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  • Ron Gladden


The highlight of every month is to meet with 20 to 30 friends and God enthusiasts in our home. Why are we doing that, and what is next?

Visalia (pronounced vy-SAIL-yuh) is located in California’s rich agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Our friendly small town is located approximately 230 miles southeast of San Francisco, 190 miles north of Los Angeles, and 36 miles west of Sequoia National Park. As the county seat of Tulare County, Visalia serves as the economic and governmental center to one of the most productive agricultural counties in the country. Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains, the highest mountain range in the contiguous U.S.

We are a multiethnic community where a wide variety of faiths and religions are practiced. Many Christian churches of most denominations can be found throughout the city, and the Christian population keeps growing.

Visalia offers a very enjoyable climate, though a bit arid. We enjoy plenty of sunshine throughout the year, with an average of only 26 days of measurable precipitation each year. Though temperatures rise above 100 degrees in the summer, it cools off quickly in the evenings, making outdoor living very pleasurable.

Rosie and I have enjoyed living in Visalia for 20 years, but our journey together began in Texas. We met at Southwestern Adventist University during an Adult Degree Program Seminar in 1988. Seeing God weave our lives together in miraculous ways, we were married a year later and became a loving blended family with four children.

After I finished my communications degree at SAU, we moved to Oregon, where I did an

internship at WGTS, Walla Walla University’s radio station. Then I received an invitation to become the Director of Operations at KARM (now The Promise FM) radio station, and we moved to Visalia in 1993. In 2004 I became the program director of the station and have thoroughly enjoyed spreading the good news of Jesus Christ through great music and programming that has led many people into a closer relationship with Jesus.

Just a few years after our move to Visalia, Rosie, who had been denominationally employed for 17 years, became the youth and worship pastor of the Visalia Seventh-day Adventist Church. Her passion for worship ultimately led her to full-time worship ministry with administrative duties.

As our personal devotion to the Lord continues to progress and becomes the reality in which we live, we have felt a void that institutionalized religion is not able to satisfy. We desired more fellowship, more interaction with people in our community, more grace, compassion, heart-felt worship.

Through much prayer and study of the Word, we are learning that “We see what He is doing; then we adjust our lives, our plans, and our goals to Him. We are to place our lives at His disposal – where He is working – so He will accomplish His purposes through us” (Henry Blackaby). This is our desire.

When we read The Pivotal Design, God jolted us with a new vision for ministry, which has resulted in a new venture we call “Grace River Ministry”. This name originated from Beth Moore’s “Breaking Free” Bible study. We expanded on her illustration of our lives being like a river, a moving stream of water that can be very peaceful, and very treacherous. Growing from rain, melting snow, and other streams and rivers on its journey to the sea, it nourishes the vegetation along its banks, supplying water and refreshing all who come to it as it remains linked to its upland source. Grace River wants to be a source of encouragement, a place where anyone can share his story and find his worth as a valued child of our loving Creator.

One of the first steps toward a Mission Catalyst church is to meet in our home once a month with 20 to 30 friends and God enthusiasts. Our times together are warm and open, and we have already seen the healing hand of God reaching those who are hurting.

We are excited about the journey ahead and pray that we will be a place of hope, grace, and compassion to anyone who needs it. It is overwhelming to think in terms of shepherding a new flock in a town that already has so many churches, but we believe that God will use us to fulfill His purposes in this city in His way and His perfect timing.

We cherish your prayers!

Chuck O’Dell

P.S. Every gift that is postmarked by the end of the year is doubled, up to $25,000. Should you find yourself in a position to share a special gift before the end of the year, we will be especially grateful!

Grace River is a project in the Research phase of affiliation with Mission Catalyst. To learn about our three-step affiliation process, go online to Chuck and Rosie plan to attend Planting Team Assessment next month.

The Pivotal Design is the model for all prevailing churches. Click here to learn more.

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