May I begin this year’s Christmas newsletter with an apology? I sent you a Christmas postcard with a picture of Sarah, Pam and me, as well as a link bringing you to the Calvary Road Baptist Church website where you found this newsletter. It was my intention to write a personal note to those of you who received that postcard in the mail. However, in the rush of things leading up to Christmas time I simply forgot to arrange for the mailing labels to be placed where I would have room to write. The result is that the mailing labels were all centered on the postcard, leaving me no room to write a personal note to you. Please accept my apology. Christmas has been depersonalized enough without you receiving from me an impersonal card. I promise to do better next year. With that said, on behalf of the girls in our house, I greet you in Christ’s name, bid you Godspeed, wish you a Merry Christmas, and a most joyous new year. Now, on to my review of our (but mostly mine) 2012.
Over the course of this year, my impression is that God has been dealing with me most seriously about the issue of contentment. I have a fine little book written by Jeremiah Burroughs, titled “Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment.” It is a Puritan classic that is most challenging and beneficial for every Christian I know. Acquiring contentment as a Christian is counter intuitive, and utterly dependent upon one’s understanding of God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness, and God’s power. The best that can be said about me is that I am a work in progress.
January 2012 began as a time of recovery from the terrible windstorm that hit us in December 2011. Because of the damage that was done to our house, I decided to replace the old fence with a new one, and so arranged for a wrought iron fence to be built. I then installed the wood myself. Pictured here in front of the finished work, I am standing with my trusted helper, Drew Imm (1). January 6-13, Pam and I took a vacation in Stallion Springs, near the rustic old town of Tehachapi. Though we drove back home so I could preach on Sunday the 8th, we had a thoroughly relaxing time. We drove through Mojave and looked at the private enterprise spaceport (2) on our way to Stallion Springs (3). While there, we engaged in our favorite sport, reading. We also went for extended walks, and I took the picture of some reeds that fit in perfectly with a portion of scripture I was studying, Matthew 12.1–20. Of particular interest to me was Matthew’s use of Isaiah 42.1–4 as an explanation of why the Lord Jesus Christ withdrew himself from the stubborn and proud and turned to the multitudes. I was intrigued by the Savior’s disposition in His dealings with sinners. I take the bruised reed of Matthew 12.20 to be the sinner humbled by the circumstances of life, beaten down and no longer proud. My understanding is that this shows the Savior as ever gentle and tender in His dealings with humbled sinners. While in Stallion Springs, I came upon a pond with reeds and took a picture that I think speaks volumes (4). Notice what happens to reeds that are not bruised, but remain stiff and rigid. They do not bend but break. There is a spiritual lesson there for us all. While in the Tehachapi area, we decided to go for a sailplane ride. The pilot is a very experienced fellow, who he said he trains all of the Edwards Air Force Base test pilots to fly sailplanes. Pam and I both loved the experience (5). Here is Pam being towed to altitude (6). The last day of our vacation was extremely busy. We drove from Tehachapi to Brentwood and spent time in the Getty Museum, drove by the First Baptist Church building in Hollywood (7) on our way to goofing off in Little Tokyo for the afternoon, and then went to the famous Disney Concert Hall with tickets courtesy of our friends James and Zhiming Dunn (8). The seats were great and the music was moving.
February 2012 began with me going shooting with some men from the church in Burro Canyon. If I remember correctly, it was an advanced handgun course taught by SWAT officers of the LAPD, a very fine group of fellows. Our church’s annual missions conference was from February 6–12, with Henry Benach (9) and Dr R. D. Wade preaching for us (10). During the week, he and I had lunch with Carolyn Connolly (11) and Dr Robert Hymers (12). Dr. Wade was the late Kenneth Connelly’s best friend in the USA. He also spoke at chapel for Pacific Baptist College in Pomona, where Dr Jim Preston is now the executive vice president, with the school doing very well. From the 21st through the 28th, I was in Kearny, Nebraska, preaching a stewardship conference for my good friend Clarence Patterson. His wife Olga is as fine a pastor’s wife as I have ever met (13).
March 2012 began with Pam’s birthday. The big event of the month was the missions trip I took to Nepal. The previous July, at the School of Theology in London, Dr Peter Masters, pastor of Metropolitan tabernacle, asked me to step into his office where he introduced me to a Nepalese pastor named Dr Samuel Rai. The result of that introduction was my trip to Nepal. Laying over in Bangkok, Thailand on the way, I had the great thrill of visiting my brother Greg, who has lived in Bangkok for 4 years (14). It was a much-needed time to un-jet lag in preparation for the strenuous preaching schedule in Nepal. Dr Samuel Rai met me at the airport in Kathmandu (15), refreshed me a bit, before our flight to his city of Pokhara (16). Samuel Rai is a remarkable trophy of grace. Kidnapped by Maoist revolutionaries at age 14, he rose to the rank of propaganda specialist when he was converted at age 21. Trained in London by Peter Masters, he has planted 65 churches in Nepal, as well as conducting preaching forays into India, Tibet, and Bhutan. His wife is a wonderful help to him (17). The church he pastors has a Bible training school to equip men for the gospel ministry, a vocational school to train women to support themselves as well as provide intensive Bible instruction, a Christian day school (18), and an orphanage (19). While I was there, I was asked to administer believer baptism to two hopeful converts, his youngest son (20) and a young soldier (21). I was also introduced to Dawa, his adopted Tibetan son who plans to attend seminary in the USA (22) in preparation for succeeding Samuel Rai as the pastor so Rai can relocate in Bhutan to live out his fruitful life planting Baptist churches in that country. The entire trip was most exhilarating, and I am profoundly thankful the church I serve in endorses these missionary trips because real missions is men starting churches and churches aiding them in that endeavor. On the return layover in Bangkok, I had the opportunity to renew my old friendship with former missionary David Long.
April 2012 was a fairly quiet month, though I had the opportunity to spend time with two old friends. Our missionary to Zambia, Pat Coleman, was in Bellflower to visit his dad, so I drove down and had lunch with the two of them (23). Pat’s father does not normally look that ugly, but he had some skin cancer removed from his nose and ear. He is a wonderful Christian man of 84 years, and he and his late wife raised fine Christian sons. Easter Sunday was on April 8, with God lifting our spirits as we celebrated the resurrection of His beloved Son. Wednesday evening, April 11, our church enjoyed the singing of The Dartts. Since his kidney transplant, Tracy is doing very well (24).
May 2012 featured our annual ladies tea, with this year’s speaker being Julia Orlicky. One of my first duties at the beginning of my pastoral ministry in 1979 was to co-officiate the marriage of Julia to Michael Orlicky in Brawley, California. I also had the privilege of calling for Mike’s ordination. That was a long time ago, and Mike now serves the church he started in Half Moon Bay, California, Coast Side Baptist Church. When Julia consented to speak to our ladies, I asked Mike to preach to our church on Wednesday night, May 9th (25). Their daughter Angelina flew in to join them, and they endured my museum mania by going to The Getty Museum in Brentwood and The Huntington Museum in San Marino, to look at the Gutenberg 1st edition Bible (26). They were a wonderful blessing to our church and to the women attending the tea. Mike is a wonderful preacher of God’s Word. I have never heard him preach anything that did not bless my soul.
June 2012 was relatively uneventful. I suppose the one unusual thing that took place in June had to do with the celebration of my 62nd birthday. Actually, my 62nd birthday was spent flying to London, to attend the annual School of Theology, hosted by the Metropolitan Tabernacle and Dr Peter Masters.
July 2012 began with me in London, awaiting the arrival of Pastor David Coe, and his oldest son Aaron, a fine young Christian man and police officer in Morgantown, West Virginia. Pastor Coe is one of my closest friends, though we are a continent apart. We had previously attended several preachers meetings together, and I delighted he accepted my offer to join me in London. The fellowship was marvelous and the preaching was meaty and scriptural (27). While in London, we did a little sightseeing (28), and spent some time with Pastor Jared Smith, grandson of Jewell Smith. He pastors a church in London (29) and promotes Baptist work through The Association Of Historic Baptists (http://www.baptists.net/history/). Immediately upon my return from London, Dr Ramzi Kammar, his wife Ruth, and his children George, Peter, and Kristi, were in our Sunday evening service on July 7 (30). On the 11th, my wife and I joined the Kammars for lunch with Carolyn Connelly (31). Afterwards I spent some time with good old friend, Terry Cantrell. Ruth spoke at our church’s ladies retreat held in San Diego, July 19–21. The women of our church spoke so highly of Ruth that I have scheduled her to speak at the ladies retreat next summer, as well.
August 2012 my daughter Sarah had gallbladder surgery on August 3. In answer to our prayers, she recovered fully and seems to have no after effects of the surgery.
September 2012 was another fairly routine month, with the days and weeks spent studying and praying, preparing and preaching sermons, seeking the salvation of the lost and the growth of the saved placed under my watch care. Those of you who are in the gospel ministry know that it is a life beyond the grasp of those with other vocations, with an astonishing variety of glorious thrills and heart wrenching disappointments. Mr. Spurgeon indicated that the dark periods of the gospel ministry have been given to His ministers to offset the dangers that might be associated with the glories of the ministry. Mr. Spurgeon certainly experienced both extremes, so I defer to his appraisal of the ministry. On September 8, during our church’s evangelism time, we had the privilege of hosting our missionary to Romania, Garry Matheny. We were thrilled to see him again.
October 2012 featured something very unusual for our church. For the first time in my pastoral ministry, I led our church to participate in a Pulpit Freedom Sunday service. Our people received the service and the message well, understanding that the Christian life and a church’s ministry cannot be so compartmentalized as to completely separate between the sacred and the secular. What is taught and preached on Sunday ought to spill over into people’s lives throughout the rest of the week. Our observance of Pulpit Freedom Sunday took place on October 7, and our church sponsored a voter registration drive the following Sunday after church. On October 18, my wife Pam and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary by going out to a fine little Japanese restaurant near our house. What an amazing journey we have taken together, starting out in Torrance, California. First living in Harbor City, then Whittier, Brawley, and for 27 years serving God in Monrovia at Calvary Road Baptist Church of Los Angeles County. We have had the privilege of traveling together to Mexico, Thailand, Canada, Israel, the UK, and Lebanon, as well as extensively traveling throughout most of the United States to attend preachers meetings and speak at churches. I am quite sure the girl from Salinas, California never imagined the places she would accompany me (32).
November 2012 was very exciting for me. Our very good friend, Dr Harvey Goodman, preached for me on November 4, and spoke at our annual PayCheck Sunday banquet on Sunday evening. Then, on November 11, we celebrated our churches 8th annual PayCheck Sunday, with many church members giving 90% and keeping the tithe instead of giving the tithe and keeping 90%. It is a wonderful time at our church each year. The next day I flew to Denver, where Clarence and John Patterson met me. Our plan was to go into the mountains of Colorado to hunt elk. God had another plan He implemented. I was sick throughout the hunt, and was on a short tether for viral reasons. My physician, Dr. Kreighton Chan, told me it is called gastroenteritis. Whatever it is called, it is debilitating. While Pastor Patterson and his son John went hunting, I stayed back and ended up reading seven books. It turned out to be a very unpleasant but very profitable time for me. On Friday, the 16th, we drove to Kearney, Nebraska, and I was able to preach for him fully recovered from my illness. It is always a blessing to be with the people of Faith Baptist Church, and the Patterson family. The day after flying back from Omaha, Nebraska, Pam’s oldest nephew, Lt. Col. Ken Reed, United States Army, on assignment to the Navy in San Diego, came up to celebrate Thanksgiving with us a day early. He brought his son CJ, Christopher, who was born on my birthday, at which time Ken and his wife took their precious son home from the hospital and the courageous woman who had given birth to him. He is a very big boy, and has now completely recovered from the serious medical condition that our entire church was praying about some months ago when daddy was in Afghanistan and he and mommy were in Germany. He is pictured here riding his dad, with me and my two girls, Sarah and Pam (33). That evening the entire church was invited over to our house for pie. This is what the kitchen looked like (34). The next day, Thanksgiving Day, Pam’s sister Yvonne came, as did Pam’s sister Vivian and her husband Jim, for a thoroughly enjoyable Thanksgiving meal (35). I think it was the first time Pam and her sisters had been together since their mother passed. It was very good to have them all there, and Sarah prepared a most delicious feast.
December 2012 at our house is ferociously busy, as you can imagine. Christmas parties, events going on at church, and the additional blessing of my brother Greg visiting. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand, but is passing through Monrovia and Los Angeles on his way back home. At present he is waiting for his business partner to clear the way for his visa, and spending his time here trying to teach me how to eat properly to better control my blood sugar. Not only is he a superb strength coach, but he seems to have an astonishing grasp of nutrition that he is willing to share with us. I am so glad he is here, and will hate to see him go.
Last night I brought a message from Philippians 1.19, and showed how the Apostle Paul related to the Philippian congregation the role they played in his own growth and sustenance as a Christian. Writing from Roman imprisonment, the Apostle Paul wrote, “This shall turn to my salvation through your prayer.” He recognized the interconnectedness of Christians and how God uses the prayers of Christians for each other to uphold us during difficult times and to equip us for the challenges that lie ahead. Of course, this is most perfectly realized by Christians in the context of their congregation, their home church. I love Calvary Road Baptist Church, the institution and the people. How wonderful it is that God uses these people to provide ongoing deliverance to me in the course of my Christian life in answer to their prayers.
In closing, let me wish you the very merriest of Christmases, the happiest of New Years. Life at its best is very hard, with heartache and tragedy an integral part of God’s recipe for the growth in godliness of His children. I am so glad that, as a believer, it all makes sense, and that God does all things well. May God richly bless you, and keep you through 2013.
From Sarah, Pam and John Waldrip (36). We look forward to hearing from you.
John S. Waldrip