The Regional Home Missionary program in the Presbytery of Ohio (which extends into Indiana, Kentucky, western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) took a hit in 2009.
As the economy plummeted in 2008, the denominational Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension began support for twenty new mission works. In the four-year field support program that CHMCE normally grants, the largest amount of support flows to a mission work in its first two years. These two factors meant that CHMCE’s 2009 budget was already large, even without undertaking any new field support for additional mission works. A big question mark was hanging over CHMCE’s finances as 2009 approached.
At that juncture, Lake OPC in Mayfield Village (east of Cleveland) was ready for an organizing pastor. Larry Oldaker, the regional home missionary (RHM) for the Presbytery of Ohio, had been nurturing this work along. As the CHMCE staff and the presbytery representatives at the November 2008 Regional Church Extension Conference wrestled with the strained finances and the church-planting opportunities across the church, RHM Larry Oldaker and the Presbytery of Ohio were asked to make a sacrifice.
Would Larry become the organizing pastor of Lake OPC, stepping down as RHM? This would provide an organizing pastor for Lake OPC without adding to CHMCE’s budget. Larry agreed. Since he and the presbytery wanted to see a continuation of the home missions program in the presbytery, Larry continued to cover some regional home missionary responsibilities.
For three years, Larry served Lake OPC as its organizing pastor. He also nurtured a new church getting started in Huron, Ohio. He sought to encourage the mission work in Huntington, West Virginia, as it went through a traumatic change in church planters. With help from the Rev. George Scipione and ruling elder Paul Tavares, he was involved in getting a mission work under way in Wilkinsburg (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania.
He tried to follow up with other leads in places like Louisville, Kentucky. His weeks were hectic as he tried to focus on multiple fronts.
During this time, he was also having problems with his vision. He would see double. His vision would blur. God led him to a doctor who diagnosed the situation. She also discovered that Larry lacked proper depth perception. These problems with his vision stemmed from an auto accident that he was in as a child.
Praise God that through therapy Larry has now developed depth perception, and proper corrective lenses have helped with the other issues.
Throughout the years of this uncertain economy, the people of the OPC have given generously to the work of Worldwide Outreach. Also, there have been fewer new church plants for several years. The Committee’s finances are faring well. So changes are taking place for Larry and the Presbytery of Ohio.
After these years of having his attention scattered in so many directions, Larry resumed his full-time labors as regional home missionary for the Presbytery of Ohio on June 1.
Lake OPC has a new organizing pastor, Geoffrey Willour. He had been the pastor of Redeemer OPC in Toms River, New Jersey. Lake OPC has progressed well and was organized as a new and separate congregation as Pastor Willour arrived.
Larry is focusing his labors on Grace OPC in Huron. This group has been meeting for evening worship on Sundays. But until now, Larry has had limited time to lead the work in outreach and other areas of ministry development.
Larry hopes that Grace OPC can begin to meet on Sunday mornings this summer for worship. Lord willing, outreach and evangelism ministries will be in place for the fall. As the Lord prospers the work, the goal is for Larry to hand the ministry of Grace OPC over to an organizing pastor within a year.
Other church-planting endeavors call out for his attention. Two different groups of people in Cincinnati have been in contact with the presbytery. He is praying and working to see what the Lord has in store for that city.
Providence Presbyterian Church in Pataskala, Ohio (east of Columbus), initiated a Bible study in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Teacher Sacha Walicord of that congregation was teaching at a university there. He saw no Reformed churches in the area, so with his session’s approval he began a Sunday evening Bible study. The group grew quickly. Four OP families who live near Mount Vernon have become part of the work. Two are from Providence Church, and two have come from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Mansfield. In March, the group was received as a mission work of the presbytery and became known as Knox Presbyterian Church. As of July 1, Sacha will focus his labors on ministering to this new group, which numbers about fifty. Larry will be encouraging Sacha and the mission work and serving on the overseeing session.
To help the work in Wilkinsburg move forward, it was determined to bring in a minister who could devote full time to the work. Tom Albaugh came from a pastorate in Vermont to labor for a year. His task was to gather more people and strengthen the core group. By God’s grace, new people have been added. The group has grown from the teens to the upper twenties. Tom’s call has been extended to continue his labors as the organizing pastor of Redeemer OP Mission. Larry also serves on the overseeing committee.
Covenant OPC in Vandalia, Ohio (North Dayton) is thinking about planting a daughter church. Pastor Charles Jackson has been seeking Larry’s counsel about such an undertaking.
Kalynn Oldaker is a great helpmeet for Larry. She has traveled with him every Sunday from their home in Bellville, Ohio, to Cleveland, then on to Huron, and then home—a circuit of about 225 miles. She has been the church pianist at Lake OPC and elsewhere. She is also the nurse manager at a crisis pregnancy center, ministering to many women facing major changes in their lives.
Larry and Kalynn are thankful for God’s mercy to them. Since first becoming regional home missionary in 2004, Larry has clocked over 280,000 miles on his car. Even with Larry’s vision challenges, God has kept them safe.
Please pray that God would continue to give Larry the wisdom he needs in ministering throughout the Presbytery of Ohio. This is a very diverse region. The cultures of the South, Midwest, and East converge here. Different parts of the presbytery reflect those distinct cultures.
Pray, too, that God would give Larry continued good health and renewed energy. He wants to be physically and spiritually ready to assist churches in taking the initiative to start daughter churches. He wants to be open and ready to minister to the people and groups that God may bring his way.
Thank God for Larry and Kalynn. Rejoice that God has given the Orthodox Presbyterian Church many faithful servants like them.
A Growing Presence
The presence of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in greater Charlotte, North Carolina, continues to grow.
Our first mission work there began to meet in the spring of 1975, with three families and one single. Today Matthews OPC is a congregation of about three hundred at morning worship. In the spring of 2003, Matthews OPC sent off her associate pastor, Cliff Blair, and fifteen households, including two elders and three deacons, to begin Redeemer OPC in the city of Charlotte. Redeemer OPC, which now numbers about one hundred at morning worship, has in turn encouraged and nurtured the start of Reformation OPC in Gastonia.
Matthews is southeast of downtown Charlotte, straddling the I-485 beltway.
Gastonia is twenty-five miles due west from downtown Charlotte. Redeemer Church is about midway between the other two congregations.
Three families interested in the idea of an OP mission work in Gastonia attended the Home Missions Conference at the Machen Retreat and Conference Center in June 2009. The Monteiths, the Routszongs, and the Griggs came to explore what it would take to plant an Orthodox Presbyterian church. Some of the families worshipped at Redeemer OPC in Charlotte until morning worship began in Gastonia in the fall of 2011.
Organizing pastor Joseph (Joby) H. Fowler, Jr., describes Reformation Church (www.reformationopc.com) as a group that is hungry for the Lord. It readily avails itself of the means of grace, eagerly participating in worship and receiving the preached Word of God with joy. Worship attendance currently fluctuates between thirty-five and fifty. The mission work is eager to grow.
Gastonia is in the greater Charlotte metropolitan area and is home to 80,000 people and many churches. Gaston County (which does not include Charlotte) has a population of over 200,000. Gastonia is a warm, friendly community. Some of the participants in Reformation OPC are longtime residents.
The people are working hard to minister to the community. They canvass neighborhoods, handing out flyers. They invite neighbors and others in their circle of contacts to come to worship and other events. The congregation is ministering in several nursing homes, seeking to give spiritual care to people who are not getting a lot of support from other local churches. They want to see Christ’s eternal kingdom grow, as well as this new congregation.
Plans are being laid to reach out at Gaston College, which is located a quarter mile down the road from Reformation Church’s meeting location. This is a community college, where five thousand curriculum students and sixteen thousand continuing education students study. Since most of them are from the local area, it seems to be a good place to connect with local people.
Joby grew up in a Christian home. His dad is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. After college, Joby spent two years in China doing evangelism and discipleship. Feeling the constraints of parachurch ministry, he came home to Charlotte to attend Reformed Theological Seminary in order to prepare for ministry in the church. He did a summer internship and a yearlong internship at Matthews OPC.
There he met his future wife, Carla. She was a newly single mom with three children. Joby and Carla now have five children.
Please pray that more of the people who are invited to services and events at Reformation OPC would attend, be drawn to Christ and this body, and unite with the church.
Pray, too, that the Lord would cause the church families to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and be more united to one another. The full schedules that drive everyone’s week can be distracting.
Joby is a new pastor. He was ordained eight months ago. Preparing and delivering two sermons each week seemed really daunting when he started. He thanks God for his assistance and for how he has blessed the preaching and used it in people’s lives. Joby has grown to love the very act of preaching, not just the idea of preaching. He asks you to pray that the Lord would continue to give him the assistance he needs in his preparation and proclamation.
Pray that the Lord would increase the ministry and influence of Reformation OPC in Gaston County, and that each person in the group would take advantage of the opportunities for ministry that God sends every day.
New Staff Member
Sean Gregg recently joined the Home Missions office staff in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, as the new administrative assistant. After earning his B.A. in communications with a journalism emphasis from Dordt College in 1999, he reported the news for the weekly newspaper in Pipestone, Minnesota.
After several years, he returned to Pennsylvania to marry Heather Smith, whom he met at French Creek Bible Conference. Together with their children, they attend Trinity OPC in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, where Sean serves as a ruling elder.
Trinity is the fourth Orthodox Presbyterian church in Pennsylvania that Sean has called home. He was baptized at Covenant OPC in Grove City, and made his profession of faith at Calvary OPC in Middletown, where his father, David, currently serves as a ruling elder. He joined Grace Fellowship in Mansfield when his parents moved there during his college years. Sean has been at Trinity since returning to his home state.
When Sean is not in the office, he can often be found starting a new project on his family’s house in Glenside or exploring Penn’s Woods with his family.
As you have occasion to contact the Home Missions administrative offices, please welcome Sean to his new role. He can be reached at [email protected]