Please Note!This will be the last year that my Christmas Newsletter postcard is sent out using the US Postal Service. It makes no sense from a financial point of view to either print out a multi-page document to mail around the world to hundreds of friends or to send out a Christmas card to urge friends to go to the CalvaryRoadBaptist.Church website to read my annual Christmas newsletter when emails cost nothing to send and only the old and decrepit like me value the printed page very much anymore. Next year I will send out email notifications, so please make sure you provide me with your current and best email address by updating me at John.Waldrip@gmail.com.
On to wonderful recollections of God’s goodness and blessings over this past year of 2016, ever more delightful for a guy like me who is somewhere between third base and home plate in the baseball game parallel to life. I am more thankful now than I have ever been that my base running partner is my wife of more than forty-one years, Pam (1), pictured here recently at dinner with me.
The new year began for the Waldrip household in normal enough fashion, but for the great idea Sarah had for the three of us to take a few days off for a run to Northern California, the Big Sur region to be exact, with Pam sleeping in the back seat, me riding shotgun, and Sarah doing all the driving (2) (3). Sarah wanted us to head that way, so she arranged everything and picked out a very nice place near the ocean, Cambria (4), with nice appointments (5), and the destination she was so eager to see, the Bixby Bridge (6). I think the trip was about three days of the week she had scheduled, so after resting up for a day when we returned home, she took me to an Orange County gun range for some skeet shooting and beat me badly (7). We had some time after shooting to do some reminiscing, so we drove by Ken and Carolyn Connolly’s home (8) and then to their grave site a couple of blocks away (9). May I take the time to thank God for being so kind to Pam and me? Early on in my Christian life, my impression was that pastors were ferocious fellows given to fits of temper and creating fear in the minds and hearts of lowly Church members who walked on eggs around them lest they suffer from a temperamental outburst. The first preacher I knew who was simply very kind to me was my now departed friend Jim Johnston, shown here as a newlywed in the Air Force with his bride, Charlene (10). Jim was always a favorite of Sarah’s, fulfilling my notions of men in the ministry being especially well disposed toward small children. I don’t trust a preacher who doesn’t love children, and everyone I mention in this newsletter is devoted to small children. Among those whose personalities greatly reflected the indwelling Spirit of God were Ken and Carolyn. That afternoon in January evoked memories of them both, with this from Ken’s memorial service (11) and dear Carolyn on a Sunday morning when she decided to visit Calvary Road Baptist Church and love on us a bit (12). The rest of the month was rather slow, giving us a chance to spend a relaxing evening with Archie and Shirley French (13). This is a photo from January of wifey in my library (14).
February was Missions Conference month at the Church, and we faced a wrinkle. I wanted two speakers, Ibrahim ag Mohamed and Steve Van Winkle, conjuring in my mind to introduce both men to each other. Strangely, the U. S. State Department issued visas to Ibrahim’s wife and daughters to travel from the UK but not to him. Unusual since he had visited us only a couple of years before and he is now the Associate Pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, shown preaching there (15). He is hardly a threat to national security. We forged ahead with our Missions Conference plans and brought the three young ladies to the Missions Conference, where mom and her daughters are pictured with me and my girls (16). Gosia, the mom, spoke to our ladies and Steve Van Winkle arrived after their departure and spoke very effectively on several occasions (17) (18) (19). The Lord gave us a wonderful Missions Conference and Ibrahim’s visa was approved for ten years some six months later. Perhaps we can invite both men and my scheming to introduce them to each other will bear fruit after all. Two days after our Missions Conference David Guerrero and I went downtown to see Jhanisus Melendez sworn in as a US citizen. Shown is David presenting a gift to Jhanisus after the ceremony (20). The month wrapped up with some political excitement when I attended a Ben Shapiro speech at California State University at Los Angeles, sponsored by the Young Americans Foundation (YAF). One of our young Church members is quite active in the campus chapter of that organization that invited Ben Shapiro to speak amidst Black Lives Matter opposition and the university president canceling the speech at the last minute, bowing to students’ pressure. Nevertheless, Shapiro showed up and delivered the speech, which I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. Shown here are Lisa DiGiovanna (YAF chapter vice president @ CSULA) and Shapiro (21) and with her brother Andrew (22). Citizenship!
A little background is in order. Gary and Suzy Long (23) live in Springfield, Missouri, where he serves as pastor of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church and founder of Particular Baptist Press, a wonderful publishing house for informative and encouraging histories and biographies of mostly American Particular Baptist preachers. Through Gary Long, I was introduced to Enrique Castro, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Delano, CA (24) and chaplain at a California state prison. Pastor Castro is now a friend, and he invited me to preach at Emmanuel Baptist Church, where he, his wife, and his son accorded us every courtesy (25) (26) (27). I look forward to our friendship flourishing and someday soon inviting him to preach here at Calvary Road Baptist Church. He is yet another of those servants of God who displays in his personality the impact of the Spirit’s fruit. Because Nancy Reagan had died and was memorialized only days earlier, on our way home from Delano, Pam and I chose to swing by the Reagan Presidential Library following Nancy Reagan’s passing (28), where she is buried next to her husband, one of our nation’s greatest presidents (29).
An unusual month in that one special event took place at the end of the first full week of the month and four special events took place during the last week! Rick Raymundo married Erika Mendez, on April 8th. Erika grew up in our Church, marrying Rick after she graduated nursing school. As you can tell from Pam and me, the wedding was a cowboy thing (30), with a lovely outdoor ceremony (31) and care taken to make sure the marriage certificate is properly signed and witnessed (32). I enjoy giving young couples flexibility in the planning and execution of their wedding. The final week of the month was dizzying, with Dr. Samuel Rai, a prolific church planter from Nepal, laying over on his way to preach to a group of Baptists in Illinois, shown with me at a cafe in Monrovia (33), speaking before our Saturday night evangelism (34), and then on Sunday (35). After putting him on the plane, Pam and I went to a pastor’s fellowship meeting in Santa Maria that was wonderfully hosted by Jerry Sheidbach (36). While there we spent quality time with Roger Willis (37) and his wife and I renewed my acquaintance with fellow PCBBC alumnus Marshall Stevens (38). We stayed at an adorable AirBNB nearby (39). We got back to Monrovia just in time to host The Dartts on Wednesday night (40). Their wonderful Christian music is always God-honoring and Christ-exalting. I wish every Christian home in the nation was filled with their easy-listening Christian music with a light country flavor (www.Darttmusic.com). With Samuel Rai on April 22, 23, 24, the preacher’s meeting in Santa Maria on April 25, 26, 27, and The Dartts on the 27th our week was stuffed! But that’s not all. Our annual Mothers Day Tea took place on Saturday the 30th, with favorite Sherry Cantrell speaking to the girls and ladies (41) while my great friend Terry Cantrell and I enjoyed great fellowship over an extended lunch (42).
A pretty sedate month for me, though it began in exciting fashion for four of our Church’s young members. Andrew and Lisa were at it again at a YAF event with Senator Rand Paul (43) (44), with the first Saturday of the month featuring the graduation of Mayra Salmeron and Daniel Arnold from Azusa Pacific University (45).
Calvary Road Baptist Church was founded by Harold C. Beigle. His memorial service was held in the Church auditorium on June 9th with his children and grandchildren in attendance. His preacher sons presided (46). Jasmine Grizzard graduated from Cal Poly in Pomona on June 11th, with word recently received that she has been accepted into their grad school beginning in January 2017 (47). This month closed out with little fanfare, though I did turn sixty-six years of age.
How privileged I and my family are to be members of and serve in Calvary Road Baptist Church here in Monrovia, in the People’s Republic of California, where I have served as pastor since November 1985. I point this out because of the thrill of representing the Church during the entire month of July by visiting missionaries in four countries. I did this because a properly developed ecclesiology and missiology recognizes that missions and the outer reach of the Great Commission is really about the low tech New Testament method of Churches sending missionaries to establish Churches. Pam and I visited four great missionary couples to both encourage them and show our Church’s commitment to supporting them on the field, spending a week in each location. The first leg of our trip was London, where we visited Ibrahim ag Mohammed and his family, attending the School of Theology conducted by our friend Dr Peter Masters, the longtime pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and where Ibrahim currently serves as associate pastor after having translated the Greek New Testament into his native language in Mali and conducting effective evangelistic ministry in that 98% Muslim country as the pastor of the Baptist Church in Gao, Mali. The “Arab Spring” resulted in a civil war in Mali. Long story short, Ibrahim is now the associate pastor at Metropolitan Tabernacle (48). While attending the School of Theology, Pam and I enjoyed the fellowship of Dr. Tom Nettles, who spoke again at the School of Theology, and Pastor Gary Long (49). While in the UK Pam and I took a day trip to Bedford to visit Baptist preacher and very prolific author and delightful friend David H. J. Gay (50), who toured us through John Bunyan country. Our next stop was Ukraine, specifically that country’s third largest city, Dnipropetrovsk, and missionary Eugene and Olga Kozachenko and their wonderful kids, shown on a recent visit to our Church (51). Who are the Ukrainians? They are the Scythians mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3.11 (52). Forcibly subdued by the Russians and incorporated into the Soviet Union, they gained their freedom with the disintegration of the U. S. S. R. but are presently engaged in a conflict against Russian troops posing as Ukrainian separatist fighters engaged in a civil war. As you might well imagine, the mood in the country is tense and the opposition by Ukrainians to all things Russian was palpable. Though Eugene has successfully planted a Baptist Church in his city and is contemplating establishing another, his primary efforts are directed to Jewish evangelism. Note the huge synagogue in his city, the largest in Europe if memory serves me correctly (53). I was privileged to preach in four Churches, the first being the Church Eugene established in his city. However, it was in the second Church I preached in that I was moved by the testimony of those who founded the Church just after World War Two. Standing outside the Church building after preaching I noticed old pictures through a window and asked about them to the pastor. He explained the Church was founded by more than a dozen Ukrainian Baptists who had been released from a Gulag (Soviet prison camp) after being imprisoned, starved, tortured, and overworked for more than a decade. When they were released the nearby villagers were so profoundly impressed by the Christian men’s boundless joy and gratitude to God for their lives and experiences that they were drawn to Christ and a new Baptist Church was founded. Think of it. Men who, like Paul and Silas, could sing in prison and could testify of the greatness of God and our Savior upon their release (54). With both a Cossack and a Jewish heritage in his family tree, Eugene chooses which family line he will use depending upon its bearing to his parking space at home (55). Pam and I next flew from Ukraine to Romania with a layover in Istanbul, Turkey, missing the coup attempt there by a couple of hours. Revolution Rule #1: Never attempt a coup while the dictator is in another country with access to cell phones. The coup failed. In Romania, we were met by Garry and Nancy Matheny, a very engaging couple who were our classmates long ago at PCBBC (56). Their place of fruitful service is Busteni, Romania, a lovely mountain resort in the Carpathian range situated on the main highway that connects Romania’s capital, Bucharest, to Berlin (57). The Mathenys are very effective Church planters, with the first shown here (58) being the hub of their outreach activities. Despite establishing a half dozen Churches, Garry and Nancy have had time to engage in research in Egypt and at Oxford University that led to two of Garry’s astonishing books (59). Both are well worth reading. Formerly a communist country, like Ukraine, Romania overthrew their brutal dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in late 1989, but the memories of his secret police brutality of shooting innocent civilians are still preserved by bullet holes (60). From Romania’s beauty, we next flew to the beauty of the island of Zakynthos, Greece, and the place of service of Taki and April Korianitis (61). He is a Greek whose family has been on this island for four centuries. She was living in SoCal when they met on a visit by Taki to visit his uncle. He was saved under the ministry of Marvin O’Dell. Then, after serving in the United States Army, they moved back to his homeland to preach the Gospel and establish a Church, as well as engage in an Internet broadcast and print ministry. To give Taki and April a break, Paula, and Alan, a delightfully interesting and engaging British couple took us on a tour of this lovely island (62). Pictured is what is said to be the oldest living olive tree in the world (63). Pictured here is one of the most photographed scenes on the Internet, showing where a smuggler’s shipwreck beached (64). Our mission trip brought to a close; we flew from Athens to Moscow to LAX and home. We were gone a long time, really stretching the amount of time a pastor should be away from his people. But the experience of spending quality time with four deeply committed and consecrated Baptist missionaries and their supportive and necessary help meets instilled in me an even greater appreciation for missionaries. If I have one great regret in my pastoral ministry, it is that only one time have I ever taken a Church member with me on a missions trip, when Ruben Mireles and his dad went with me on my first missions trip while still in my first pastorate. If you ever have an opportunity to go with your pastor to visit a missionary, by all means, do so. And do what you can to encourage your Church’s support of your pastor visiting missionaries on foreign fields. It is life-changing. The month closed out with our annual women’s retreat and guest speaker par excellence Shannon Coe and hubby and great friend and preacher David Coe (65).
Three things occurred in August: Remodeling began in our building that houses the kitchen, nursery, and fellowship hall, with demolition being the first order of business (66). A couple of days later our annual Vacation Bible School began after our people did a creative job of transforming our auditorium for the Tuesday through Saturday night outreach to kids and their parents (67). But God had other ideas. Late Tuesday night, August 9th, an upstairs water line broke in our education building pouring water into the building for about ten hours. Water was coming from everywhere, resulting in and an environmental cleanup crew being ordered by our insurance company because the age of the building caused concerns about lead and asbestos abatement issues. Thus, two of the three ministry buildings on the property became unusable, one building because of remodeling demolition and the other building because of water damage and hazardous materials concerns (68) (69). That said, and with only one men’s restroom usable on the whole property, our folks sucked it up and without complaint pulled it off by God’s grace. VBS proceeded apace, with not a single complaint. Now, at the end of December, things are still not back to normal (though somewhat improved, thank the Lord). Our Christian school had to begin the school year meeting in the Church auditorium, the staff doing wonderfully until at last, the classrooms were available once more. What an experience. I do not know what we would have done without faithful Church member and head usher C. R. Rigali providing expertise and direction for me to rely on through the whole process (70). His willingness to provide oversight to the contractor and his expertise at job planning from his days as a millwright proved invaluable for us.
We had a real blessing in September with Taki Korianitis and April dropping off son Fotinos at Bible college and then visiting us as they made their rounds to supporting Churches (71). Bill and Margaret Hathaway came the very next weekend, and I gave her the opportunity to speak to our ladies on a Friday night, with Bill speaking on Saturday night and twice on Sunday (72). However, owing to their age, I gave them plenty of rest after their arrival, before their departure, and while they were here, with nice accommodations and comfortable privacy in a good hotel room.
November was swallowed up by another memorable missions trip, this time with George Golden, pictured with Samuel Rai and me near Pokhara, Nepal (77). My history with Samuel Rai goes back to the School of Theology in London, July 2011, when Dr. Peter Masters asked me into his office to introduce me to Samuel Rai and his wife. She took this picture at that time (78). Little did I know the story of a boy in Nepal kidnapped by Maoist revolutionaries, who rose through the ranks to become one of their top commanders, before being wounded in a firefight and going into hiding where he was introduced to the Savior. Pictured here, he has by this time in life traveled to London, been trained for the Gospel ministry by Peter Masters, and is now back in his home country of Nepal trying to start Churches (79). Only it was very difficult in that then formally Hindu country. For years he and his wife labored with tears and prayed. Then God flooded him with fruit. Nine months after meeting him I traveled to Nepal to preach for him at the first Church he established and to teach the women in his women’s vocational training school and the men in his Bible training school for preachers (80). Women’s vocational training school building in the background, with him and wife pictured in the foreground (81). Since then he has preached for me numerous times, and I have preached for him three times, this last time with my longtime friend, George Golden. However, this time to Nepal was different. Not a man prone to self-congratulations, Samuel Rai, is being astonishingly blessed with conversions and Churches by the Lord. We participated in the ordination of 55 men for the Gospel ministry, seasoned men, experienced men, and very fruitful men! There are now approaching 900 Baptist Churches that have spring from the Canaan Baptist Church, his first Church plant! No novices in this group ordained on the last day of the conference (82). What brings this about? God’s blessings. Has to be God since there is no manipulation in this ministry. There is no promotional gimmickry here. P. T. Barnum, who seems to be the model for so many American ministries, is unknown here. How else do you explain one of his Church’s deacons being a retired general in the army that used to hunt him, pictured with me before I preach in the weekly morning worship service (83)? In the conference before the ordination service with some those to be ordained not yet arrived (84). Here am I with our skillful translator, Tek (85), who enabled me to accomplish my assigned task of refuting the Charismatic Movement, which is quite easy to do with an open Bible. Here are the books so prized by the Nepali preachers (86), and the printing plant Samuel Rai has built to produce huge numbers of such books (87). Here is the Christian day school buildings (88) (89) and students (90) (91). These buildings are rented, while this new school building being built costs one millions US dollars (92) and will enable the school to enroll 50% more students. Here are George Golden and me signing ordination certificates the night before the ordination service (93) (94) (95). George Golden is pictured preaching the charge (96). Most of the men are pictured with their ordination certificates, each one already possessing a fruitful personal ministry of souls saved and disciples trained (97). A bit out of sequence, here we are resting after the conference the evening before the ordination service back at the Church (98). Here we all are who preached in the conference (99). Twenty-five years ago a man left a cave he was living in in the Himalaya Mountains, entered a city in Nepal and was brought to Christ. After a quarter century, some 30,000 of the 50,000 who live in caves in the mountains have come to Christ, among them some those ordained in Pokhara in November 2016. It costs $20 per month to train a man for the Gospel ministry in Samuel Rai’s Bible training school. As well, he will need 600 computer notebooks/tablets costing $50 apiece for his Christian day school. If the Lord puts it on your heart to give, you can use this link (https://calvaryroadbaptistchurch.givingfuel.com/giving). Think of it, friend. Almost 900 Baptist Churches! Privileged to train the pastors who minister to the 30,000 of 50,000 mountain cave dwellers converted to Christ over the last quarter century. Then there is the orphanage, the Christian school, and the women’s vocational school, and the printing plant. And I haven’t even begun to write about beyond the borders of Nepal into Tibet, Bhutan, India, and other regions. George and I agreed that no one would believe us when we got back and told people.
Sarah went to Panama with Daniel and Mara Arnold and thoroughly enjoyed herself. But she is now home and all is well in the world. She is pictured getting into the car at LAX (100).
Please reach out to me by email to keep me informed and current with your life. I would be honored to pray for you when called upon. You can email me by going to the Contact Dr. Waldrip link on the front page of the church website. I look forward to hearing from you. Merry Christmas and may God bless you, from the Waldrip family.
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