>My Story About the Sovereignty of God
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org