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A Story of God’s Providence (update 8/2012)

Pastor William Heinrich

Providence is the actions of God in history in which He brings to pass His sovereign purposes. Specifically, it is God acting in the lives of His chosen people. God has always been a providential God, as clearly seen in the lives of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, Paul, and especially the incarnate Jesus.

We will relate yet another story of God’s providence and look at one small church, “Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.” Even this story is too big to tell completely, but where do we start?

Perhaps we should begin with young Billy, who was taken to church every Sunday by his parents. It was the Old German Baptist Brethren Church located at 2766 N. Dakota Avenue, Modesto, California. Time moved on though, and when he was 21 years old, Billy met and married an Old German Baptist Brethren girl from Kansas, Ellen. And in a relatively short time, the family grew as God blessed them with four wonderful children.

When Billy, now called Bill or William, turned 26 years of age, God saved him. This act of God’s sovereign grace brought an abrupt and wonderful change in Bill’s life. He and Ellen were baptized and joined the Old German Baptist Brethren Fellowship on N. Dakota. Soon Bill was teaching two Bible studies in their home.

In January of 1971 God began making the first of many changes in Bill’s life. Bill began attending San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary. He also changed churches and began taking his family to La Loma Grace Brethren Church and then later the Ripon Grace Brethren Fellowship.

The next major change was the move from California to Indiana to attend Grace Seminary. After graduation, Bill was called by God to the First Baptist Church of Delphi, Indiana. He served the Lord there for twelve and a half years as the Senior Pastor.

In 1986, our sovereign and providential God made more changes. He led the Heinrich family back to California to serve Him for fifteen years as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church of Ceres. The stay at FBC was very fruitful. Every month with few exceptions, new converts were being baptized. The sanctuary overflowed into the small chapel. But God’s providence soon revealed He had still another plan. The fruitful ministry of fifteen years ended, and a new, great challenge began to unfold.                               

On Aug 19, 2001, a small group of about 20 people, led by Pastor William Heinrich, met in the home of Andrew and Kendra Fletcher for “church”.  At a later meeting in Pastor Heinrich’s front yard, the name was chosen and the fellowship of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church was formed.  And in choosing the name, this small group acknowledged it was surely a work of God’s providence.

Soon God’s careful hand was seen again. This time, the kind people of Central Seventh Day Adventist Church opened their doors to the members of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church (SGBC). Since the Seventh Day Adventists met on Saturdays, they kindly allowed SGBC to rent their beautiful facilities on Sundays.

From the very beginning, God placed on Pastor Heinrich’s heart the necessity of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church having a building to call its own, and so a building fund was established. During this time at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, SGBC was blessed with the visitation ministry of Pastor Shepard and the youth ministries of Pastor Worrell.

After almost three years of meetings, God put it on the hearts of Casey and Chris Van Ryes to show us a fine building on Kansas Avenue. The new facility’s advantage was that it could be used seven days a week. However, the rent was too great for our church alone.

Once again God provided and the space was shared with the Harvest Fire Empowerment Center. The relationship with Pastor Jerry Smith and his wife Anita was very sweet. During the years we shared the building, Johnnie Sloan became the Assistant Pastor of SGBC and took over half the preaching. This providential act of God actually started way back in 1994 when Johnnie and his wife, Jaymee, came under the mentorship of Pastor Heinrich. Years of leading and teaching prepared Johnnie for the future ministry at SGBC. What a wonderful blessing they have been to the church.

Throughout this time, the “Building Fund,” as it became known, was growing. After searching diligently for a building for two years, God led Pastor Heinrich full circle back to the very place where “Billy” got his start—the Old German Baptist Brethren property on N. Dakota Avenue. When Pastor Heinrich learned that the church would be offered for sale, he requested to be given first opportunity of purchase. However, when the church listed the property, the price was far beyond what SGBC could offer.

But time passed and property values began to decline. Soon the Dakota property was sold to another group, and it seemed God had told us “no,” so we continued looking elsewhere. However, God’s continuing providence was reflected a few months later, when the other group changed their mind and retracted their offer.

 Pastor Heinrich, armed with faith the size of a mustard seed and an additional two years of building fund savings, approached the selling agent and an agreement was made. This story has its own amazing account of God’s sovereignty and could fill three pages by itself, but there is just not enough time.

The Old German Baptist Brethren church members were excited to sell to someone who grew up there; Pastor Heinrich and the entire SGBC membership were equally excited. And so the search for a sufficient loan began.

In the six and a half years of their existence, the membership had saved enough money to place a down payment for one-third of the asking price. But banks do not like to loan to churches, so God, in His awesome providence, provided a much better way.

Two years earlier, at approximately the same time that SGBC first looked at the Dakota property, the Aurora Baptist Church had closed and sold. A portion of the Aurora church’s sale price was promised to the California Association of Regular Baptist Churches (CARBC) to invest and then use the interest earned to start new churches. So just when SGBC needed a loan, the money became available.

CARBC granted a loan with an interest rate far below normal bank offerings. CARBC’s loan, combined with a smaller loan provided by a Christian individual, also at an interest rate lower than the bank’s, provided enough money for the remaining two-thirds of the purchase price.  Also, an agreement was achieved with our bank allowing us to cash our certificates of deposit early and without penalty.  

The final papers were signed on Pastor and Ellen’s anniversary, February 13th and the first service was held on February 17th. It was held in the basement because the sanctuary upstairs was undergoing renovation.

The much anticipated first service in the sanctuary was held on March 2. It was an emotional and tearful event, causing Pastor Heinrich some difficulty at the start of his sermon. 

All of this is part of God’s sovereign grace, and we are supremely grateful, but the story continues. The large down payment left SGBC short of money, with many improvements still needed. However, God knows this and is seeing to the completion of the work He has begun. Let us look at some of His providential actions:

1.      The sanctuary and other areas upstairs needed carpeting and a man said he would sell the carpet to us at cost. Then the manufacturer reduced the carpet’s price below what a dealer pays. If that were not enough, the cost was reduced even more as two Christian men laid the carpet at a reduced rate as an act of worship.

2.      A backhoe was needed to complete some drainage work on the property. God provided someone with his own equipment who is willing to donate his labor and complete all work as needed.

3.      A Christian painter offered to paint the church free of charge. Additionally, the paint store sold to us below contractor price and then gave us fifteen gallons for free.

4.      God also worked out an unusual concession for the church sign.

5.      At the “Pastor and Wives” retreat in Cambria, a pastor from Gardena offered a “Wolfe” commercial range free for our kitchen. A man in our church then voluntarily went and picked it up.

6.      The tile for the three upstairs bathrooms was donated by three different people. An antique mirror was also donated.

7.      The labor to remove the old asbestos tiles from all of the upstairs flooring was donated.

God also raised up people to lead and see to completion all the many and various improvements: 

·         Ken Ernst was the vital and tireless real estate overseer. 

·         Todd Heinrich is overseeing the drainage needs. 

·         Mickey Prescott and Todd are hard at work completing the Sunday School rooms with vital help from many, especially Michael Marti with the heating and air conditioning ducting, Mike Boyd installing sheetrock, and free advice from James Fultz, a heating and air conditioning specialist. 

·         Steve Bell oversaw the removal of the old tile upstairs and the carpeting. 

·         General décor for the entire church was in the capable hands of Anne Ernst and Becky Heinrich. 

·         The nursery was painted with a Noah’s ark theme by Brenda Rogers.

·         The sign was seen to completion by Pastor Sloan. 

·         Pastor Sloan also oversaw the painting of the sanctuary, which was done for free by Kenny Chapman. 

·         Moving was in the able hands of Jim Collins and Doug Shipper. 

·         The platform was built by Sergio Magana and his brother Jose, who donated all their labor. 

·         Landscaping was donated by the able horticulturist hands of Steven Lybolt. 

·         Dan Matthew jump started the bathroom remodel, and Mike Mattox saw it to completion with special help laying new tile from Edgar Wheeler and Doug Schipper. 

God raised up these people to provide the wisdom and labor as a sacrificial gift to God through His Church. Others that must be mentioned for their repeated help are James Parra, Mike Baca, Jeremy Blancarte, Ellen Heinrich, Randy Gisler, and members of the Polovin family.  Add to this list the cheerful and lively help provided so freely by many others.

Since God’s providence doesn’t stop, we must acknowledge that even more has happened since this was written. We ask you to continue with us, listing each thing and rejoicing often. Our God shows His providence in many ways. It is thrilling to look to the future of this ministry and what our amazing and providential God will do here. We encourage believers to look for His providence, and you will be awestricken with how good God is to His people, bringing His will to pass and blessing His born-again children.


The Continuing Story of God’s Providence at SGBC 2.2

By: Pastor William Heinrich

 After a great deal of time I felt again burdened to continue the story of God’s providence at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church. With volunteer help, 2 offices were built out of a room in the North end of the church.  The cost was nominal.  Also blinds for all our sanctuary windows we purchased at cost and installed by Steve Lybolt and the Christian men who sold them to us.  The installation was free to the church. A desire to improve the kitchen was met by an amazing price for granite to cover all the countertops. A new kitchen cabinet with a double sink was built by Mickey, covering water and gas pipes with a new wall.  Kenny again was generous to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church when he painted the entry into the fellowship hall and all the tables. 

            The year 2010 was met with extending the chain link fence in front, matching what was already there.  This allowed a much safer place for the children to play.  Next a new play area for smaller children was fenced in on the Southeast corner of the church. Matching fence was used and the area was filled with sand.  Again we were blessed with a man in our church that has skills in the area of fence building.  Then a friend of the church got us sand at a very reasonable price.  Electrical needs were satisfied twice by Dennis Adkins, a Christian who desired not to be paid for he was doing it for the Lord.

             Sycamore trees to the East and southeast of the church were still not responding to the additional water that had been supplied through the gracious efforts of Jay Friesen, so severe trimming was needed. Again the work day brought out many workers and a job was well done.  Later a larger tree limb was cracking and Doug got his friend to remove it.  He came and trimmed other trees for almost nothing. He did it for the Lord. 

            This year, 2010, Pastor Sloan was ordained.  Pastor Heinrich thought it would be nice if the church sent him to Israel for his ordination gift.  It only took a month and a half and all the money came in.  All this grace and more in that the giving continued to be above the budgeted amount. 

            Again we returned to the fellowship hall.  Portable partitions were purchased to make an additional classroom.  This allows the room to remain the same size while having another classroom.  Also Steve Bell built a new library after Steve & Brenda Rogers removed the old one.  Steve’s work is so beautiful and his heart very generous to the church.  Some of the women of the church have also painted the posts and west wall.  Kenny has beautifully painted the South entrance.  The basement has a great face lift and all through God’s generous providence. 

            The good gifts of God come big and small but all are precious.  Steve Bell gave the church an excellent copy machine, allowing our old one to be assigned to the basement.  A contract for repair it held in the new one but not the old one.  Here again God’s providence is seen.  Tim Crawford has twice fixed the old one and he too wants God’s blessing not our money.

            As we close this update, it goes without saying God’s providence has not always been flowers without thorns.  Some of the thorns dug deeply and caused festering sores.  For example, one of our members turned her back on obeying the Lord and refused to repent.  We also had two members go through potentially terminal illness.  This truly rocked the fellowship.  But God in grace drew us together and we were allowed again to smell the flowers.  God providence always leads to good but it has taken us through what we might call bad.


The Continuing Story of God’s Providence at SGBC 2.3

By: Pastor Johnnie Sloan

It is always good to assess where we are as a church and take stock of what the Lord has done through His gracious Providence.  As we continue the story of God’s Providence in this our eleventh year we can praise God for many new blessings and future hopes. 

The greatest blessing we have received in the last two years is wonderful new families who worship and serve with us.  It is great to see new folks jump right in with our already faithful members and minister.  It seems not only has God given us people, but people who have a real heart to serve.  And each area of service is a beautiful providence in its own right.  For example, The Meisners have come and brought wonderful abilities with them.  Steve has helped with much needed improvements around the property including a further improvement of the previously mentioned basement facelift, our new barbecue area outside and a much-needed walkway to the men’s restroom outside.  Other families have even more recently as well and we look forward to seeing God use them at SGBC. 

 Another new family that has truly blessed SGBC is actually part of a combination providence that shows the marvelous work of God.  The McAteers have come and jumped right in to the ministry at SGBC. Marty has helped serve as usher and also worked to make our lawn look wonderful as well as being available in many other areas.  His wife Vicky as a paralegal has been instrumental in the next huge provision of the Lord – our new and better loan.

 God has worked it out through our fellowship (CARBC) that we were able to consolidate our two loans into one that not only is shorter in time, but will save nearly $400.00 a month and thousands over the life of the loan.  So God not only prepared the financial situation, but brought Vicky’s name to the mind of Pastor Heinrich in such a way as to work it all out.  This was amazing!

 In 2011, after a trip to visit family, Pastor Heinrich had an epiphany to begin a Youth Group and with a few families, H20 (His to Own) was born.  The Lyons took leadership and this ministry exceeded all expectations.  The kids bonded and the Lyons provided exciting and educational events every week for them.  With their hard work a solid foundation was laid that we are grateful to God for.  Since then, Steve Meisner has graciously taken over that ministry and it remains successful.  What a blessing a thriving Youth Group is to our church! 

Other families have jumped in with both feet as well.  The Benedicts and Daltons have become vital parts of SGBC.  Adam Benedict has facilitated some much needed property work at SGBC.  One notable thing is getting help from a local community member to spray our trees – for free!  They have never looked better.  We’re grateful for his work as well as the work of all those who are so faithful with the building and grounds of SGBC.  A good example is Richard Hesse who faithfully sprays the whole property for weeds – what a blessing!  The Building and Property Committee has done a great job.  We are excited about potential future projects too which could include a Youth Room and/or more Sunday School classes!  Maybe in the next Providence update.

Also, since the last update there has been quite a few Men’s Fellowship Breakfasts put on my Jim Sauer and Mom’s Time Out meetings by Ellen Heinrich.  In both of these gatherings, God has really built strong relationships and bonded the men and women of SGBC together in very special ways.

 Since the last update there have been many meaningful ways in which the providential hand of the Lord has moved with us.  We had a wonderful 10th Anniversary celebration in which the whole community was invited (and many came!) to a free breakfast at the church.  We put on display our gratitude for God’s blessings to us for all to see.  Many came and were thankful to get to know us better.  It was a real outreach which was evidenced by the fact that a family who lost a loved one that is not a church-going family asked us to help them with his service.  A service in which the gospel was clearly preached.

 We ended the last update with what might be called difficult providence.  With the many blessings come things we might struggle with.  For example, we have had many invaluable members leave for various reasons which is always difficult.  We have seen some apparently walk away from the Lord even to the point of church discipline.  We have had families struggle with very difficult situations – like the Jacobsohns and their son David’s cancer as well as Darlene Summers’ own battle with the same – the Lord has been gracious to both, but the difficulty is there.  One very notable difficulty is the loss of Ken Ernst to his battle with cancer.  His involvement in SGBC cannot be overstated.  The providence story up till his death this year has Ken woven all through it.  Yet the Lord’s Providence is evident even now as some of Ken’s last words hang in pendant form on his beautiful wife’s neck – “He is allways in charge”.  Even the misspelling shows Providence!  All ways and always!  This is Providence.