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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Unexpected Turns

John W. Kennedy
May 27, 2012

While on furlough in Southern California after serving for five years as an Assemblies of God missionary to Singapore from the United States, Fred Mendoza started a home Bible study in 1986. Initially, 10 people met in a living room; within three months, 60 gathered. Some asked Mendoza to start a church.

Mendoza, a native of the Philippines, had no intention of planting a church in the United States because of his commitment as a missionary in Singapore. There he served as president of a theological seminary and on staff as associate pastor of a 5,000-member church. Nevertheless, he agreed to pray.

“You know what happens sometimes when you pray,” Mendoza says. “The Lord changed my direction.”

Mendoza resigned his Singapore posts and ventured out in faith. He and his wife, Perla, used $30,000 they had saved for retirement and the $80,000 equity of their home as seed money to plant a church. They had no means of support — other than God’s prompting.

By 2003, the predominantly Filipino church Mendoza led had grown to 350, more than the sanctuary would hold. Mendoza felt led to approach a predominantly white Assemblies of God church in nearby Pomona, Calif., about a merger. That congregation had dwindled to less than 50 attendees, yet met on a six-acre property that included a 1,000-seat auditorium.

The boards of the two churches agreed to combine, with Mendoza as the pastor. Renovations of the roof, restrooms, parking lot, air-conditioning and carpeting followed. This year, Charisma Life Church (AG) will open a new youth center, gymnasium and 10 additional classrooms.

Missionary support remains a vital part of the church’s ministry.

“I’m a direct result of Assemblies of God missions,” says Mendoza, who responded to an altar call by AG missionary Paul Pipkin in 1956. Mendoza went on to plant three churches in the Philippines and start a radio ministry before moving to California in 1971 to attend Vanguard University (AG) in Costa Mesa. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1979 while serving as an AG pastor.

At 73, Mendoza is still going strong — although he nearly died six years ago from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Mendoza had undergone three months of chemotherapy when he decided to seek alternative treatment. After the first treatment, doctors determined that God had healed him. Three years ago he had two heart stents inserted because of blocked arteries. Today, Mendoza is a vegetarian and a jogger.

Yet the most important life change, to both Mendoza and Charisma Life, happened about a year and a half ago, after Mendoza consented to a request from Korean evangelist Jay Cho to use the church building for prayer.

“I didn’t know he meant 5 in the morning,” Mendoza says. All the same, he obliged, coming to open the door because he lives only half a mile away. Although Cho moved on, Mendoza still begins his day at the church at 5:30 every morning with 30 minutes of Bible reading, half an hour of individual prayer, and then 30 to 45 minutes of corporate prayer with others who have joined the effort.

“The prayer meeting in the morning is probably the best thing to happen to me in 50 years of ministry,” Mendoza says. “I’m revived physically, mentally and spiritually. There is no better way to grow a church than praying and preaching the Word of God.”

A large Sunday celebration happens weekly at Charisma Life, complete with Sunday School, lively worship, enthusiastic preaching and fellowship after church. The church draws attendees from four counties, some of whom drive an hour one way.

Recently, Charisma Life revised its core values to be more Pentecostal, incorporating principles outlined by Assistant General Superintendent Alton Garrison in his books The 360 Degree Disciple and The Acts 2 Church. Weekly attendance at the church now tops 570.

The church also has 29 Life Groups that meet in homes during the week. The groups apply detailed discussion questions about the sermon, outlined in the Sunday bulletin. There also are helps for family devotions.

“When families and Life Groups talk about the sermon, and follow the outline and the discussion questions, the sermon is better retained and applied, and pulpit discipleship is enhanced,” Mendoza says. “Discipleship is deeper.”

T. Ray Rachels came to appreciate Mendoza during the 22 years he served as superintendent of the Assemblies of God Southern California District.

“Fred Mendoza is modest and genuine,” says Rachels, who became an AG executive presbyter last year. “He’s bright, effective and a peacemaker.”

Rachels says Mendoza is well prepared in whatever he undertakes. “He puts the mission of the church front and center. He lets people know the church’s vision and the church’s values.”

Mendoza has also been investing in Boyet Jose, who has been serving as college and youth pastor at the church since 2003. Jose became a Christian 20 years ago at a church camp where Mendoza preached. Jose, then 19, went home with a calling to preach. Jose calls Mendoza a spiritual father to him.

“Pastor Fred’s heart is for ministry and hard work,” Jose says. “He takes opportunities to mentor me and disciple me.”

Jose says he sees consistency with Mendoza’s teachings and personal life.

“There is no contradiction,” says Jose, “between what I see behind the pulpit and in the office.”

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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