It is once more time for me to beg your indulgence as I attempt to communicate with hundreds in whom I am interested, but who may not be so much interested in me, so that I can clumsily wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year while rehearsing to you some of this year’s blessings at the hand of the Lord without bragging. I do not want to be guilty of what George Washington once wrote about a subordinate: “General Conway’s merit as an officer and his importance in the army exist more in his own imagination than in reality. For it is a maxim with him to leave no service of his own untold, nor to [lack] anything that is to be obtained by importunity.” Objecting to guys who slap themselves on the back, I will try very hard not to do that in this Christmas Newsletter. ☺
I will also try to accomplish three goals in this newsletter: First, I will rehearse events that marked our year as a family and as a church (I will also invite Pam and Sarah to add comments, though they usually read what I have written and decline my invitation to contribute). Next, I will restrain myself from any lofty evaluation of my place in God’s scheme of things, remembering the directive of that famous theologian Sgt. Joe Friday, who said, “Just the facts, ma’am. Just the facts.” Being the pastor of a wonderful New Testament Baptist church is in itself a most satisfying and blessed place of service. Finally, I seek to set before you my barebones recollection of the varieties in my ministry year. Not a Sunday goes by at our church but the gospel is preached to the lost. Thanks be to God for the privilege of serving as pastor here. What is most thrilling and what runs throughout is the great privilege to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ and to observe what Christ predicted long ago actually taking place at present, with the Spirit of God bringing the spiritually dead to life in a variety of places and with unpredictable timing: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so isd every one that is born of the Spirit.” However, the saved need to be ministered to as well, so that the aspect of the Savior’s deliverance that is to be outworked in believer’s lives can be understood and applied. Therefore, study and preparation to feed His sheep continues without interruption. I am so grateful for a congregation of understanding people, who recognize the many limitations of their pastor and step up to do what is needed for this ministry to advance. Thank you, thank you, thank you all at Calvary Road Baptist Church.
I have devoted one paragraph to each month, with a link whenever a photograph is provided. Thank you for coming to the web page as suggested on the Christmas card mailed to you. After you have read as much about my year as suits you, please reciprocate and inform me of your life’s events this past year. Go to the Contact Dr. Waldrip link to email me. Thanks to my little Carlito for making this newsletter possible.
January – The year began with renewed vigor as a consequence of the nutritional and exercise oversight of my brother, Gregory, who spent most of the year with us. It was the most gratifying time with my beloved brother of my entire life and I will cherish it forever. Gregory is shown coaching Pam at the gym, typically making comments like, “Grab hold of that thing like it owes you money.” That girl became a beast in the gym.  We finally replaced our church signs. The City of Monrovia would not allow us to replace the old illuminated signs with new illuminated signs, so we went in another direction.  The second Sunday of the month was memorable because of the visit of Pat and Sherry Coleman, missionaries to Africa.  I think it was the first time Pat had been to our church since his lovely mother passed, and she was on my mind throughout the service. Here is a picture of Pat and his wonderful folks at our church in 2006.  The very next day I took my brother to the world famous Pink’s hotdog stand.  The church observed Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the 20th to reemphasize our opposition to the genocide of abortion.  Monday the 21st was spent shooting with Gregory and friends.  The next day I went shooting again, this time with Sarah and Pam, with good results.  The 28th was my last opportunity to see friend John Wilkerson at the 1st Baptist Church in Long Beach before he assumed the pastorate of 1st Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, with our mutual friend Johnny Pope preaching that night 
February – A week later I attended a SoCal preacher’s goodbye luncheon for John Wilkerson, about an hour after I delivered a chapel message at Pacific Baptist College. There was a good turnout to say goodbye to our gracious and humble friend, to honor a man worthy of honor. A week later I was privileged to fly to Atlanta, Georgia to attend a preachers meeting in nearby Kennesaw, Georgia, hosted by my friend Dr. Vic Bledsoe.  At that meeting Dr Jack Baskin was honored as a man worthy of honor for his many years of committed service to Christ.  I shared a hotel room while there with pastor friend David Coe, from Morgantown, WV.  I was also very glad to spend time with Pam’s nephew, Sgt. Jared Franco, presently serving in the United State Army, Fort Benning.  Of course, one must not pass through the Atlanta area without visiting the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library , the Coca Cola Museum , and the Martin Luther King Memorial and Ebenezer Baptist Church.  A surprise blessing while in Kennesaw was a rendezvous with Facebook friend and former youngster who attended Calvary Road Baptist Church, the obviously now fully grown Greg Burns. 
March – Calvary Road Baptist Church is a missionary Baptist church, by which I mean we are aggressively involved in church planting and supporting men who actually plant churches, both at home and abroad. I had the privilege of traveling to Nepal in March 2012 to preach for Dr Samuel Rai, first introduced to me by Dr Peter Masters in London. After observing some of the fruit of his ministry in Nepal (165 churches founded by him!), I determined to invite him to our 2013 church’s missions conference. God blessed wonderfully and our people quickly grew to love and appreciate him.  I also introduced him to several SoCal pastors who expressed an interest in investing in his church planting ministry and the orphanage and day school for poor children he directs.  Here is one room of boys and their matron at the orphanage in Nepal getting ready for school.  On Palm Sunday, March 24th, I handed out a well-written devotional pamphlet printed by the Trinitarian Bible Society titled “Christ’s Substitutionary Sacrifice: a brief study of the Atonement.” If you would like one to read, contact me by email and I will send it at no cost to you while supplies last.  As you might expect is the case with those who worship the risen Savior, Easter on the 31st was super!
April – I am indebted to Keith Bassham, editor of the Baptist Bible Tribune, for introducing me to Gary Long some years back, which has blossomed into a friendship I cherish. Gary and his wife Suzie live in Springfield, MO, where he pastors the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church and directs the Particular Baptist Press, publisher of many very fine books. Having had the delight to preach to his people several times, I invited him to come to Monrovia to preach and to present wonderful historical materials he has collected related to 19th century English Baptist pastor Charles Spurgeon and hymn writer Isaac Watts to area pastors.  Several weeks later I turned over our midweek time slot to The Dartts, who are always a treat for the folks at Calvary Road Baptist Church. 
Sarah’s Paris Trip – One of the church members, Sophia Malloy, was in Paris, France, in April for work purposes. Sarah met “Aunt Sophia” there and the two spent time together, roaming around Paris, visiting the Louvre, shopping, having lunch on the Eiffel Tower, taking a cooking class and so many other amazing, fun things! I think she has found a new travel buddy; they want to go to Italy next year. Needless to say, Sarah was thrilled about the entire adventure. Following are just a few of the hundreds of photos she took. With Eiffel Tower in background.  In front of the Louvre  Preparing Tomato carpaccio with goat cheese, Fish tartar with fennel and orange and almond raspberry tart at the La Cuisine Paris cooking school.   Seated across from Sophia, who directs the Calvary Road Baptist Church children’s catechism class on Wednesday nights.  Across the Seine River from the Notre Dame Cathedral. 
May – On the first Saturday of May was scheduled our church’s annual Ladies Tea. Of course, as pastor I am solely responsible for selecting those who speak to our people at any gathering, and I occasionally give admirable Christian women their first opportunity to speak outside their home church as a way of investing in the development of godly women. The women of our church were blessed this year by Zoe Korianitis, the daughter of missionaries in Greece Takis and April Korianitis. Zoe is pictured with Pam and Sarah after the Ladies Tea.  One of our church’s favorite friends, a spiritual woman of depth and grace, Pat Simmons, has agreed to speak at our 2014 Ladies Tea, scheduled for May 3rd. Her husband, Pastor Ken Simmons, Crossroads Baptist Church, Oakland, CA will bless us for sure when he preaches for us the very next day.  When I was made aware that my Stockton Baptist Church pastor friend, Steve Kihlthau, was preaching chapel at Pacific Baptist College, I invited him to preach at our midweek service, and he graciously accepted. It warms my heart to see how Brother Kihlthau’s stature as a mature spiritual friend to pastors has grown over the years, along with his passion for starting new churches. What a useful servant of God he is. Pictured with his wife Linda.  The month ended on a very sad note when friend Dr. James O. Combs, Baptist pastor, author, conference speaker, as well as former editor of the Baptist Bible Tribune, who I have known since 1974, was promoted to glory on Memorial Day, May 27th.  I will never forget the first time I met him, in the parking lot of 1st Baptist Church, Costa Mesa, at a preacher’s meeting he hosted featuring speakers M. O. Garner and John Rawlings, also presently singing in glory. What a fellowship meeting of preachers that was.
June – Dr. James O. Combs was memorialized in Springfield, MO on June 4th with a whole host of preacher friends and loved ones from near and far in attendance to comfort his widow, Gerry, and daughter, Charis, and to honor a man who deserved honor. Before the memorial service, I met with Bill Hathaway, missionary to the Japanese, and his then-fiancé Margaret.  I then met Gerry Combs for the first time.  I also met for the first time daughter Charis and her husband.  My heart warmed as I observed those two ladies tenderly comforting others while good friends who had traveled far sought to comfort them. Also present was Lyle Smith from Norwalk, CA.  Keith Bassham and Gary Long attended.  Rick Beck, pastoring in Paducah, KY, looked to Jimmy Combs as a father and Neal Weaver, president of Louisiana Baptist University, was greatly helped by his longtime friend and colleague.  Dr. Weaver wonderfully ministered to the Combs family the night before the memorial service. Also present was my former pastor, Dr. Eli Harju and his sweet wife.  Two weeks later our guests from Georgia, Pastor Victor and Gale Baxter, arrived in Monrovia.  Gale Baxter is a nurse and spoke words of encouragement to several young women in our church considering a career in nursing.  Pastor Baxter is pastoring the startup church in Eastman, Georgia, Trinity Village Baptist Temple, just finishing construction.  One of several tourist stops while they were here was the Huntington Museum to take a look at the Gutenberg Bible.  Here we are, getting ready to walk from my house to the church house on Sunday morning.  On June 16th he delivered the Sunday morning message from God’s Word, and the commencement address at our high school graduation on Sunday evening.  On the 27th of June I boarded a plane for London and the School of Theology hosted by my friend Dr Peter Masters and the Metropolitan Tabernacle. 
July – I love taking the tube from Heathrow Airport into London. After checking into a dormitory room at King’s College and getting some much needed rest, I attended the Sunday services at Metropolitan Tabernacle and heard our good friend Ibrahim ag Mohamed preach for the pastor.  Our church began supporting Brother Ibrahim some years back when he and his family were in Gao, Mali. After the civil war in Mali left them displaced in Europe, God opened the door for him to begin serving at MetTab (as pastors and members there refers to it) where he had previously been trained for the gospel ministry. I think he is the first African to serve as associate pastor in that church’s long history. Before the School of Theology sessions began, Brother Ibrahim and Gosia invited me to their home, arriving just in time to catch their oldest daughter on her way to classes.  The meal was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed their company with their younger daughter.  Having rested in preparation for the School of Theology, Dr Masters seemed relaxed and comfortable as he led the proceedings, introduced the speakers, and spoke himself.  Also in attendance was Mrs. Jill Masters, who has written the material we use in our own Sunday School classes.  Here you see Brother Ibrahim being introduced to speak on the topic of reaching Muslims with the gospel.  Here we see a problem that is familiar to us all.   Once again with Brother Ibrahim, Gosia and their oldest daughter for dinner, this time eating out.  Once the School of Theology was over I connected with Pastor Jared Smith and his wife Elna, giving him a reason to interrupt maintenance work around the church house with his brother.  I also had the opportunity to preach to his wonderful and friendly church people during their Sunday morning service.  Pastor Smith is a grandson of the late well-known American Baptist pastor Jewell Smith. The month ended at home with a visit from our friends Ramzi and Ruth Kammar, missionaries to the Middle East, and their now grown children.  George (left) is in his second year at Johns Hopkins University, with Peter at Bob Jones University. Christy is still deciding where to go to school.  Ramzi invested thirty years developing his Arabic Reference Study Bible, and now has that resource online where it is being accessed by Arabic readers everywhere at http://www.arsbk.com/. Please consider supporting that valuable and strategic website. We began our first Vacation Bible School, five weeknights in a row, from July 29-August 2. What a wonderful opportunity it affords us to reach those not otherwise reachable while providing members with unique opportunities for experience in serving and in leading in various ways.  Vacation Bible School is a marvelous pre-evangelism tool for introducing a whole new segment of the population to the gospel and to our church.
August – After the VBS the month of August was great in another unusual way. We actually had two Men’s Retreats at the Rigali’s Knotty Betty Inn in Wrightwood, CA. This is how it looks now.  This is how it looked during the Young Man Retreat on August 8-10.  Our good friend and missionary to Greece Taki Korianitis was with us the 11th.  The Mature Man Retreat was August 22-24.  I am persuaded that the men and boys who attended these two retreats targeting different aspects of manhood and fatherhood from the different perspectives of young men and mature men will never be the same after what they both learned and experienced. Praise the Lord!
September – The month of September was also a narrowly focused month. Of course, gospel preaching on Sundays is the order of the day throughout the year at our church. After I preached on the 8th I took three young men to 1st Baptist Church, Fillmore, to catch the tail end of longtime friend George Golden and his wife celebrating their anniversary with the church.  George Golden is a man of God who encourages other men of God, and has been a friend to me for thirty-five years. Throughout the month our congregation geared up for our annual PayCheck Sunday offering, which is a big freewill offering at our church. Here is a look at the offering envelopes we use.  Our banquet speaker was Rob Watkins, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, in beautiful Yucca Valley, CA, accompanied by his wife.  Look at the clever way our church’s officer manager, Melinda Moyer, enabled me to arrange seating at the banquet, using each person’s name in attendance.  The church responded as wonderfully as they always have in the past, this time to Pastor Watkins’ message, with a large PayCheck Sunday offering.
October – The month began with Dr. Samuel Rai and his wife passing through on a Wednesday night, but pictured here when I took them to the Aquarium of the Pacific.  Pamela Lucille Franco consented to marry me thirty-eight years ago this month.  On our anniversary, we took a snapshot at home.  Then we went to the Getty Museum for lunch.  Then spent the afternoon at the Griffith Park Observatory.   We wrapped up the day at the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard where we looked at some footprints and watched a movie.   Sarah and friends participated in a color run in Lake Elsinore.   The month concluded with our church’s own approach to October 31st. 
November – A long delayed dinner with Terry and Sherry Cantrell was a delight for Pam and me.  Sarah and I went shooting with Sarah the day before her birthday.  The day after her birthday we went to our favorite Japanese restaurant.  The rest of the month was unusual for me and the church. I think this is the first Thanksgiving that I have been away, preaching in Nepal for Dr. Samuel Rai at his ministry training center.  When not fulfilling his request to expose many of the errors of the Charismatic movement, I was teaching on the grace of God.  I also preached the gospel in the church’s morning worship service.  The annual “Pie at Pastor’s” took place in my absence, with Sarah baking pies for the church folks to eat the night before Thanksgiving following our midweek Bible study and prayer meeting.  Pam and Sarah were invited over to church member Larry and Nancy Arnold’s house for Thanksgiving.   
December – I arrived home from Nepal on December 5th. On the 8th Arjelia Mendez’ brilliant idea to offer free Christmas portrait photographs to all in attendance came to fruition, which was most helpful to bring in a good number of visitors to church. The photo that I took that Sunday is here.  The family photo Arjelia was so kind to shoot is here.  As I prepare this newsletter our church is gearing up for Christmas. The children are preparing to go caroling tomorrow night. The choir is preparing for the cantata performances at several convalescent facilities before their presentation at the church house the evening of the 22nd. I am preparing to teach the little children the night of the 24th at our Pastor’s Christmas Story Time. We will celebrate our Savior’s birth on Christmas day at 10:00 AM. We have scheduled a Watch Night service on the 31st. I trust your Christmas celebration will truly focus on the birth of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ, who is coming again soon.
Thank you who have patiently waded through this entire newsletter. I know it is too long, but God is good, the Savior is unsurpassed, and I could not help myself. I can’t wait for 2014 to see what God has in store for the church where I serve, as well as in our family. Merry Christmas!
2012 - Christmas Newsletter