Christ College in Irvine, California. We rented a meeting room for a series of daily meetings, used the cafeteria for meals, and roomed overnight on the campus. Brethren came not only from all over America, but from Canada, England and Australia as well. The fellowship was wonderful. Bernard Hull and Sandy Robertson were the speakers.
In November of that year Javier Bravo and I had the privilege of visiting churches and brethren in Guatemala for the first time. I had been invited to visit Guatemala to preach by a pastor from Guatemala named Natanael Lemus who was visiting Otoniel's church in Los Angeles. It was the clear call of God to my heart. The visit was blessed, and it became the first of many times that various brethren from our church as well as from other churches have been able to go there.
Also in November while Javier and I were gone, Cyril and Gabrielle Thomas of England paid our church a visit. They lead a work called Caring for China. We got linked with them through Norman Meeten. They were able to share with our church their vision for Caring for China: recruiting Christian English teachers for placement in Chinese universities in order to open up opportunities for the sharing of the gospel. Their organization has transformed through the years, now including a tremendous work with orphanages and medical care. We have enjoyed a very good friendship with them since their first visit. Interestingly, in that first visit a young man named David Sutton of Ireland attended. He responded in his heart to the call of God, went to China to teach, and ended up meeting and marrying the Thomas’s daughter Sian!
In August of 1991 we again had a conference at Christ College, where God blessed us and moved in our hearts. Bernard and Sandy were the speakers. In October Norman visited us again, and in the same month Javier and I were able to minister down in Guatemala.
In February of 1992 our church hosted a gathering of the leaders of the North American churches we were linked with. It was a special time, worthwhile in so many ways. In the Sunday morning meeting it was wonderful to hear from the different men who visited. And none of us can ever forget the leaders singing 103 in the Redemption Hymnal, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.” It is amazing how something like that can make such impact upon our hearts! Also in 1992 I was able to visit Colima again, and Wayne Crossley and Warren Cooley were also able to go later in the year.
Around this time the Lord blessed us with contact with a dear bunch of brethren, many of whom lived in Huntington Beach. We affectionately began to refer to them as the “beach people.” They began coming to our meetings and the Lord blessed us all. In September some of us in the church began a Friday night question-and-answer time at Darren and Elaine Stein’s home. We had many stimulating discussions at their home, as well as on many other occasions, and many of them were part of our church for a while. The meetings at the Stein’s home came to a natural end around March, 1993. We trust that not only they, but all of those who have had contact with us, will go on with God and be all the richer for the times we had together.
The next few years were full of visits from dear brethren from near and far, as well as the sending out of brethren from our church to minister in other places. The Robertsons visited us many times, as did the Hulls and Meetens. We were privileged to have Mr. North and Cyril and Gabrielle Thomas come out this way several times as well. In 1994 the Shuttleworths began visiting from time to time, as did the Thomas's. We had several precious conferences with Bernard Hull as the main speaker. And we had opportunities to travel to Guatemala, Colima, Calgary, Edmonton, and Tijuana to preach the gospel.
In July of 1994 our church created a full-color flyer introducing our church to the community. We took a bunch of weekends to pass them out by hand to most of our immediate area. Before and since, our church has done many things at many times to reach out with the Gospel. We have written tracts; we have made banners; we have gone to the beach and many other places to preach in the open air and sing our hearts out to Jesus; we have put on children's plays in the parks; we have had church gatherings in the park; we have witnessed door to door among the rich and the poor; we have helped and housed the homeless; we have shown Christian movies at Orange Coast College on Friday nights; and through thick and thin we have been blessed, and trust that many have heard the Gospel.
A Big Change, and an Almost Big Change
1996 saw some new developments in the church. One was the announcement Kathy and I made that we were very close to making a decision to move as a family to Guatemala to a situation that, at the time, seemed quite workable and right. The other was the announcement by the Crossleys that they were moving to England. What a double blow to the church! But as the Crossley's plans to move became more set, Kathy and my plans seemed to change. The situation with a family and an orphanage that we hoped to link up with in Guatemala came to naught. Despite our desire to go, we backed off, sensing that the timing of the Lord was not clear to us. And with the move of the Crossleys, who had been such a wonderful and important strength and blessing to the church, we felt that it would be best to stay for the time being and lead the church. So in August our church said goodbye to the Crossleys, and with sadness saw them off.
But the timing of the Lord is always perfect, yet not always seen until He opens up the next step to us! During the summer of 1996 the Lord began to put on some of our hearts the possibility of renting rooms at Westport Christian Academy in south Santa Ana, where one of our members, Brenda LaBrousse (at that time Brenda Hamlin) was director. As our custom has always been in deciding such matters, this possibility was brought before the church in a business meeting, and it was unanimously agreed to begin meeting there. What a blessing it was, despite the hard work, to fix up some rooms at the school and the area around it for meetings. We did a lot of work at that time: painting, cleaning, clearing out the area behind the building, making signs, and so on. It was a great time. It marked a fresh beginning for us all, so that, despite the disappointment of seeing the Crossleys leave, we could rejoice in God in us and with us.
So from then on until December of 1999 we met there faithfully, having outreaches, setting up a youth group for a season, and growing together as a church. Visits from the Robertsons, Thomas’s, Meetens, Hulls, and Shuttleworths, among others, continued. We continued our trips to Colima, Guatemala, Tijuana, Canada, and new places in Guerrero, Mexico. We made a new link with a church in Santa Ana named El Camino and its pastor Sigifredo Ponce. We have had interaction with them on several occasions since that time.
A Fresh Heart-cry for Reality
But as time went on, a lull seemed to creep into the church. Some brethren left the church. Our outreach to the Hispanic community where the Westport Christian Academy is located seemed to come to naught. Very few brethren were attending the Thursday evening meetings. So with the lack of a sense of moving forward, the ministry also became affected. Sunday morning meetings were still good, but not like we felt they could be. Consequently the school seemed to become too big for us.
In December we had a business meeting that has, with hindsight, turned out to be a very vital one in the life of our church. I shared with the brethren some of my frustrations, and they shared some of theirs. I suggested that we take a month or two off as a church to visit other churches, something I had been longing to do given our present situation. I also shared of misgivings I had of myself as pastor of the church, and felt unclear about my abilities or desire to lead the work. Another factor was that Sandy and Beth Robertson for sometime had indicated that they might move down from Calgary to stand with us and be involved with our church. As time went on, however, the call of God upon their lives became clear to move to Florida instead. Some of us wondered how this would affect our church.
But the church with one voice communicated the commitment they had in their heart and life to the work we were all involved with, and said they had no desire to go anywhere else. They also communicated the fact that they were behind me and backed me as the leader of the church. We who were there can point back to that time as a real turning point for us as a church. All the brethren including myself were encouraged to go on afresh. We faced some things about ourselves as a church: our strong points, our weak points, our identity, and so on. We realized in a fresh way that we are a close-knit group who love each other because of the love of God in us. We decided to stop meeting at Westport Christian Academy and to begin meeting in homes: the Sinclair’s on Thursdays, the Minarik’s on the weekend for prayer meetings, and at our home on Sunday mornings. We still had the desire and intention to see our church grow, but felt in a fresh way that there was no need to push it unnaturally. We were cast on God in a fresh way, full of new hope and expectation. It is significant to note that soon after that meeting we began to see the Lord adding to us. In August of the next year, 1999, we began meeting in the house that Kathy, my mom and I had bought on Clemensen Avenue, not far from the house we had rented on 15th Street for so many years.
The Expansion of Our Vision and Ministry
Since that time our church has become more involved in several works. In April of 2001, Noel Holly and Kathy Porowski became part of the U.S. branch of Caring for China, Noel as one of the board members, and Kathy as the U.S. coordinator of recruitment. Kathy and I also had the opportunity in February of 2002 to go to China for two weeks to observe first-hand what God was doing in and through Caring for China. Not long after that visit, our church began to give money to the orphanage in Hanzhong, a work several hundred miles southwest of Xi’an, where Caring for China is based.
In January of 2002, after several years of communication and visits with brethren in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Misión Vida de Resurrección (Resurrection Life Mission) was formally set up to act as a covering for some churches there. Dave Minarik and I enjoyed the opportunity to travel there in August to see how things were going and to help in the furtherance of the Misión. Otoniel Ayala from the Iglesia Belén in Los Angeles, who is one of the three board members along with Sandy Robertson and I, went with. He has been a tremendous help in the development of the Misión. The Misión was formed at the request of the brethren in Quetzaltenango because of their desire to have a spiritual covering, to receive help financially, and to have better credibility with the government. Several other churches there in Guatemala are considering linking up with us as well. Involvement with these works has helped to define for us who we are and what God’s will is for our church.
One other item of interest that has helped us in a fresh way to see who we are and what is important and dear to us: We have for some time been considering where we might meet on Sunday mornings. God is graciously adding to us, and we are at times getting too big to meet in our home. In 2001, at a point when we were looking a bit for possible meeting places, Kathy came across an ad in the Christian Marketplace stating that a church desired to merge with another church because of their smallness and because of discouragement among them. After a week or so I called, only to see about the possibility of renting their facility for our Sunday meetings. But after several discussions with brethren in their church, and after bringing it before the brethren in our church, we decided to visit one Sunday. Subsequently there were several meetings between us and some of their church, Faith Community Church. The interaction was good, but communication gradually ended with their church deciding to bring in a new pastor and continue as a church without merging with another. There are often differences among churches, differences that can be worked out through selfless love and patience. But some differences between us appeared irreconcilable, and several things became clear to us. One, we do not want to become part of a denomination, believing that it is not the Lord’s way. Two, we treasure our spontaneous, open meetings and do not want to go backwards to having everything led from the front of the meeting. We believe the scripture that “everyone of you has… “ (I Corinthians 14:26). Three, we are pleased to have the opportunity to sing many different kinds of Christian songs, including the precious hymns from days of old.
We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come!
And so we rejoice at this point in time, having had the opportunity to enjoy the 25th anniversary of Resurrection Life Church as well as several years beyond. Though small compared to so many churches in this day and age, we are thrilled with what God has done, and as the song goes, “We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come!”
Richard Porowski, with contributions from Jim