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By David & Terrie Azzarello
Where to Begin?
California’s spiritual claim to fame is that it
is one of the most liberal states in America!
California has 12 of the top 25 churchless cities
in America. The top three are all in California!
San Francisco (population 850,000), Oakland
(population 450,000), and San José (population
1,000,000+) are tied with 61 percent of their
population not attending church of any kind.

When deciding where to plant a church in
California—where to begin—anywhere would
be fine, right? Through much prayer, God
led us to Ventura (population 108,000+) and
Oxnard (population 210,000+).

15,000 invitation cards. We began by holding
a God and Country Rally Weekend two weeks
before our Grand Opening service. The idea
was to approach a largely unchurched city with
a patriotic event to prepare folks for the new
church launch. God blessed with over 130 in
attendance for a Saturday night service that
included a barbecue meal and a Bible message.

On Sunday we had 60 in attendance and saw
five souls trust Christ! On February 12, our
launch included the five new converts and 55
others, including three missionaries God sent
our way to begin His new work with a missions
emphasis! Time to Launch
Fulfilling the Great Commission
We finished 21 months of deputation in
November 2016 and settled into our townhome
and began door knocking immediately. We soon
discovered that this city is full of people who
are content without church. This is not to say
that all did not attend church, but many were
comfortable in their traditional religion and
with their good works. Through perseverance
we began to see people coming to Christ, and
by the end of January, we had handed out
20 In keeping with our low budget, we began
to disciple our new converts at a nearby
Starbucks. This eventually grew to 20, leading
us to continue the weekly Bible Study at
our home with a potluck meal. For our first
baptism service we baptized seven in a kiddie
pool! Our second baptism service was held
at a private beach and we baptized five in the
Pacific Ocean. We continue to see folks saved
each month!

Second Church Launch
in 2017 in Oxnard
On September 24, we had the Grand Opening
for the River Ridge Baptist Church with 45 in
attendance. God saved four in the service and
we have seen many more saved through the
efforts in Oxnard.

A Fiery Finish to 2017
On a warm December 4 evening, a fire broke
out in the nearby city of Santa Paula, about
10 minutes east of Ventura. Fanned by the
dry, hot, and strong Santa Ana winds, the fire
storm reached Ventura within a couple hours,
devouring homes and everything else in its
path. At 2:30 am the next morning, my wife
and I, along with my visiting in-laws, fled our
home and spent the remainder of the “evening”
at the closest available hotel—45 minutes away
in Canoga Park! The facility where our church
meets narrowly escaped devastation and only
the landscape was burned. This fire, known as
the Thomas Fire, became the largest wildfire in
the history of California, burning over 290,000
acres and destroying over 1,000 homes and
structures and taking two lives.

Several days after the fire swept through the
hills of Ventura, one of our interns joined me as
we sought to be a blessing to the victims of the
Thomas Fire. We were able to give out breathing
masks, pray with hurting people, and share the
Gospel. Two precious souls trusted Christ. God
impressed us to have “Christmas for Others.”
Our plan was to reach out to all folks, including
victims from the fire, and give them Christmas.

We advertised on social media and asked folks
to register for the event so we could give each
child in attendance a gift and give every family
a gift card. We also had a meal, games and
prizes for the children, and most importantly,
we shared the Gospel with everyone.

We had an overwhelming response for both
Ventura and Oxnard. The Poinsettia Pavilion,
our meeting place for Northpointe Baptist
Church, became unavailable, first due to the
smoke and then as the Sheriff ’s Department
used it as a communication station, leaving
us scrambling to find a location. The Lord
met that need and allowed us to use a location
within two miles.

The Lord moved on the hearts of many churches
to help with expenses. We purchased nearly
300 gifts, gift cards, and pizzas. Our BIMI Field
Director Bob Larson offered very generous
financial support to help with this event.

On December 17, families began to show up
for the service at 9:30 a.m. in Oxnard. God
blessed with salvations. He even provided a
Spanish pastor to help in Oxnard! The Gospel
was given, gifts were handed out, lunch was
served, and games and prizes were enjoyed
by all. As we do each week after the service in
Oxnard, we headed to Ventura. The service at
Northpointe Baptist in Ventura was also very
well attended. Many were victims of the fire
and others were victims of life in a sinful world.

We saw battered moms, hurting children,
people from broken homes, and victims of
domestic violence all come together and enjoy
a day of blessing without having to think about
their heartaches.

When we finally tallied the stats for the day,
we saw beauty for ashes before our very eyes!
We had over 220 in attendance and 30 adults
and 41 children had trusted Christ! The same
people who refused to hear about the Gospel
earlier in the year were now broken from the
fire and came with tender hearts toward the
Gospel of Jesus Christ!
The story continues into 2018 as we follow up
on the many visitors and converts. We thank
God for the many churches across America
who very graciously prayed and gave financially
to make it possible for us to minister to these
hurting people. W