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Chapter 20. The Desert Church

February 15, 2010

He started the church in 1993, and immediately began to have Revival. Seven were baptized the first week, and the new church continued with baptisms and Holy Ghost in-fillings weekly for well into the second year.

The young pastor was aware of the town’s reputation of being a transient town, yet he felt like that was soon to change. It was also a military town.  A revival however, broke out on the Marine base. Several top ranking men became members of the church.

After renting a building for one year they purchased their present property in November 1994. They soon had a building with an auditorium that was rated to seat 300. The church planned for revival for the next year with great expectations.

At the end of 1995 the church was running a consistent 120-125. A home missions director stated that headquarters wanted to feature the church for Christmas For Christ.

At the conclusion of 1995, there was a very unfortunate moral situation concerning 2 families in the church. The only option for their future was to leave, through a chain of unstoppable events, 5 families got caught up in the fallout and also left.

At the beginning of 1996 some of the military men shipped out. By the end of the year there were none left. In November of 1996, the pastor looked at the remaining remnant and had only solid 15 people! He was violently ill.

He and his wife, along with their infant son moved into a backroom of the church. The finances were gone. They watched night after night as the remnant of the folks would plan to go out to eat. They would make excuses why they couldn’t go.

He would lay down at night, after the lights had gone out and stare at the wall and say to himself, “Just beyond that wall is the ladies restroom.  How low do you have to be to take up residence 6 inches away from the ladies restroom?”

It was during the time of living in this “dungeon” that a woman in the church called the pastor’s wife a “spoiled brat.” Now, imagine this, they were living in a room no bigger than a Sunday School room, eating off a hot plate, using an ice chest and a small refrigerator to keep things cool. They had a very small window A/C unit to combat the insufferable desert heat.

One week all they had was 10lbs of potatoes to eat. They ate potato soup, fried potatoes, baked potatoes and potato tacos until finally their last meal was “potatoes gone rotten.”

Their infant son was very sick with fever. They take turns staying awake to watch him fitfully sleep.

The pastor did construction side jobs to pay the church bills. His wife bought her necessities at the Dollar Store and the Goodwill. (Do you even know what it’s like to even entertain the thought of your wife having to buy her undergarments at a thrift store?) But all this little “old biddy” in the church could say was…”She is just a Spoiled Brat!”

The pastor received a call to preach at an established church that was over 200 miles away.  He excitedly accepted the invitation and waited for the appointed Sunday to arrive.  He got up that Sunday morning and took the last of his money and filled the little blue van with gas and hit the road..

The van made it 60 miles into the desert and had a blowout and then he realized there was no lug wrench. He did find a pair of Vice Grip Pliers. The only way he could accomplish this feat was by sheer desperation to make it to this “thriving” church and possibly receive a much needed offering.

He rolled into the parking lot 10 minutes after the service had started, and ran into the bathroom to wash the grease and grime from his hands. He straitened his tie and went to the platform.

He remembers to this day what he preached that Sunday morning. After service the Pastor took him to a very nice meal and gave him a check.

He thanked him profusely for the offering. After the other pastor drove away, he drove around town a little while until he found a suitable spot and then pulled into the corner of the parking lot and locked the doors and tried to go to sleep.  You see, it was Sunday and the banks wouldn’t be open until 10 o’clock in the morning and the only way he could get back to the dungeon and his precious little family was to cash the $125.00 check .

In all their struggles, they never missed a church payment.

They never questioned whether he was in the will of God!!

They realized they could mope or just bite the bullet and plow!! So they bit the bullet and plowed on.

The pastor would go to church and preach like there were 300 people in that building. He would sing like he was a choir. He would conduct every service with dignity and honor at being in the presence of God.  He never commented on the size of the congregation in a demoralizing light. We would carry on without the crowd as if they had never gone.  He planned events and functions that would only be expected by a church with considerable resources. He was determined not let the devil see his discouragement bleed through into the reality of the situation. He never let the facility go or get run down. It may not be the best, but it would be clean and presentable.

They started a Sunday School promotion in February of 1997 and saw 116 first time visitors. From this group they made contacts that are still members of the church. In 2002, the attendance on a regular Sunday morning was about 160.

God has helped them with 13 building programs in 14 years.

Today The Pentecostal Assembly in Yuma, AZ continues to enjoy the blessings of the Lord under the wonderful leadership of their sacrificing and faithful Pastor Jerry Rowell and his precious wife.

This Is Home Missions!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2010 8:17 am

    Great Article…

  2. Barry Claborn permalink
    February 16, 2010 3:13 pm

    Bro. Ballestero,

    Rob McKee posted this article on FB. I’m grateful he did.
    I’m pastoring again. A small HM work in the Bay Area.
    The challenge is great.
    So are His promises.
    Appreciate the article.
    It hit close to home.
    It spoke to me.

    Thank you!

    -Barry Claborn

  3. January 4, 2011 4:31 pm

    Bro. Ballestero,

    I never heard my Uncle (well, he is actually my cousin) Jerry’s story of starting his church in Yuma. Wow! God has definitely blessed him!!! Thank you for sharing!

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