Ross W. Graham
One Sunday afternoon in June 1998, a small group gathered in the home of Frank and Jo Ann Galneder. They were waiting for the fire of Godnot the blessing of the Holy Spirit, but the fire of judgment. Fueling their fears was the question, "Who are we to hold a worship service? No minister was present. No church court had authorized this gathering. But overcoming their hesitation was the conviction that they needed to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
God did send firethe fire of his blessing to consume their sacrifices of praise. As he added others to the group, church affiliation was sought. This led them to the Presbytery of Northern California of the OPC. In March 1999, Reformation Fellowship (now Reformation OPC) was officially received as a mission work.
This growing group was God's answer to prayer. Among those gathering were Lee and Virginia Radtke. While in their early twenties, they had been converted through the ministry of the OPC in Manhattan Beach, California. After moving close to children and grandchildren, they prayed for years for an OP church to be established near them.
There were others praying, too, who were initially outside the group that became Reformation Fellowship. For example, Doug and Diane Arndt had been reading Tabletalk and wanted to be in a church committed to the truths they were learning. So they started praying, asking the Lord to raise up a church committed to the truths of the Reformation. And they kept praying for over five years. What a joy it was for them to see the answer to their prayers one Sunday afternoon when they "happened to drive by the meeting place in Rocklin and see the sign announcing the worship times of Reformation Fellowship!
Olivia Presley, formerly of Trinity OPC in Novato, had been praying for three years for an OP church close to where she was now living.
The group that gathered in June 1998 was the beginning of God's answer to these and many more prayers. Through the labors of Frank Galneder and Steve Terwilliger and the labors of ministers of the presbytery, the group was nurtured. As people learned of the group by word of mouth and by seeing the sign (which is put up on Sundays in front of their meeting location), Reformation Fellowship grew. By the time they welcomed their church planter, P. Michael DeLozier, in October 1999, about seventy-five people had been gathered.
Michael came to the OPC from a PCA pastorate in North Carolina. Raised in a Roman Catholic family, Michael turned to the god of motorcycling, living for speed and pleasure. But his life changed completely after a serious motorcycle accident. He testifies of God's grace: "My life was undone and my wretched heart exposed as my big street bike slid across the hard pavement and crashed into some large boulders. My best friend lay in a hospital bed unconscious and severely injured. The broken motorcycle was an appropriate picture of my broken life. My idol was ruined, but God was doing all this to bring me to himself and reveal his forgiveness and grace. God turned my heart from idols, and I received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
After attending Covenant College, Michael attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
While involved in ministry in the Baltimore, Maryland, area, Michael and his wife, Barbara, came to know and love longtime OP pastor Everett C. DeVelde, Sr. Barbara and Michael had a close relationship with Pastor DeVelde and his wife during the last years of his life.
Michael explored ministry in the OPC in 1990, but that effort did not bear fruit. But then, in February 1999, he attended the Exploring Ministry in the OPC seminar held in La Mesa, California. The OP elders who were present saw good gifts for preaching and ministry in him. His ministerial information form was passed on to the home missions committee of the Presbytery of Northern California, which ultimately called him to be the church planter for Reformation Fellowship OPC. Michael, Barbara, and their children (Janette, 12; Samuel, 8; and Melissa, 6), arrived in Rocklin in October.
Pray for the DeLozier family as Michael cares for the faithful and pursues the lost. Rejoice in God's grace in raising up Reformation OPC.
In the providence of God, people with Reformed convictions began to converge on London, Kentucky, in the fall of 1995. As the first two families met for Bible study, many prayers were offered up to God, asking for the establishment of a Reformed church in their new home. God answered by bringing other Reformed families into this area of southeastern Kentucky. Through a variety of means, the families learned of the Bible study and became part of the group.
Contact was made with regional home missionary Jim Heemstra, living 120 miles away in Maryville, Tennessee. On a Saturday in August 1998, seven families gathered to pepper Jim with questions about the OPC and to discuss church planting. The following day, Jim and Sandy Heemstra worshiped with a group of thirty-three people in one of their homes.
Then in November, Christ Presbyterian Church was received as a mission work of the Presbytery of the South. The session of Sandy Springs Presbyterian Church in Maryville was given oversight of the work. In January 1999, Christ Presbyterian Church was able to move its worship services from private homes to rented space on a former college campus. Mr. Heemstra and Pastor Mark Marquis of Sandy Springs led the worship of Christ Presbyterian Church.
In his wonderful providence, the Lord brought Patrick Ramsey to be the church planter. Patrick, his wife, Rachel, and their children (Sean, 2, and Drew, 1) arrived in London in September 1999. Mr. Ramsey grew up in Canada, is a graduate of Covenant College, and received his Master of Divinity degree from Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. In November, he was ordained by the Presbytery of the South as an evangelist and installed as the church planter for Christ Presbyterian Church.
Patrick grew up in a Christian family, but he did not live a life focused on serving and glorifying Christ. "At Covenant College, he says, "I dramatically grew in my Christian walk. Being immersed in a Christian environment, for the first time, was of tremendous help to me. In his senior year, Mr. Ramsey helped to found and lead the Evangelism Club. Through this experience, he first sensed a call to gospel ministry. After graduation, he worked in a retail store. With his pastor's encouragement, he led Bible studies and was active in other ministry. With his session's endorsement, he headed for Greenville Seminary. While in seminary, he served for a year as a pastoral intern at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia.
Patrick spent much of his younger days engaged in various athletic activities. He has retained his love for sports and enjoys basketball, soccer, skiing, and running. His other interests include books, music, and spending time with his family.
Rachel is an accomplished violinist. She began taking lessons at age two, and began teaching when she was twelve. While living in Savannah, she played with the Savannah Symphony Orchestra. In addition to her love for her children and music, Rachel loves to read.
The Ramseys are laboring to see Christ Presbyterian Church firmly established, with the goal of seeing other OP churches established in the area. It is the only Reformed church within a sixty-five-mile radius. A great need exists for solidly Reformed, Presbyterian churches in southeastern Kentucky. Many of the church's families live in towns near London, and they would like to see churches started in their communities. In the face of many obstacles, Pastor Ramsey and the people of Christ Presbyterian Church take great comfort in the fact that the gospel is the power of God for salvation. They are looking forward with hope to what our Lord has in store for London, Kentucky.
Pray for Mr. Ramsey as he ministers, that the Lord might use him to save many and develop the church.
Sovereign Grace Community Church (Orthodox Presbyterian) welcomed its church planter, Mark Richline, in October. Mark and his wife, Jeni, with their one-year-old daughter, Sabrina, had traveled across the country from New Jersey to California in answer to the Lord's call.
Mark's home church was Calvary Community OPC in Harmony, New Jersey. Through the ministries of pastors Lou Grotenhuis, George Scipione, Don Taws, and Michael Bobick, he grew in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. While a student at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, he served as a summer intern, assisting in the planting of Redeemer OPC in Toms River, New Jersey. After graduation, Mark was a yearlong intern at Church of the Covenant OPC in Hackettstown, under Pastor Ronald Pearce.
Jeni grew up in Calvary OPC in Wildwood. Jeni's dad, Jon Stevenson, is director of the Boardwalk Chapel, an evangelistic ministry of the Presbytery of New Jersey in the resort community of Wildwood. Jeni got to know many pastors and seminarians over the years. During the summer season, a different pastor came each week to minister at the Chapel. On top of that, the Chapel employed three to six seminarians each summer.
Along with Sovereign Grace Community Church, we rejoice over God's preparation of the Richlines for gospel ministry. How we praise God for sending them to this mission work that held its first worship service in October 1998, with thirty-two people present.
Hughson, California, is a small town of 3,600 people, located fifteen miles southeast of Modesto. Almond and walnut groves and vineyards surround this community. As you sit on the patio of the Sante Fe Floral and Coffee House, large fields stretch out in front of you. Many homes outside of town are tucked in among the groves.
Here God gave a group of families a growing desire to become part of a Reformed church. Through one of the families, which had been part of Grace OPC in Modesto years earlier, contact was made with the OPC. In the providence of God, retired OP pastor Salvador Solis and his wife, Amy, were living just eight miles away. Pastor Solis assisted with the ministry until the arrival of the Richlines.
After meeting in the auditorium of the local high school for several months, Sovereign Grace Community Church was able to purchase its own building, right on the main street in the heart of Hughson. A block down the street is Hamilton's Cafe, where the personalized coffee mugs of regulars line a wall.
After a big investment of sweat equity, the congregation has completed renovations to the building, which formerly housed a suite of medical offices. Walls have been removed, new paint applied, and new rugs laid. An attractive, easy-to-read sign has been installed out front.
Pray for the Richlines as they get settled in a new home far from New Jersey. Pray for Mark as he labors in the Word among the congregation and those who are strangers to the covenant of grace. Pray that Sovereign Grace Community Church would be rooted in Christ, established in the faith, and deeply rooted in the community of Hughson.
Ross W. Graham is general secretary of the Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension. Reprinted from New Horizons, March 2000.