HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL
In May 1988, while I was attending the Midvale Seventh-day Adventist Church, in Tucson, Arizona, I was contacted by one of the church members, Mrs. Glen (Shirley) Sturdevant, who knowing that I was a former Adventist Pastor and Evangelist with Joe Crews’ Amazing Facts Radio & Television Ministry, wished to talk with me.
Shirley told me she had become concerned with local church legalism because several members had been reprimanded for drinking coffee and cola drinks and wearing wedding rings and other jewelry. She said she believed that there were sincere Christians, in the church, whose growth was hampered by too many denominational traditions!
She said she had been praying about this for some time and had several dreams where she saw a new non-denominational Seventh-day Church formed in the Tucson area. And, she said, she saw me leading the church as the pastor! So she asked me to consider starting a new church!
I told her I was flattered that she had such faith in me, but that there were already enough churches and I did not feel the need to start another! But I told her that I would pray about it and she should do the same.
Shirley told me that she had been saving money to help start such a church and was sure that I was supposed to help form it and pastor it. I asked her to continue to pray about it and told her we would talk of it again later.
A couple of weeks later she came to me again and said she had another dream saying that I was to form and pastor the new church in Tucson, and that The Lord had told her that my assistant pastor should be a man named Keith Peschel. Keith was currently a member at the Midvale SDA Church, but was working at a small branch church in Green Valley, Arizona. I knew of Keith, but we had never met!
Meanwhile, several other persons, most of whom had no knowledge of my discussions with Shirley, also began to contact me to urge me to start a new church. So I finally agreed to contact Keith Peschel to see how he felt about such a plan.
When I called Keith, I said, “You don’t know me, but I have been talking with a lady named Shirley Sturdevant and some other folks, and want to ask you question. If I were to organize a new non-denominational seventh-day church in Tucson, would you be interested in being my assistant pastor?”
“Wow! I sure would,” was his reply. “I’ve been hoping and praying for some time for this to happen!”
One week later, on June 4, 1988, I, Vickie Sollers, Keith and Karen Peschel, John DeCenzo, Dorothy Caise, Andrea Ritter, Josie Wowk, David Ruiz, Walt and Linda Dills and Jesus and Guadalupe Maldonado met at Palo Verde Park to discuss organizing the new church!
Everyone agreed that we should “go forward” if it was clear “that the Lord was leading!” It was decided that if we could find a church building to rent within one week, it should be secured for our services. If a church home could not be found within one week, we should abandon the idea!
At that time I was working full-time as Editorial Director at KOLD-TV, Channel 13 in Tucson. Keith Peschel was self-employed as a carpet cleaner and said he would take time to try to find us a church to rent. Shirley Sturdevant gave us the money she had saved to begin the church …. it was $72.00. Keith and Karen and I and Vickie Sollers put in another $300.00 and we started looking for a church to rent with that amount of money!
I was at my desk at KOLD-TV on the following Monday when Keith Peschel called to say he had secured a church home for us at the Wilmot Alliance Church at 712 S. Wilmot Road … for $300.00 a month!
Keith said it happened that an Independent Seventh-day Adventist Group had been renting from the Alliance Church, but had left just two weeks previously, so the church was willing to rent to us.
On June 11, 1988, 21 persons gathered for our first Sabbath Worship. The next week several names were suggested for our new church. Our members unanimously chose: “THE CHURCH OF THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL!” Articles of Incorporation were filed with the State of Arizona on July 20, 1988.
I informed the pastor at the Midvale SDA Church of what we were doing and assured him that we had no intention of contacting other members of his church and would not tell anyone else in his church of our location.
I assured him, at a meeting at a local restaurant, that we had no intention of trying to steal any of the sheep from his flock, and that we had taken with us only those who had come to me previously. The SDA pastor said he thought I was wrong to start such a church, “but if God is in it, it will survive, and if not, it will fall apart!”
Although we said nothing to any other members than those who had met with us in the park, the pastor promptly went to his pulpit the next week to warn his flock not to come over to our “maverick group!” Thus we soon added a new member who said she was not aware of our existence until the pastor announced it at their church!
We have now been in existence for 27 years, and experienced the ebb and flow of members who have come or left or moved to other states etc., while the Lord has usually sent others to take their place. But our little flock has never had more than 50 members locally. Yet God has worked many miracles for us to keep our small and less affluent membership steady.
Today we claim just 38 members, with 9 of them out-of state (3 in Iowa, 4 in South Dakota and 2 in North Dakota)!
We believe we have a special message for these last days and that our Dear Lord will bring us workers and the funds to be part of the head and not the tail for the finishing of His great plan of Salvation!