My Story
About the Sovereignty of God

That He Is All Powerful
in Complete Control
of the Affairs of History
I recently read the book, Jesus Revolution by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn. I was riveted by the book because it brought back so many memories of my own experiences that dovetailed with the events and individuals described in the book. Many of the people in the book greatly impacted my life and remembering these events has prompted me to tell my own story of God’s sovereign work in my life.
I was born on Christmas day in Southern California in 1951. My mother, Betty, was a beautiful Norwegian woman. She was married to Jerry, my first dad for six years. My mother discovered he had been sleeping around with other women, so she divorced him. My older brother Mikey and I had a very difficult time during those early days after the divorce. We went to live with my grandparents for a couple of years in beautiful Toluca Lake, California. Bob Hope lived down the street from us.
My mom then married another man named Doug. When I was about eight years old, I came home from school one day, and I couldn’t find my beloved German shepherd Queenie. My new dad told me he had traded my dog for some bushes and trees to plant in our back yard. I found out later that he had stolen power tools from a job site and had buried the tools in bags at the base of these plants and trees. He reasoned that the police would never think of looking for the stolen items under planted trees and bushes. Some years later, my second dad Doug was found dead on the streets of Los Angeles.
During those years with my second dad, my mom gave birth to two girls, D’Ann and Sandy. My mom and all of us kids went to live with my grandparents again so my mom could recover financially. We lived four doors down from the famous actress, Mae West in Sepulveda, California. Living with my grandparents was not a bad thing. There was a lot of stability living with my grandparents. My grandpa Clarence was well known for starting a business called Wells Industries. My grandpa, who collaborated with Howard Hughes, built the Rocket to the Moon. It was a 76-foot rocket built for Disneyland in 1955 for the grand opening. My grandpa went on to build many other things for Walt Disney as well.
As my mom was struggling financially, she tried to start a business with a friend of hers in Riverside, California. At that time, my older brother Mikey enlisted in the Army in 1966. He went to boot camp and then was shipped to Vietnam. My mom couldn’t take care of my two sisters and me, so she asked if I would live with my first dad Jerry in Vista, California near San Diego. I was now in the 10th grade.
Living with my dad and his new wife Eleonore was terrible. She was like the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz. She was very mean to me. My father-and-son outings were always spent at the Delmar Horse Racing Track near San Diego. That’s where my dad gambled and got drunk.
One day when I came home from Vista High School, Eleonore told me that my dad was on a plane heading to San Francisco. She told me that my brother Mikey had been severely injured in Vietnam. There was an attack at the Da Nang Air Base. My brother was guarding the air traffic control tower and had received a serious head wound during the rocket attack. My brother had been moved to a Veterans Hospital near where my mother lived in the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California.
During some of that time I moved in with my father’s parents Pat and Alice in Vista. One day I heard my dad and Eleonore talking about the federal money they would receive if my brother died. Eleonore seemed excited about the prospect of getting all this money. I hated her for talking that way, so I called my mom and asked if I could move back home with her. She agreed to take me back but said that her business had failed, and we would all be moving back in with her parents.
Looking back on those days, I moved 15 times and went to 10 different schools before graduating from high school. During my last year in high school I became very withdrawn. My friend Robert and I started a club called Alcoholics Unanimous as a joke. The idea was that we would get as many high schoolers together to drink beer and wine and party every weekend.
You might wonder what prompted me to do this. Day after day, week after week, and month after month I would go to the Veterans Hospital with my mom to see my brother. One-third of his skull had been blown off. He was completely paralyzed except for his eyes. At the time, I hadn’t told a soul what had happened to my brother. I just kept it all to myself.
Meanwhile, my mom landed a great job managing the buildings for Four Star Productions in Studio City, California. I was working for her and leasing office space to movie directors, producers and movie stars. I shared an office with Robert Redford while he filmed The Candidate. Those were unusual days. I had lunch with the well-known producer Aaron Spelling at his mansion. I hung out with the Stunt Man’s Association, and with James Garner and Steve McQueen.
One of my favorite stories is when Charlton Heston’s secretary called my mom and said, “Betty, Mr. Heston’s bathroom faucet is leaking. Could you please send someone over to fix it!” My mom said, “Are you telling me that the man who played Moses and parted the Red Sea in The Ten Commandments can’t fix a leaky faucet?” My mom was good friends with Charlton Heston.
At that time, my mom’s associate Robert Gageby bought the 1962 Rolls Royce from the TV show Burke’s Law after it went off the air. He then told me I would be his chauffeur as he was preparing to produce a movie. During those days, I was also working for a private investigator and playing in billiard tournaments on the weekends.
But then God began to move in my life in very perceptible ways. By now, my brother had been in the hospital for four years. Nothing had changed with his condition. My mother was now married for the third time to a guy named Ray. Like the others, he seemed very nice at first, but he became a mean drunk.
Then, on December fourth, 1972, I got a call from Ronny Stillman, my cousin’s husband. He owned an electrical business in Downey California called Downey Electric. He said, “Hey Jim, how would you like to work for me?” I agreed to work for him and when I arrived at the shop, Ronny took me to the warehouse. He told me what to do and then he left.
I then heard someone singing, “I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me, makes the lame to walk and the blind to see…” Then a guy named Kenny walked around the corner of the warehouse to meet me. He was beaming with joy! We started working together and almost daily he talked to me about Jesus. He never stopped singing about Jesus.
Then, one day he asked me, “Jim, are you a Christian?” I said, “Of course! I used to go to church. I was invited to join a Lutheran church choir to meet girls. And my choir director was the keyboard player for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap.” Kenny then said, “Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian.” I didn’t understand, so he shared more with me about Jesus.
After about a year of working together, I got a call from my mother that my brother Mikey had passed away. I got in my car and just started weeping. My brother had been in the hospital for five years. My mom went every day to be by his side.
We then all went to the military veteran’s memorial service for my brother in Los Angeles. It was very special and very moving. I looked at my mother and her tears of sorrow. I felt so all alone inside and very empty. God was preparing my heart to receive Him.
As I drove back to work, my car broke down. It was going to take some time to get it repaired. I had made it to work, but I was 35 miles from home and didn’t know how I would get home. Then Kenny said, “Jim, just take my car and I’ll drive the work truck.”
I thanked Kenny and took his car to drive home. But when I got in his car, the radio didn’t work. In the mood I was in, I really needed to listen to music! I was bummed. Then I noticed an 8-track lying on the front seat. The 8-track was by a group called “Love Song.” I had never heard of them, but pushed it in to play it. I loved it! It was four guys playing soft, rock music about Jesus.
It was the only 8-track in the car, but I played it for two weeks while my car was in the shop. I memorized every song on the tape even though I didn’t understand what all the words meant. But the next thing that happened to me changed my life forever. (I still have the 8-track by “Love Song” as a reminder, that God is all powerful and in complete control of the affairs of our lives.)
One day, I was working on a job site called “Jim’s Burgers.” And, of course, since my name is Jim, where else would God do the impossible in my life? I had called for some material, and Kenny drove up to deliver it. As we were standing in the middle of the Jim’s Burger parking lot, Kenny said to me, “Jim, today is the day of salvation, how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Kenny then asked, “Jim will you bow your head and pray with me to receive Christ into your heart?” I looked at Kenny and knew I wanted what he had, and said, “Yes, I will pray with you.” I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life, and little did I know what He was about to do in my life.
I had been a Christian less than a day. That evening, at Downey Electric, we always had job meetings to go over what work needed to be done in the coming weeks. One of my jobs was to go to Stewart’s Liquor Store and buy a case of beer and soft drinks for the meeting. I get back to the office and Ron and some of the other employee’s started drinking a beer or a soda and go over the work for that week.
As always, I opened a can of beer and started drinking it. But something was wrong! It tasted terrible. I thought I must have gotten a can of bad beer. But others were drinking their beer. So, I quietly slipped into the bathroom and poured it down the toilet. Then I got another beer and started drinking it, and it tasted bad too! So, I flushed that one down as well. I then got a soda and drank that.
About a week later, Kenny came out of a meeting with Ronny the owner, who is also Kenny’s brother. Kenny said to me, “Jim I was just in a meeting with Ronny.” I asked, “Is everything okay?” He said, “Yes, but Ron wanted to know what has happened to you. You’re not the same person anymore.”
I was confused. I said, “I am the same person!” Kenny said, “No, you’re not the same person. Ronny noticed you’re not drinking beer anymore, and your speech is different.” I told Kenny, “That’s because it tastes bad to me.” Then Kenny said, “Here’s what’s happening to you. ‘You can’t clean a fish until you catch it.’ God has caught you and now He is cleaning you up.”
Then Kenny had an idea to arrive at Downey Electric one hour before work to have a Bible study and prayer time. So, I had been a Christian for about one week and Kenny gave me a Bible to read and we started meeting before work to study the Bible.
So, there we were at work, and Kenny was sharing God’s Word with me and teaching me how to pray for all the employees at the company, about 12 people.
After being a Christian for about two weeks, I began attending a new church called, Calvary Chapel of Downey, started by Pastor Jeff Johnson. We met on Sundays and Wednesdays. (Jeff Johnson is mentioned in the book, Jesus Revolution.)
I also started attending Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa with Pastor Chuck Smith on Thursdays. And on Monday nights I was learning how to evangelize others from a guy named Greg Laurie in Costa Mesa. (All of these people are mentioned in the book Jesus Revolution.)
As I said, I had only been a Christian for about two weeks. One morning, Kenny and I were at Downey Electric studying God’s Word and praying, when the company phone rang. I picked up the receiver and said, “Downey Electric, this is Jim, how can I help you?”
A woman asked if we could come hang a light fixture in her home. I told her we could. Then, she asked, “Do you bill me, or do I have to pay you when the work is completed?” I said, “Either way, it’s your choice.”
Then, she said, “Oh thank goodness! Money is very tight right now. My husband has left me and my daughter, and it’s a difficult time for us.” I said to her, “I’m so sorry.” But then I felt something moving in my heart. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I had never experienced this before. It seemed like someone in my mind was speaking to me.
This is what I heard, “Jim, you and Kenny are going to this house, and she is going to receive Christ into her life.” I told the lady that we would be there in about 30 minutes to do the work. I told Kenny what just happened and that I felt like someone was speaking to my heart about this lady that she would get saved.
Kenny responded, “Jim, do you know that God has a telephone number?” But I didn’t know what Kenny meant. Kenny said that God’s phone number is Jeremiah 33:3. And Kenny opened his Bible to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 33:3, “Call on Me and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things that you don’t know.” Then Kenny said, Jim we have been calling on the name of the Lord and He is going to show us great and mighty things.
I then said, “Kenny, I felt like I heard God talk to me in my mind.” Kenny then shared with me in 1 Kings 19:11-13 about “The still small voice of the Lord.” I was blown away that God actually talked to us like this!
We drove to the lady’s house and I hugn the light fixture. Then, I looked over at Kenny, and he was holding this woman’s hands, and she was praying to receive Christ into her heart. WOW! She asked us, “Are you guy’s pastors?” Kenny said, “No, but we love God and want to tell everyone about Jesus and how He died for our sins to give us eternal life.”
As we were leaving her house, walking down the hallway, I noticed a bedroom door open and saw many posters on the wall of acid rock ‘n roll groups. So, I took a Jesus track out of my pocket that Kenny had given me and tossed it on the desk in that bedroom as we were leaving.
Two days later, Kenny got a call from Jeff Johnson, the pastor of Calvary Chapel of Downey, to come by his office. Kenny and I went to the church to see Jeff. By that time, I had only been attending church for two weeks. Jeff said to Kenny, “A young girl came into my office with this Jesus track in her hand. She said that a couple of electricians had come to her house, and her mom prayed with them to become a Christian. She said, that she had found this Jesus tract on her desk and wanted to become a Christian like her mom because she felt empty inside.”
Pastor Jeff went on to explain that he had prayed with this young girl to receive Christ in his office. Then Pastor Jeff said, “Kenny, you’re the only electrician I know. Are you the one who prayed with the girl’s mother?” Kenny said, “YES! Praise God!”
Kenny and I had now been praying and studying God’s Word for about four weeks at Downey Electric. Since I have always been a notepad guy and love taking notes, I made a list of every employee at the company and prayed for each one every morning.
On this list, the more of a sinner I thought someone was, the more x’s I would put next to their name. My supervisor’s name was Rodney Demoe, and next to his name I put 3 xxx’s and prayed three times more for him, because he was deeply in sin. He was a husband, and father of two sons.
When we worked together, at lunch time Rodney would visit the bars with nude dancers, and late at night would get drunk at other locales. Well like I said, I had been a Christian for about four weeks, and early one morning I was at the office waiting for Kenny to pray and study God’s Word with me. Kenny then pulled up with this big smile on his face and said, “Jim, have I got a story for you!”
He began telling me that the night before at about 1:30 a.m. he woke up feeling like the Lord was telling him to go across the street to the Albertson’s grocery store. So, Kenny obeyed, got up and went to the Albertson’s and hung out by the magazine rack for about 30 minutes. He then thought, What was I thinking, this is stupid, I’m going back to bed. As he was leaving the store, who should he run into but Rodney Demoe coming towards him.
Kenny and Rodney began to talk. Rodney explained that the bars close at 2 a.m. and that he came by Albertson’s to grab a snack before going home. Moments later, Kenny shared the gospel with Rodney, and he bowed his head to receive Christ into his heart. One month later, Rodney’s wife Cher had seen these radical changes in her husband and noticed that he was always reading his Bible.
Cher went to Kenny and said, “I want to receive Jesus into my heart.” Kenny prayed with her. A few months later at Calvary Chapel of Downey on a Sunday morning, Rodney and Cher dedicated their three boys to the Lord. Today, Rodney and Cher have two more boys and the whole family is walking with the Lord.
Soon, Ronny and his wife Linda (my cousin), the owners of Downey Electric gave their lives to the Lord. Ronny’s four other brothers who work for the company also gave their lives to the Lord.
Before I had become a Christian, I had met my girlfriend Carolyn in the Lutheran church choir. She saw all these changes in me, and I invited her to Jeff Johnson’s church to watch the movie, A Thief in the Night. Following the film there was an altar call, and Carolyn received Jesus into her heart.
During those early days, Kenny took me into a Christian bookstore for the first time. I was amazed at all the Christian material to read. I found myself gravitating toward an area of books about the persecuted church in the world. I knew nothing about the persecuted church. I picked up a book called, Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. As I started reading this book, I couldn’t put in down!
I was both captivated and grieved by what was happening to Christians in different parts of the world. I remember telling the Lord that I wanted to help in some way. So, I began praying for the persecuted church around the world.
Also, during those early years, as Kenny and I were driving around Downey doing electrical work, I kept seeing people standing in front of stores holding magazines. I asked Kenny who those people were with the magazines. He said, “Jim, those are Jehovah Witnesses.” I asked, “What’s that?” Then another adventure began.
Kenny shared with me that those people are leading people astray from the truth of God. This upset me and I told him we have to do something! So, Kenny taught me how to share my faith with the Jehovah Witnesses and other cults.
And for the next 10 years we were ministering to and leading these people to the Lord. We also shared Christ with many Mormons who we ran into on job sites and on the streets. I will never forget the time we had Mormon missionaries in Kenny’s house. One of the guys, Elder Booth, loved what we were saying about Jesus.
I then invited these Mormons to a Christian concert that Calvary Chapel of Downey was having on Friday night. That Friday night, as I was at the door of the church, I saw 12 bicycles pull up with 12 Mormon elders in their black pants and white shirts and ties. I said, “Kenny, check this out!!!” Elder Booth was leading the pack. They came, stood up against the back wall and listened to the concert.
At end of the concert, the lead singer Bryon Duncan from the Sweet Comfort Band shared the gospel with all the Mormons. One week later, Kenny and I were approached by the Mormon Bishop in the area and told, never to talk to these elders again. But Kenny and I just kept sharing our faith. Only God knows the outcome of what took place.
By 1982, my wife and I had been married for seven years. We had moved 60 miles away from Downey to a place called Moreno Valley. That was a miracle in and of itself. We had one daughter, Amber, and we had been living in a small duplex in Downey. My boss, Ronny told me I needed to think about buying a house.
As we looked for a house in Downey, the area was way out of our price range. So, we drove out to Riverside County where the homes were more affordable. We found the house of our dreams, but it was still too expensive. At work the next day, Ronny asked me whether we had found a home. I told him we had, but that it was too expensive. Ronny then asked me how much money we needed to make it happen. I told him we needed $7,000 for the down payment.
Ronny then opened his desk drawer, pulled out his checkbook and wrote me a check for $7,000! He told me it was his gift to me. Immediately, I remembered what Kenny had taught me the first week I was a Christian. He said, “God’s phone number is Jeremiah 33:3. ‘Call upon Me and I will answer you….’” Praise God!!!
But God was preparing to work yet another miracle. My wife, our daughter Amber and I were now living in Moreno Valley, California. And we heard that Greg Laurie had a church about 10 miles away in Riverside, so we decided to attend there.
On our first Sunday, a speaker by the name of Keith Ritter (who is also mentioned in the book Jesus Revolution) was sharing his heart about the persecuted church in China. While listening to him, I was thinking, Holy smokes, Keith is sharing about the persecuted church that I have read about and prayed for.
Keith was sharing about the miracles that happened as he and Brother David and many others smuggled one million Bibles into China. A book has been written about that adventure called, Project Pearl. My mind began racing, and in my heart, I told the Lord that I wanted to be part of that ministry.
After Keith finished speaking, I approached him and thanked him for sharing what God did in China. I told him I would continue to pray for him and his ministry. He then called his wife over and said, “Honey, Jim is going to be praying for us.” But what happened next blew my mind.
Since Greg Laurie’s church was 10 miles away, my wife and I decided to find a church closer to our new home in Moreno Valley. As we were looking, we discovered that a new church had just started called, Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, pastored by John Milhouse.
On our first Sunday, as the Pastor was making announcements, he said, “Please be praying, I sense God is leading us to take a team into China to smuggle thousands of Bibles to the underground church.” I fell off the edge of my seat. I whispered to my wife, “I think God is calling me to go.”
The Pastor went on to say that the cost per person would be about $2,000. We did not have the $2,000, but with my tax return I would have just about enough. The problem was that my tax return wouldn’t arrive until after the trip to China was over.
So, I decided to ask my boss, Ronny if he would loan me $2,000 for the mission trip and that I would pay him back when my tax return came. But the next day, when I explained the situation to him, he said, “Jim, the Lord put it on my heart a couple of days ago to reach out and bless someone financially and you’re the one I’m supposed to give this money to.”
Ronny then wrote out a check for the full amount and said, “This is God’s gift to you. May God bless your trip greatly in China.” From that moment on, my life’s verse has become Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
While I was preparing to go to China, I started reading every book I could find on that country. I also tried to learn some of the language. During that time, the church asked Carolyn to be on the worship team and become the lead vocalist. Remember, I had met Carolyn before I was saved and joined a church choir just to meet girls. Not only had I met a girl, but I married her, led her to the Lord, and now she was the lead vocalist in a church! God is amazing!
Soon, I was on my way to China. Carolyn and I were still new in the church, so I really didn’t know anyone very well. We landed in Hong Kong, and Pastor John explained that we would meet someone for a briefing before going into China. We were at the hotel for the briefing, and who should walk in to give the briefing, but Keith Ritter! The very man I had met at Greg Laurie’s church, who I was praying for was standing right before me. I was blown away!!!
Only God could have put this together. Keith briefed us on what to do and what to expect. He then told us never to stop praying, because we would be in danger and the underground church would be in danger as well. He told us, never to say the word “Bible,” but to call it “Bread.” He also told us never to use the word “Lord” or “God,” but to say “Father.” Keith explained further, “Your rooms might be bugged, and you will be followed, so be alert at all times.”
While in China, we met pastors who had spent twenty or more years in prison for their faith. A Chinese Christian named Pastor Panda had a profound impact on my life. After spending 20 years in prison, Pastor Panda was on fire for the Lord like nobody I had ever seen. He beamed with the love of God as he shared about his time in prison, and how he was now overseeing 10 underground churches. I don’t know why, but Pastor John chose me to personally deliver hundreds of Pastor Study Bibles to a number of underground churches.
When we returned home, all I could think about was the underground church and the persecution they were facing. I continued to pray for them. Then I sensed the Lord moving in my heart to lead teams to China. I didn’t tell anyone but just kept praying about it.
A few months later, Pastor John called me to come to his office. When I arrived, I was a bit nervous because I didn’t know why I was there. He said to me, “Jim, the Lord has put it on my heart to send you back to China and lead teams of people to deliver thousands of Bibles.” He went on to say that the Lord would cover all my expenses. This time my wife wanted to go with me. But that would require $2,000 for her expenses. A few days later I shared with my boss Ronny that I would be leading teams into China. I told him that Carolyn wanted to go as well. And before I could say another word, Ronny wrote me a check for $2,000 so Carolyn could go. I never told him that I even needed the money. Praise God!!!
Well, my wife and I, and teams of people headed to China and all went well with the deliveries of the Bibles. My fondest memory was meeting one of the greatest pastors in China. His name is Pastor Samuel Lamb. Later, a book was written about him called, Bold as a Lamb by Ken Anderson. Pastor Lamb’s famous saying was, “Persecution, persecution, persecution, growth, growth, growth.”
Pastor Lamb’s church exploded with growth that he attributed to the intense persecution in the area. He was in prison for 21 years. Our main mission objective on that trip was to deliver thousands of study aids that Pastor Lamb had written. His work was smuggled out of China, sent to Japan, to an organization called, Living Water International that was overseen by Keith Ritter and others. When we made the delivery to Pastor Lamb, and as he saw his work completed, and several thousand copies being delivered, he was beaming with joy unspeakable. Needless to say, only God could have put this event together.
Another beautiful memory that I will always treasure was the value that followers of Christ in China had for the Word of God. As I sat with the Chinese believers during Pastor Lamb’s message, everyone was intently focused on their Bibles. Their fingers lovingly scanned every word as the pastor shared a verse. Then, when the service was over, everyone walked down to the basement with their Bibles, and locked them in a secret cabinet to hide them from the authorities. I was told that none of the believers in that area owned a Bible.
Back in California, little did I know that God was going to move in my heart again in a special way. On a Sunday, Pastor John announced that the church had purchased 17 acres of property to build a church. Until then, we had been meeting in a high school on Sundays. Shortly thereafter, I began walking out on this new property and prayed often. I prayed that the Lord would do great things with this property, and someday that the Lord would raise me up to be one of the pastors at Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley if it was His will.
The only person with whom I shared this was my wife. Well, one year later the church building was completed. The church was busting out at the seams with new believers. Then one day at church, Pastor John asked me to take a walk with him. We started walking around the church building and John said, “Jim I want you to pray about being my associate pastor.” I looked at John and said, “I will commit it to prayer.” I raced home and told my wife. She was so excited for me and we committed this to prayer.
Some days later, I told John that I would like to take him up on his offer to become his associate pastor. I called Ronny to let him know what had just happened. He was very excited for me. The timing was perfect for Downey Electric, as I was just finishing a $50-million project for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills. Pastor John put me in charge of the men’s ministry, marriage ministry, oversight of the 17-acre property and the facility, along with all the counseling.
I loved Pastor John for his heart of service. On my first day as a pastor, John said to me, “Jim, as a pastor, if you see a need, meet the need.” He then asked me to follow him outside. He pointed out all the weeds growing on a hillside on the church property and said, “These weeds are becoming an eyesore, so let’s start pulling them all up.”
The great part of this story is that John stayed with me whole time until every weed was pulled. He then reminded me of the story in the Gospel of John chapter 13 where Jesus had the Passover meal with His disciples. After supper, Jesus got up, wrapped a towel around Himself, took a wash basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples.
Pastor John said, “The God who created the heavens and the earth washed the dirty feet of the disciples.” He told me that Pastor Chuck taught him that principle, and that as he raised up other pastors, he shared that Scripture and principle with all of them as well. Again, he said, “If you see a need, meet the need.”
Around that time, Ronny at Downey Electric told me that Pastor Chuck Smith had just purchased a 47-acre property in Murrieta for a retreat center and a future Bible College. Ronny explained that Pastor Chuck wanted Downey Electric to oversee all the electrical work. Then Ronny asked me if I could oversee the electrical work in Murrieta along with pastoring in Moreno Valley. I told him I could do so on Fridays and Saturdays.
I was so blessed to be able to help build the conference center. I remember working next to Pastor Chuck Smith as he was hanging drywall and doing other construction jobs. About a year later, the Murrieta Conference Center and the Calvary Chapel Bible College were completed.
Then a few years passed, and the Lord began moving in a new direction with our church. The Lord put it on someone’s heart to consider starting a K-12 Christian school. So, we started the school, and immediately it grew rapidly.
Very quickly we determined that the school was outgrowing the church facility. Pastor John let me know that I needed to become the project manager of the construction team that would build a 22,000-square-foot building for our school. One year later, the project was completed, and we were soon seeing over 600 students at the school. Many times at my men’s Bible study, I would ask the men to continue praying for the school and the impact it would have on all those students.
One of my favorite stories from Calvary Chapel Christian School is of a young boy in the eighth grade. His name is Kenjon Barner. Some years later, Kenjon became the running back for the Philadelphia Eagles, and in 2018 won the Super Bowl.
During his football career, Kenjon was being interviewed by some reporters and explained, “Calvary Chapel Christian School completely changed my life.” He said that if it wasn’t for getting on the right path, he didn’t know where he’d be. He went on to say, “ I would have either ended up in jail or dead.” Only God can write a story like that.
The years I spent at Calvary Chapel in Moreno Valley, were some of the greatest years of my life. Knowing that God had orchestrated everything is a tremendous blessing.
Then, the day after Christmas 2004, we received word of a 9.1 earthquake in the Indian Ocean, centered close to Thailand. Thousands of people had been killed by the tsunami that followed. I remember praying for the families who had lost loved ones. Then I prayed, “God please send me to help in any way.”
A few days later, Pastor John Milhouse said, “I just got word from some other Calvary Chapel pastors that we are flying out to Phuket, Thailand to help and comfort the families who have lost loved ones.” He then asked, “Jim, since you are a logistics guy, I need you to go with me.” So off we went!
When we arrived in Thailand, the devastation was unbelievable. Almost every structure near the ocean was destroyed. We had our translator, Eve with us. Everyone she talked to started crying and said that their children had been swept away by the tsunami. We all felt so helpless. What could we do?
We began praying and asking everyone what their greatest needs were. They said that their fishing boats had been damaged and needed fixing. So, we put plans together to help with repairs. Then, we got word from the Muslim leaders that we would be killed if we tried to convert Muslims to Christianity.
So, went to the Muslim Imam, and asked him what his needs were. He told us he needed special stoves, rice and fuel tanks for cooking. We met all his needs. He then smiled, and we asked if we could pray for him. As we prayed, he had the biggest smile. He was overwhelmed by the love shown to him. And shortly thereafter, a number of Muslims became followers of Christ, especially some women. (That story was written up in the Calvary Chapel Missions Magazine Issue 22, 2005.)
Similarly, I am also greatly moved when I think about some of the amazing events following Hurricane Katrina. On August 23, 2005, hurricane Katrina made landfall with 170-mph-sustained winds on the Gulf Coast. It was reported that there were more than 1800 fatalities, and billions of dollars in damage. Some of the Calvary Chapel pastors got together to plan how to help in some way. We made a connection in a place called, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi with a man called Charles Johnson who was the former city council member.
He let us use a state park to set up a Calvary Chapel Community Relief Center known as “Camp Hope.” They told us that serving meals was one of the greatest needs at the time. All the surrounding cities were destroyed, and the families had no place to buy food in the area. And without electricity and gas it was difficult for families to prepare meals. Someone had the idea to bring in circus tents to create a covering for all the supplies and staging areas for cooking.
Then volunteers started rolling in who were very gifted in cooking and preparing meals. When the camp became fully functional, they began serving meals to the community. The need was very great, and Camp Hope was serving 2000-to-3000 meals daily to families, police officers and firemen. Pastor John made an appeal to our congregation that Camp Hope needed more volunteers to help in any way. He told the congregation that volunteers would be sleeping in tents and working about 16 hours a day to meet the needs of the community.
After the announcement, Pastor John let me know that they needed someone to take the spiritual lead at Camp Hope. He then asked if I would be that person. He let me know that there were about 80 volunteers at the camp.
So, I boarded a plane with my friend Dave Williams who is a building contractor. Dave would take the lead in putting teams together to help with some minor construction needs. When we arrived, we were amazed at the size of Camp Hope. There were about 40 two-man tents to sleep in, and large containers where the food was kept. The first night they asked me to lead a Bible study at about 9pm after all the work was done. That night we opened our Bibles to the book of James.
In the first couple of verses in chapter 1 it talks about going through trials. I reminded everyone of all the trials people were going through on the Gulf Coast. Then, I read from James chapter 5 verse 16, where James declares, “The effectual fervent prayers of a righteous man accomplish much.” I shared with the group on what it means to pray fervently, passionately, expectantly and thoughtfully because such prayers move the heart of God. I closed by saying what I had learned from Kenny when I was a new Christian about God’s telephone number, Jerimiah 33:3, “Call upon Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things.” We then closed in a worship song. Little did I know what would happen next.
After the worship song, Dave Williams noticed that a girl in the group named Shelby was crying. He talked to her and she said, “I need Jesus.” So, Dave prayed with her and she received Jesus into her heart. Then, Dave introduced me to Shelby. Shelby was just 14 years old.
The next day, I was asked if I could put a team of people together to completely rewire a 20,000-square-foot church that had been 13 feet underwater for several days due to the tidal water from the hurricane. We discovered that I was the only one there with an electrical background. So, I went up to some of the volunteers and said, “I need a butcher, a baker, and a candle-stick maker, and the Lord will transform all of you into electricians.”
We arrived at the church and met with the pastor. We discovered it was an all-Black church. They were so excited that we were helping make all the necessary repairs for the church. After a long day of working at the church, we headed back to Camp Hope.
When we arrived, someone ran up to me and said, “You will not believe what just happened. Jim, do you see that helicopter in the sky? That is a military helicopter with President George W. Bush on board. President Bush was just here! President Bush wanted to know what our needs were. We let the President know that we need ice, a generator, fuel and a refrigerated container for all the perishable foods. The President said that the military would take care of those needs.”
After he shared with me all that had just happened, and as I saw the helicopter leaving, I quickly took a picture of the helicopter as a reminder that God is all powerful and in complete control of the affairs of history.
The next morning, we realized that we were running low on food. We committed this need to the Lord in prayer. One hour later, an 18- wheeler pulled up and the driver said, “I’m lost and I have a truckload of perishable foods that needs to find a home, NOW!!” He then said, “You can empty my truck of all this food and keep it.” We were blown away. Then the military showed up with hundreds of pounds of ice, a generator and fuel tanks. The next thing that happened was unbelievable.
Remember Shelby the young girl who gave her life to the Lord? Well, a few days later, a friend of mine named Joe flew out to volunteer and helped me repair an electrical problem at someone’s house. When I made the repairs at this home, I never saw the owners at this house. But we found out later that it was the home of Shelby and her family.
On Sunday, we had our first church service under the circus tent. I preached the message. I remember sharing from God’s Word about His faithfulness and goodness. I shared about the God of all comfort and how our God will help all of them through this very difficult time. The tent was filled to capacity. I then asked if anyone would like to receive Christ into their hearts.
A number of people raised their hands, among them were Shelby’s dad, mom, and their four daughters. Shelby’s dad explained that because he was shown so much love and because of the miraculous change in Shelby, he wanted to give his life to Christ. He prayed to recieve the Lord, and his wife rededicated her life to Christ. William Carey the great missionary from the 1800’s once said, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.”
A couple of days later a friend of mine arrived at the camp. He is a big Black man who goes by the name of Big Al. Big Al is someone who loves to cook. His expertise is smoking meat. Big Al came to me and said, “Jim, I need a smoker, but not just any smoker. I need a big one to smoke enough meat for all these people we are feeding.”
I told him I didn’t know anything about smoking meat, but that if he needed a big smoker, to pray about it and maybe we can find one. About two hours later a man drove up and explained that his BBQ restaurant was destroyed in the hurricane and that the only thing that survived was a big smoker that you pull behind a truck. He then asked if we needed a smoker?
I thought Big Al was going to have a heart attack! He was so excited. Big Al got up early the next morning and started smoking all the meat. That evening, hundreds of people were lining up for dinner. Big Al was serving the meat that he had prepared.
I sat down to talk to someone, when suddenly, Big Al was in tears and praising the Lord. He said, “Jim, you won’t believe what just happened!” Big Al went on to explain that while people were moving through the line, a man started crying when Big Al served him his meat. Big Al asked him if he was okay. The man looked at Big Al and said, “My dad was the president of the KKK (Klu Klux Klan) in Bay St. Louis Mississippi many years ago. Growing up I was taught to hate Black people. I saw many Black men killed by the KKK while I was growing up. Now I have lost everything in the hurricane, and I came here tonight for a meal, and a Black man is showing me love and feeding me!” Big Al let me know that this man gave his life to the Lord and asked Big Al to forgive him for wronging Black people.
Dave and I spent three weeks there being blessed and touched by the Lord in so many ways. On our last day, I was invited to attend the all-Black church service. We had spent three weeks there making all the electrical repairs. When I arrived, the pastor asked for me, and said to the congregation of about 300, “Our church has been closed for three weeks because of the damage caused by the hurricane. Jim and his crew have made it possible for us to reopen the church. Can we just thank our God for Jim and all those who made this possible?”
We then had a beautiful time of worship and a special message by the pastor. I will never forget those wonderful days of God doing the miraculous every day. (The story of Shelby Beaugez and her family was written up in the Calvary Chapel Missions Magazine Issue 26, 2006.)
Another story that comes to mind about God’s sovereignty is my mother Betty. As I have shared, my mother went through some very difficult times. She was married to three very disappointing husbands that brought her much pain. Her first-born, Mikey, lay almost lifeless for five years in the Veteran’s Hospital, which caused my mom to withdraw into a hopeless state. I remember sharing with my mom over the years about the Lord and what He had done in my life. She had witnessed the many changes in my life but didn’t talk to me personally about the Lord in her own life. My mom is now living in Scottsdale Arizona, along with my two sisters, D’Ann and Sandy.
Then one day in 1997, the Lord spoke to my heart to send my mom the book, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye. It’s a book written about the Great Tribulation that will occur sometime in the future. I remember sharing with my mom and her third husband Ray about the future events in the Bible years earlier, but they showed little interest. All that to say, I mailed off the book to my mom. Little did I know what the Lord was about to do.
I found out sometime later from Ronny Stillman about a miracle that had happened. My mom started reading Left Behind. She was reading the part about the beast, telling people they will have to have a mark on their right hand with the number 666 in order to buy food. While my mom was reading this story of a mark on their right hand, she had the TV on. There was a documentary on about a new technology in Sweden in which they place a microchip under the skin of a person’s hand. The chip enables them to make purchases.
While reading this story of the mark of the Beast and seeing the documentary at the same time, my mom flipped out. She called her niece Linda who is married to Ronny, the owner of Downey Electric. He’s the guy I led to the Lord years earlier. Mom said, “Linda, Jimmy sent me this book called Left Behind about the Great Tribulation and the mark of the beast, and I’m seeing this documentary on TV about this microchip their implanting in people’s hand.”
My mom asked, “Is this for real?” Ronny then got on the phone and told her, “Yes Betty, this is for real.” Ronny then told my mom that in Revelation, the last book in the Bible, in chapter 13 verse 16, the beast causes everyone to receive a mark on their right hand in order to buy or sell. My mom was shocked and kept all these thoughts to herself.
Then some years later in 2002, I got word that my mom was in the hospital with Sepsis. So, I drove out to be with my mom. When I walked into her hospital room, I could see that she was in a lot of pain. The doctor let me know that she had infections throughout her body and was dying. I knew that her time was short, maybe just a few days to live.
So, I said, “Mom, you know that I have shared with you many times about Jesus. Mom, do you believe in Jesus?” She looked at me, smiled and quietly said, “Jimmy, I believe in Jesus with all my heart and soul!” A few days later, she passed away into eternity to be with Jesus. No more pain, no more tears, no more sorrow. Praise God!!! I will someday see my mom again in Glory.
An incident that caused our world to crumble came when my wife and I receive a phone call in the middle of the night from our daughter Amber. Her daughter Molly, our 15-month-old grandbaby was being airlifted to the Children’s Hospital in Orange County. Her pancreas was not producing any insulin and she was suffering from extreme dehydration. Doctors tried over 50 times to get an IV in her to rehydrate her.
When we got to the hospital, we were told that Molly may have brain damage. There was also talk about amputation on one of her legs. She had now been in the hospital for a number of days. We were living at the Ronald McDonald House. But during this time God began to move.
In the hospital there was a chapel. I had visited the chapel many times. But on one occasion I was so stressed, I cried out to my God and said, “Father God, I NEED to hear from You, I am so worried about my little granddaughter Molly!”
Then, on February 2nd, 2002 at 11pm, my wife Carolyn, our daughter Amber and I were leaving the hospital. We headed to our car in a subterranean parking lot. I sensed the Lord telling me to pick up a piece of paper off the ground about 50 feet away. I thought, Why would leave my family to pick up a littered piece of paper in the parking lot. The thought wouldn’t leave my mind, so I ran over and picked up the piece of paper.
As I glanced at it, I was blown away. The piece of paper had been torn out of the Our Daily Bread Christian devotional booklet. It said, “Forget Worry. Be anxious for nothing but let your requests be made know to God.” (Philippians 4:6). When we arrived at the Ronald McDonald House, and were in our room, I read the devotional to my family. It calmed our anxious hearts and bolstered our trust in God.
Seven days later we got word from the doctor that Molly’s condition was greatly improving. On that day, I wrote these words on the piece of paper that I found in the parking lot: “Father, You touched her, and gave us back her life, her leg, and her love.” To this day, I have kept that devotional in my wallet as a reminder that God is all powerful and in complete control of the affairs of history. By the way, I have gone through many wallets, but still have this devotional gift from God.
In 2004 my daughter Amber and her husband Tom and Molly moved to Spokane Valley, Washington. Tom’s parents live in the area along with other family members. My wife Carolyn and I began praying about moving to Spokane Valley as well. Family is everything to me, because growing up as a kid, my childhood was so fractured.
In 2005 we moved up to Spokane Valley as well. Shortly thereafter, I was hired as an assistant pastor for a local church. One day my daughter said, “Dad, do you think the church would like to start a school?” Amber was concerned about Molly being in a public school because she needed to have insulin injections and to be watched carefully to make sure her blood sugar levels were good. Amber knew that I had a background in starting the school in Moreno Valley, so why not try to start a school at the church where I was now? That way, I would be able to keep an eye on Molly while she was in school.
Well, as I have said before, God began to move. I asked the pastor about starting a Christian school. He said that he had thought of the idea, but he had two reservations. First, they needed someone who knew how to start a school. Second, he knew that it would cost thousands of dollars to start a school.
So, I let the pastor know that I had a background in starting the school in Moreno Valley with over 600 students. I also let him know what Pastor Chuck Smith said about money. Chuck often said, “If God is guiding, then God will be providing.” The last thing I said to the pastor was, “If this is God’s will, then don’t be surprised if someone knocks on the door and gives you a check large enough to start the school.”
Little did we know that one of the biggest real estate companies had just split. The company, Tomlinson Black Real Estate with more than 500 agents became two companies, one for residential, the other for commercial. Dave Black oversees the commercial side.
Two weeks later the church got a call from Mr. Black saying that Kohl’s department store would like to purchase 12 feet of the church’s property to build a new store. The property that was needed was a small strip of field that is not used by the church. Mr. Black went on to say that Kohl’s was willing to give the church $100,000 for the 12-foot-strip of land!
A few months later, I was commissioned to have the school up and running. The school is operating and Molly attends there with other children. Then God put the icing on the cake. The school was doing well, but I saw the children outside on the grass during recess with no equipment to play on. I got this thought to build a big commercial playground system for the school. I checked into the cost and it was $25,000 for the playground set.
I prayed and asked God, “Father, Your Word says that You will supply all our needs according to Your riches in glory.” One week later while I was in the sanctuary, someone walked in and said, “Hello, I am from the Washington State Department of Transportation.” He went on to say that the department needed a five-foot strip of land along the freeway to build a sound barrier. The department was willing to offer the church $40,000 for the strip of land. I let this man know that I had been praying for a miracle for money to come in for the playground system for the new school. He was blown away. He smiled and said we would have the money in two weeks.
I let the guys in my Bible study know what had just happened. They were blessed. When the playground set arrived, the men in my Bible study got together to pour the concrete and build the set. As you drive next to Kohl’s today, the playground system is still there as a reminder that God is all-powerful and in complete control of the affairs of history.
I would love to share another story that speaks strongly of the sovereignty of God. On November 20th, 2018, I started thinking about the Muslim community in Spokane, Washington where my wife and I now live. For the next couple of days, the thought of the Muslims stayed on my mind. I sensed this was from the Lord.
So, I went online to see if there are any Muslims in the area where I live. To my surprise, I discovered that there are thousands of Muslims in the area. A few days later as I was driving around town, I heard on Moody Bible Radio someone talking about a book he had just written about sharing your faith with Muslims. I pulled over, wrote down the title of the book, and ordered it. When I received the book, I emailed the author to let him know that I have this burden to share the Gospel with Muslims.
The author was so excited about the way I found out about his book and said that he would be praying for me. I then found out about an ex-Muslim who is now a Christian Pastor in Texas named Afshin Ziafat. I contacted his ministry and let them know that the Muslim Community was on my heart. They were excited and said that they would be praying for me as well.
Well, I began spending a lot of time studying about the Islamic faith, and how to share the Christian faith with Muslims. It was now January 11th, 2019. I was having a burger at McDonalds, when I started to get this tug on my heart to visit the Islamic Center of Spokane. I was a bit nervous and thinking, “Lord do you want me to visit the Islamic Center now?” I sensed that the Lord wanted me to go. It was 12:45pm and I was looking on my phone to see where the Islamic Center is located.
As I was on my way there, I was praying, “Lord, I hope this is what you want me to do, and Lord, I hope you give me the words to say.” It was 1pm when I pulled into the parking lot looking at this big sign that says, “Islamic Center of Spokane.” There were many cars in the parking lot.
As I was sitting in my car, I shot up one last prayer. I felt like the Apostle Peter stepping off the boat and walking on water! I entered the lobby and saw many shelves with shoes on them. Nobody was in the lobby. There were many closed doors and I heard voices.
So, I took off my shoes and opened one of the doors. As I stepped into what looked like a large sanctuary, I saw about 100 Muslim men on the carpet all looking at me. I was greeted by one of the men. He asked me, “Can I help you?” I said that I was visiting for the first time. He then ushered me to the front and gave me a chair to sit on in front of something that looked like an altar.
Then three Islamic leaders greeted me and sat on the floor in front of me. They wanted to know who I was and why I was there. I lifted a silent prayer to the Lord asking Him to tell me what to say. For the next 30 minutes the leaders asked me many questions as I shared with them about my Christian Faith. I invited all of them to my men’s Bible study where we meet every Tuesday in a restaurant from 6am to 7am. I also gave one of the men, a Men’s Ministry Handbook that I had designed.
After sharing many things about the Lord, they said that my timing was perfect. They let me know that all over the world, Muslims pray from 12pm to 1pm. They told me I had entered their place of prayer at 1:05pm and that my timing was perfect. Then one of the men who is the Imam leader stood up to sing to Allah. They thanked me for coming and said I would have to leave now or stand in the back. They then faced the direction of Mecca and started singing. I gave them my card if they would like to stay in touch with me. Only God knows the rest of the story.
I will share one last story that blessed me recently. Over the years I have ministered to many men. I love teaching men God’s Word and seeing them grow in the faith. About a year ago, I took someone out to lunch just to have some hang-time and get to know one another in a deeper way. My friend began telling me about the struggles he had gone through and how he had been sucked into many sinful areas.
After he shared, I let him know that the Lord had put it on my heart to design a Men’s Ministry Handbook filled with devotionals and tools to equip Christian men to live a life pleasing to God.
The very day I completed the handbook, someone let me know about an event at the Spokane Valley Mall called, “The History of The Bible.” While I was there, two people approached me and asked how I was doing. They introduced themselves as Scott and Dee. They let me know that they host the morning radio show for Moody Bible Radio in Spokane. I told them about the handbook I had just written, and they were excited and asked if I would like a tour of the Moody Bible Radio Center.
A few days later they gave me a tour and introduced me to Joe Gonzalez the Radio manager. He was excited to see my men’s handbook and to hear that I was having a Bible study at Shari’s restaurant in the area. I then let him know that I have visited 15 churches sharing my heart to build up men in the faith. He was very excited and said he would post my study on the Moody website.
Well, all that to say, God is good, I have many more stories to tell but I will save for another time.
Blessings to all,
Jim Fitzpatrick 951-3338418