This past Sunday evening was the memorial service for Pastor Chuck Smith. Since we are 9 hours ahead of our friends and family in SoCal, I was not able to watch the memorial service until the next morning. I can honestly say that I was extremely blessed by the memorial service. No doubt many articles have been written about the service and it is not my aim to write another article or blog post about it, but simply to write down some thoughts that come to my mind about Calvary Chapel.
First introduced to Calvary Chapel
I have been raised in the church along with my three sisters. My mom was faithful to bring us to church every Sunday morning all throughout my life. She was so faithful to read to us the Scriptures and pray with us, even when we were not in the mood to do so. I will never forget my Jr. High years when my mom drove us to school everyday (a 15-20 minute drive), and we would have to take turns reading through a daily devotional for kids. My mom was on mission with us, discipling us, and we were not even aware of it. When I was around 11 years old, my Sunday school teacher, Bruce Marshall, said a statement that would change my life. He said, “Next week bring your Bibles to church, we are going to begin to study them.” It was a simple statement, but it was at that moment that the Holy Spirit got a hold of my heart. I was intrigued. Bring my Bible to church? What a concept. Previously I was just a little punk kid that went to church to hang out with my friends and to cause a little bit of havoc. Well, that following Sunday morning, I brought my Bible with me. Within the next months my mom made a decision for my sisters and I and told us that we would be changing church’s and we would be going to a church that was a lot closer to us. It was called Calvary Chapel Chino Valley. Although this decision was a little harder for my older sisters, I was open to the idea. Originally I went into the youth group, with my bible in hand, ready to study God’s word. But after a few weeks, I asked my mom if I could go with her into the main service because too many of the youth were not really interested and they were really distracting me. She okayed it and I began to sit under Pastor David Rosales for one year. I will never forget that time. My mom bought me a little journal so that I could begin to take notes. I still have that notebook with me today. Pastor David was teaching through the Word and I was trying to keep up with him as I scribbled down notes as fast as I could. It was at this same time that my friends mom, Anne Gluch, began to do a Friday night home bible study for some youth in Chino Hills. Although I lived in Pomona, we were close friends with the Gluch family and so they invited me to come. I faithfully went every Friday night. At this point, I cannot remember how long she had this home bible study, but all that I remember is that I was growing in the word of God and it was a lot of fun. I began to ask my friends, Jeff and Danny Gluch, what church these young people went to, because many of them were interested as well. He told me, “Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.” Shortly after that, I remember asking my mom if we could start attending CCCH because many of these youth were interested in studying the word of God. I am not sure what made her be willing to change churches after such a short time, but she said OK. I was stoked! I was around 12 or 13 years old. At the time there was probably around 20-30 youth involved in the youth group, and this little church was growing and growing fast. Over the next few years I began to grow more and more in the Word, but was completely shy and didn’t really get to know any of the youth, except the Gluch family.
Stepping into the Ministry
A few years later I went on my first 2 week missions trip that was called Root Teen Missions. There were 45 of us that went on this two week trip to CC Boise, Idaho and Crescent City, California. This was the next changing point in my life! My eyes were opened to more of what the Lord could do through those who simply submitted their lives to Christ and made themselves available to His use, no matter how young or old they were. For the next several years I would be heavily involved in my youth group at CCCH. A part of the drama ministry, evangelism ministry, going on many mission trips, and was given the opportunity to teach was I was only 17 years old. My youth pastor, Edmund Coronel Sr. saw something in me that I did not see and God began to change my life more and more.
My Eyes Opened to the World
In September of 1999, I then went on my first international mission trip to St. Petersburg, Russia (19 years old). The Lord completely provided for the trip and allowed me to see more of what He was wanting to do. It was on that two week trip that my eyes were opened to the world. I came back with the following statement heavily impressed upon my heart. “The Word of God has got to get to the world.” I can honestly say that at that point I wanted to be a missionary and so I started to pray in that direction. A few months later, as I was praying more and more for the mission field, the Lord spoke to me through a song by Everybody Duck, called, “Use me here where I am.” He told me to stop praying over the international mission field because He wanted to use me right where I was. A few months later I became the Jr. High pastor at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills. I was 19 years old, almost 20, completely excited and yet terrified at the same time. I had no idea what to do, except to teach the youth the Bible. My pastor, Jack Hibbs, gave me an opportunity, knowing that it was the Lord that was calling me, and allowed me to grow in many different ways, including making mistakes, over the next 9 years. I will never forget my first Calvary Chapel pastors conference in June of 2000 that was held at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It was the only senior pastors conference that they opened to all of the pastors. I remember sitting in the midst of all of these pastors from all over the world and asking the Lord, “What am I doing here?” It was at that moment that the Lord spoke to my heart and said, “I have placed you here. You are right where I want you.” I was completely honored and humbled. After a few years, my heart was once again being stirred to the mission field. Although I knew that the Lord had called me to stay and faithfully serve at CCCH, the mission field was still on my heart. So, with the permission of my pastor, I was able to take the youth to the world over the next many years. Looking back now, how thankful I am to have a pastor who would allow me to step out in faith in many different areas and allow me to grow throughout the entire process. Thank you PastorJack!
Called to the International Mission Field
It was during one of those youth mission trips in the summer of 2006, that the Lord began to stir my heart for Germany and the German people. To be honest, at the time, I was initially praying against it, for I had been on many mission trips and had experience all of the emotional things that many people go through. But this time it was different. The Holy Spirit continued to tug on my heart! This began a two year process of praying alone, praying with my wife, taking steps of faith, and then finally being sent both by the Holy Spirit and our home church to Germany. In September of 2008, my pregnant wife, two daughters, and I moved to Herborn, Germany to help assist in the work that the Lord was doing at Calvary Chapel Herborn. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be serving once again alongside my youth pastor, Edmund Coronel Sr., who is the pastor of CCH. After ministering in Herborn for three years, the Lord was moving us on and it was time to seek Him once again on when and where. It was in August of 2011 that I went to the Missions Conference in Millstatt, Austria. One morning I took the canoe to the middle of the Millstatter See and began to pour out my heart to the Lord. Remembering that original conference back in 2000, I now began to thank the Lord that He had called us as a family to serve such a beautiful people in a beautiful land. I was overwhelmed that He had called us to the work that He is doing through Calvary Chapel here in Europe. By the end of the conference, the Lord had confirmed to me that we would be planting a church in Germany, but the location was still not determined.
A Preparational Season
We packed up all of our stuff and put it in a storage room at CC Herborn and moved back to SoCal for a season. In that time, the Lord would do a deep work of His Spirit in our lives. It was a season that I needed personally, we needed collectively as a family, and a season where God was able to work deeply in my heart and mind. It would last a total of 10 1/2 months in sunny SoCal. We did enjoy it indeed. Throughout that time, the Lord confirmed our call to plant a church and called us to Hamburg, Germany. It was now June of 2012 and I would be attending my first senior pastors conference. Although I hadn’t started the church yet, Brian Brodersen opened the door for me to come and be a part of the conference. Although I had been to many Calvary Chapel Conferences and had heard Pastor Chuck teach many times, I never took the time to go talk with him and introduce myself to him. To be honest, I never knew what I would say. So it was during a free time during the conference that my good friend, Chris Waldrop, who is a fellow pastor/missionary here in Germany, nudged me and said, “Let’s go say hello to Chuck.” Although it was a short conversation, He was truly like so many others have said. He truly intentionally listened with enthusiasm and joy. I told him how we were both missionaries in Germany and how Chris was a pastoring in Münster and how I would be starting a church in the near future in Hamburg. I will never forget the look Pastor Chuck gave me at that moment. He looked at me and said, “Oh really! Hamburg? Wow! That’s great!” I wish I would have asked him a little more about his response, but I never did. Nevertheless, it was an honor to briefly meet him and sit under his teachings for all of these years.
From SoCal to Hamburg
Not only are we as a family taking our steps of faith from SoCal to Hamburg, Germany, but we are a part of a greater movement that once started in SoCal and is now making its first steps into Hamburg. We, as CityLight Hamburg (a Calvary Chapel church), are continuing to take the steps of faith that so many have made before us. I agree with Pastor Bob Coy who said something like, “If I were not a part of Calvary Chapel, I do not think I would be able to do what I have done.” I have never been to bible college, I never went to a seminary, but I have been given the chance like so many others to simply step out in faith, knowing that God has called me, to do something that is way beyond me. I would like to end this post with a few verses out of Zechariah.
“Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” – Zechariah 4:6-7
All that the Lord has done through both the Calvary Chapel movement and in my life personally has simply been a work of His Spirit and His grace! Thankful and humbled by it all.