In a small, secular town with a population near 8,000, Ojai Valley church welcomed 61visitors during a two-week Revelation of Healing seminar this January.
Efforts began last year, with several prayer groups faithfully meeting. Yet, after conversations with members, David Gardner, pastor of Ojai Valley church, realized more evangelism work was needed. Inspired, the church applied for a grant from the Pacific Union Conference Evangelism Endowment Fund. Soon after it was approved, Lizelle Oreno was hired as a Bible worker, and the church was ready to hit the ground running.
An evangelistic event was new for the congregation, and members were initially discouraged when two speakers canceled. “But God answered prayers we hadn’t even prayed,” said Gardner. “God was prepared ahead of time and sent Anthony Baca, director of SOULS West Bible College, and a team of ten students, out of nowhere!”
The ten Bible-workers-in-training knocked on doors, administered surveys, and posted flyers in local businesses. The event was also shared through Facebook ads. However, the most effective method was radio, where Oreno shared brief ad segments on local Christian station KDAR 98.1. Then, she and Baca were interviewed about the seminar, and they invited people to attend.
One man heard Oreno’s radio ad for Bible studies and contacted the church, hoping to find a spiritual mentor. Oreno also met the man’s wife and invited her to the seminar. While there, the wife took diligent notes. After sharing with her husband, he was impressed to attend; after that, both attended every night. The husband, who unbeknownst to Oreno had been convicted of the Sabbath a few years prior, made his decision for baptism.
One of the Bible workers met a woman who was interested in attending, despite her belief in New Age spirituality, a popular practice in the area. While waiting for the trolley to take her to the seminar, the public transport missed her stop. Her car had been broken for six months. Determined to go, she prayed to God, “If you want me to go to the seminar, then you have to make my car start.” Her car started, and she attended—every single night. As soon as the seminar ended, her car stopped working. She has since been attending Sabbath services and Wednesday Bible studies.
“God did the unimaginable,” reflected Oreno. “I didn’t have high hopes: the community is New Age, this is my first time working at a church, and it felt like the odds were against us. But it’s undeniable that this is something God did.”
As of April, there have been three baptisms since the seminar ended. “In many ways, this campaign has exceeded our expectations,” said Gardner. “Follow-up and future events will continue the work of winning souls and reaping a harvest. God does answer prayers.”
By David Gardner and Araya Moss