September 23, 2009

Twenty-Five Years and Counting~ September 2009

On the last Sunday of September in 1984, the Buckley and Stockton families, along with three other people, gathered in our north Phoenix living room for the first worship service of our new church. We prayed and sang songs of praise. We shared communion and received an offering. Then Kristina took our four children and the three Stockton boys into a back bedroom for Sunday school while I gave a sermon from Isaiah 54 about God enlarging our tent.
The offering that Sunday consisted of a check from the Stocktons and one from our family, along with a $1 bill from a wealthy developer who came that week. The next day I went to the bank to deposit the offering. I told the teller that we were Desert Streams Christian Church. She  said, “Oh, I have heard of you!”
“You couldn’t have heard about us, we just got started,” I replied.
When she told me about Desert Springs Bible Church a few miles away, I realized that we would have to change our name to avoid confusion. So the next week we became Living Streams.
One Sunday we prayed and prepared with all our hearts, but the only people who came for the service were Peter, Jon, and David Stockton, who were all in grammar school, along with their grandpa and one visitor.  After that discouraging Sunday, I felt more desperate. I went to the local park and handed out Bible tracts about Jesus. One lady from the park started coming to our services. We also went door to door in our neighborhood, as well as near by trailer parks and apartment complexes, to talk with people about the Lord and invite them to Living Streams.
By January of 1985, the church had grown to about thirty people, so we moved out of our living room and into Mercury Mine Elementary School. The services which had been small but intimate in our living room seemed stark in that  school cafeteria. We shrank down to about a dozen regulars. In those days I self consciously introduced myself as the pastor of the tiniest church in Arizona.
I was given the opportunity to host a live radio call-in show on KXEG called “Jesus is the Answer” from 10:30 pm to midnight. I had to fight to keep myself from falling asleep during the program, which was past my bedtime. In those days KXEG had about as much power as a loud shout out of an open window on a windy day. However, people would call in and we would pray for them. Eventually the station manager moved us to daytime and gave us a free hour five days a week.
Over the past twenty-five years, our little church grew in what seemed to me to be a slow, agonizing process. Kristina Buckley and Patty Stockton laid down their lives to make our church a home. Billy Stockton invited patients from his medical practice and gave generously to keep our little fellowship going. Hylan and Rita Slobodkin, Patty Struck, Marty Fenn, and Keith Kostlan all moved out from California to help us. I will always be thankful for those who have joined their lives, their faith, and their treasure with us to establish the church.

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