What a marvelous year 2011 has been so far. I am thrilled to serve God, to be married to my wife Pam, and to be Sarah's dad. At present, Sarah is a legal secretary in Pasadena and deeply involved in our church's ministry, doing more things than you can imagine. Pam is also on the go and not only tutors and substitute teaches in our Christian school several times a week, but is also immersed in a tax preparer's course. Both women impress me no end with their ability to multitask.
I am now 61 years old, so there are adjustments I have made in life. Allow me to mention only two: First, there is the issue of anger. To be angry and sin not is every Christian's goal. More than ever at this stage of my life, I have come to see that the related issue of aggravations and the peace of God is so important an issue for any Christian that steps should be taken to preserve the peace of mind and heart that Jesus gives to His own. To that end, my life has become so much more pleasant now that I restrict my use of the phone to reduce disruptions. Second, with regard to my stamina. I have always thought I was fairly strong and rugged, and able to recover quickly from exertion and illness. However, I have learned that I am past that phase of life, requiring that I pace myself. For a while, I struggled with discouragement in this regard, but now I greatly delight in God's wisdom and graciousness toward me. Also interesting to me, I had not known how much physical pain was involved in the aging process when one is quite active, but I am becoming quite expert. Pam, however, will surely live to be 100, since she seems to me not to have aged in ten years.
January 2011 was a full month, wrapping up an extended meeting at our church (with the Baptist Tabernacle from downtown Los Angeles in attendance) that saw God move to save a number of people. The benefit of extended evangelistic meetings cannot be overestimated, and I am saddened that the use of such means is almost completely missing from churches these days. Nine days after the evangelistic services wrapped up, I boarded a plane for Paris (1), then on to the African city of Bamako, Mali(2), where beloved Brother Ibrahim met me(3). We slept a few hours and then began the long drive to our final destination, which was suddenly interrupted in the middle of the night when we hit a cow in the road(4) and wrecked the car(5). We then waited hours in pitch darkness for another vehicle to come along and hitched a ride to a village where we were met(6) and taken the rest of the way. Once there, I was given opportunity to preach the gospel and teach young preachers in a small Bible college, as well as preach at outlying mission stations(7). The daily schedule was both brutal and invigorating, teaching daily from 7:30-12:00 and 3:00-5:00, and then preaching in the evening. Visiting a country that is 98% Muslim, yet seeing the Lord's work advancing as God's people make use of His Word, and actually meeting those brothers and sisters in Christ, was deeply moving and profoundly beneficial to this preacher(8). Please forgive me for not providing more details concerning names and places, for reasons related to their personal safety. O, the precious souls in need of the gospel(9). My trip to Mali was useful to God to bless my soul.
February 2011 was taken at a slower pace. I took my precious Sarah on a date to the Huntington Library, Gallery & Botanical Gardens(10) in San Marino (the city where Gen. George S. Patton was born and raised). I love going there to see the Gutenberg Bible (first edition), the first Bible printed with a moveable type press. As well, I get a great kick from revisiting the many George Washington portraits hanging in the gallery. Sarah's favorite painting is "Pinkie"(11) at the other end of the hall from mine, "Blue Boy." My daughter is my cherished friend and confidante with a real heart for her dad's ministry. The next day I arranged for some old friends to have lunch in Fillmore, greatly enjoying myself with (l. to r.) Marvin O'Dell, Dave Edwards, me, Roger Willis, Ed Mitchell, George Golden, and Bob Walpole(12). After lunch I drove south through the hills to Simi Valley for a quick visit to the Reagan Presidential Library. Where is President Reagan when his country needs him most?
March 2011 kicked off with our church's annual missions conference. It was a wonderful week. God has blessed us with very good people who do a great job of organizing the various things our church does. Bill Hathaway(13) is a missionary to the Japanese people, is now 81, and is as fervent and energetic for souls as a new convert 1/3 his age(14). At the other end of the spectrum were Dustin and Carla Reinhardt(15), pregnant with her first child (to be named Emma). What a trooper she was, even going to Universal Studios and the Reagan Presidential Library with the three guys (Hathaway, Dustin & me) with nary a complaint(16). Our folks took to Dustin and Carla very quickly and we cobbled together a baby shower for them at the last minute. We were so thrilled when Emma arrived(17). Dustin is the son of Dave and Hope Reinhardt, longtime missionaries to Chile who Pam and I served with at Bethany Baptist Church in Whittier while we were in Bible college. Pam and I always held Dave and Hope in high regard and we are so pleased they are faithfully serving God and that our church is now supporting Dustin and Carla's ministry to Chile. The keynote speaker at our missions conference was Frank Holt, from Fort Worth, Texas, who had served in New Guinea. He did a good job of concluding the conference. Sadly, March closed with loss when Pam's aged mother, Ann Franco, passed and was buried in Salinas after a long illness. Pictured (l. to r.) are Sarah, nephew Jarrad, niece Janice, sister Vivian, cousin Ernie, Pam, nephew Mike, and sister Yvonne(18). You can tell that the sisters are grim at their mother's funeral, while the younger cousins are understandably happy to reunite with each other even on a sad occasion. My mother-in-law had been ill for a long time and her daughters had already grieved in the days leading to her passing. We will always appreciate Suzanne Grey accompanying Sarah and me to San Jose, where Pam was staying with her sister, Yvonne. We are so thankful God gave the sisters quality time with their mom while taking care of her over the last few months. Their Christmas time together, with Sarah cooking Christmas dinner for them all, was tender and memorable.
April 2011 began with me taking our Christian school students to the Reagan Presidential Library. I think their favorite part of the trip was touring the Boeing 707 that served as Air Force One. Our church helped celebrate Dr. R. L. Hymers' 70th birthday(19). Henry Benach, director of Jewish End-Time Ministries came with his wife Sara and preached to our people for the first time(20). Pam and I enjoyed spending time with them both. The month wrapped up with a delightful concert in our church courtesy of The Dartts(21). We are thankful Tracy's health is much improved in answer to many prayers.
May 2011 was memorable for the news just before the evening service on May 1 that Osama bin Laden's life had ended, almost ten years after the attack on September 11, 2001. It was an eerie service, with no one rejoicing over the death of that infamous man. Ileana Hymers spoke at our annual Mothers Day Tea(22). Isaiah Brown preached a good message in our Christian school's chapel and Mike Orlicky was able to be with us for the Sunday evening service on May 29(23). Mike Orlicky was in the church where I first pastored, and I co-officiated his marriage to Julia (along with her dad, Delmer Lawson)(24). He is the founding pastor of Coastside Baptist Church in Half Moon Bay, CA. Mike is a good preacher, a diligent Bible student, and a conscientious pastor.
June 2011 is when our Christian school's graduation took place, with Raffi Chaperian bringing the commencement address. Raffi pastors an Armenian Baptist Church in Laverne that is a mission work of his home church, and both he and his wife have wonderful testimonies of God's grace(25). I turned 61 in June 2011. Pam's birthday was in March. J
July 2011 was a thrilling time for me, especially the first week. I sought and was granted a warm-hearted endorsement from my beloved deacons to fly to London, England to attend the annual School of Theology hosted by Dr Peter Masters at the Metropolitan Tabernacle(26). The church once pastored by Benjamin Keach, John Gill, and Charles H. Spurgeon celebrated their 400th anniversary in November 2010. I was blessed on several levels by attending those services: First, a church with a 400-year uninterrupted history of faithfulness to the gospel is a rarity. Second, the people in the church impressed me by seemingly not attempting to impress anyone. They displayed a spirit of humility and were without pretense. In the best sense of the word, they are a simple congregation who determines to offer Christ to those they encounter, rather than attempting to entertain. Third, they are a very busy people without seeming to rush. Young and old alike struck me as demonstrating commitment to their church's ministry. Fourth, I was able to meet a number of men who had attended the church decades ago as college students from foreign countries in London to obtain graduate degrees, who were then invited to the church and were converted. Now, three decades later, they visited the church where they were introduced to Christ as young men, coming from such places as Beijing, Nepal, and Ethiopia where they pastor churches. Finally, it was the only "preachers meeting" I have ever been to where I was conscious of every speaker delivering a message from God's Word that was profoundly moving on a spiritual level. No flashy personalities were exhibited. No comic routines were performed. With peaceful countenances, each man of God delivered a message from God's Word that had the earmarks of being from the soul of the speaker. I loved it and was blessed by Dr. Masters' hospitality(27).
August 2011 was when my friend Mel Andrews died(28). I think I loved Mel so much because he reminded me of several of my uncles. He was a Marine and it showed. I shall miss him. Melinda Moyer, the office manager at the church, reminded me that I had an airline ticket from several years ago that I had to use or lose, so Pam and I flew to Portland to visit my dad and his wife(29), my aunt Jane(30), my onliest niece Christa and her mom Marlene(31), and cousins Judy and Jeff and their families. One goal of the trip was to interview my very cooperative 86-year old dad who really knows how to recount his life experiences. Imagine a share cropper's son serving in the military during World War Two, getting his high school diploma after serving in the army(32), then going to college on the G. I. bill, with his first job after college being in the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a school teacher on a remote Indian reservation in South Dakota, where he would meet and become friends with the one of the last living survivors of the slaughter of the innocents at Wounded Knee. The stories that man can tell. My brother Greg and I were privileged to grow up listening to those histories. The month ended with a visit by missionary to Greece Takis Korianitis and his daughter Zoe(33). We sure do love that guy and his wife April. August ended and September began with me serving jury duty.
September 2011 began with an all night prayer vigil for our church men and many boys. Church on Sunday nights usually ends around 7:00 PM. The prayer vigil began two hours later and ended at 9:00 AM on Labor Day. The hourly routine was a brief Bible lesson, a season of prayer, and then a short break. We met with God that night and it was great. On Sunday, September 11, we commemorated the tenth anniversary of the attacks. The following week Dr. George Riddell (shown admiring a first edition Gutenberg Bible)(34) preached to us the week before our church's annual PayCheck Sunday offering. God wonderfully blessed our offering despite the terrible economy here in the Los Angeles area.
October 2011 had three highlights. First, there was the Ladies Retreat in Long Beach. Several women in the church approached me about having such a retreat, which I agreed was a good idea. I am so thankful Pat Simmons(35) was able to accept our invitation to speak to our church women. It also enabled us to see her husband Ken(36) and the twins Rachel and Jeremiah. Pat Simmons spoke to the women Thur-Sat and Ken preached wonderfully Sunday AM and PM, and we all had a chance to see how much the kids have grown. The Simmons have now been in Oakland for seven years and we are grateful to have a part in Crossroads Baptist Church in Oakland, CA. Second, we had our annual Roundup Sunday with special music provided by Pastor Dave Shook(37), from the Baptist Church of Redondo Hills, in Redondo Beach, CA. It was a wonderful day; though I remembered at a Roundup Sunday at my first pastorate, I actually wore a real six-gun(38). You sure cannot do that anymore. Third, Pam and I celebrated thirty-six years of marriage on October 18. Wow! We closed out the month at church with our usual Christian Alternative to Halloween for the kids, while I reviewed Martin Luther's 95 Theses to the adults. Though I am a Baptist and not a Protestant, I think it wise to pay homage to God's work through the man's life that changed the face of the Western hemisphere.
November 2011 was very exciting for me. I had the great thrill of attending a weapons training course taught by four Los Angeles Police Department S.W.A.T. commanders. We put 300 rounds through our pistols on a bright and sunny day, learned a great deal about safety and marksmanship, and had a wonderful time. I ended the day burned to a crisp. Our church folks celebrated Thanksgiving with their friends and families. We were thrilled to have Don Noriega with us for Thanksgiving. He was in the church I pastored in Brawley, and he has been attending here in Monrovia for about a year. I am so glad he is here. November was also the month I actually did what I had wanted to do for years. I began oil painting(39). I first saw a friend named Ron's paintings, and then I began watching a fellow paint on television. I gradually became interested enough to try. I have no expectation of ever being any good, but it is so enjoyable an activity for my one day off each week.
December 2011 came in roaring. We went to bed with a windstorm blowing November 30, without our electrical power. About 2:00 AM Thursday we heard a very hard thump that got us out of bed (no one was asleep in our house). I went outside in the howling wind with a flashlight and saw my chimney toppled and laying on its side on the roof. The next day we saw the damage to the roof(40). Thursday December 1 looked like the aftermath of a tornado, so Pam and I went to the Bower's Museum in Santa Ana with James and Zhiming Dunn(41) to see the famous terra cotta soldiers from China(42). A week later, I was able to attend a two-day weapons training school arranged by the same capable company (Tactical Avenues) who conducted the first one I attended. The photo I took (l. to r.) shows Curtis Sanders, C R Rigali, the two instructors, Mike Kim, and David Matsusaka(43). We will close out the year with our annual cantata on Sunday evening December 18 and with our normal schedule of services on Christmas Day and New Years Day.
A tremendous blessing in 2011 has been our frequent communications with our siblings. I have one brother, Greg, who lives and is enjoying great success in his business ventures in Bangkok, Thailand(44). Much to my delight, he calls me once or twice a week to fill me in on his adventures. I am thrilled he is having such a wonderful and fulfilling time. Our dad is also thrilled, and our mother would have been so pleased. How I miss her. Pam and her sister Yvonne are on the phone almost every evening, typically talking for hours thanks to Verizon. Ministering to their mom brought them very close together, and I am so glad. We are looking forward to Yvonne coming down for Christmas with her son, Jarrad, if the United States Army does not object. I want to include a picture of Drew and Matthew, two fellows who help me with my yard work every Monday afternoon after school is out. How I appreciate their energy!(45)
God has blessed wonderfully this year, as He always does. I am so thankful that I can take advantage of this season of life. The Savior seems sweeter with each passing day, the Father shows Himself to be so wise and gracious with each passing day, and the Spirit of God is so very comforting. We love our church and pray that you are blessed in a Christ-exalting and missions-minded church. May God richly bless you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to each of you from Sarah, Pam and John Waldrip(46). Please let us hear from you.
John S. Waldrip