I was born and raised in Fresno, California. I moved to Southern California to attend Azusa Pacific University and after I graduated, I lived in Riverside and started attending Sandals Church. Sandals was relatively small at that time, and we met in the gym at Cal Baptist University. I loved attending Sandals Church. It was a big part of young adult life and made a real difference. I had a dear friend at Sandals Church named Scarlett, who I’ve continued in relationship with for these last 15 years or so.
“After I moved back home to Fresno, I said the two things that I missed about being in Southern California are Scarlett and Sandals Church.”
About two years ago, our pastor chose to move on. We tried to find a new one, but it was challenging to find somebody who was a jack of all trades. We wanted someone who’s a really good speaker, a really good lover of people, and a really great leader and good administrator, and so to find somebody good at all of those things was difficult. So we just have not had great luck. We were without a pastor, without any leadership and so our church council talked about where do we go from here? Scarlett mentioned that I should reach out to Ron from the Sandals Church ROGO Foundation.
I sent Ron an email, and I wrote:
“I know this is probably crazy. I know that we’re far away but I’ve heard Pastor Matt talk about how God has given him this vision for 500 churches. I know you haven’t gone outside of the Inland Empire yet and although Fresno is far, it’s not actually that far in the grand scheme of things. So, is there any chance that this might be a possibility?”
And I expected him to write back and be like, “Oh, that’s a cute idea, thanks but no thanks” But he wrote back and said, “I’d love to talk to you.” My heart skipped a beat. When I left Southern California, I just had this hole in my heart for Scarlett and Sandals Church. I just have wanted to share the vision of sandals Church of being real and bring it here. And so then when it was like, “Oh, that could be an option that really could happen!”
I think that the vision of being real could transform Easton, Fresno, the Central Valley. It is a diverse place. There’s a lot of tough stuff here. Life is difficult, not that it isn’t everywhere, but I think that sometimes people don’t feel free to be who they are. I believe that this vision of authenticity, hopefully, will allow people to do that and to be that into really allow God to infiltrate our lives here and make a change to bringing light to the darkness.
“I think there’s no limit to what God could do here and I can’t wait to see what he does.”