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Camarillo Church Celebrates 50th Anniversary

According to Lonnie Melashenko, in the Camarillo church’s early days, its elders became so perplexed about the church’s soaring water bill, caused by an influx of baptisms, that they sought help from the conference. Melashenko served as the second pastor of the church (1972-1977) and was the featured speaker at the church’s 50th anniversary celebration on June 24.

The Camarillo pastoral team includes Calvin Gardner, youth pastor; Erwin Joham, senior pastor; and Jason Whitley, associate pastor. Photo by Betty Cooney
The Camarillo pastoral team includes Calvin Gardner, youth pastor; Erwin Joham, senior pastor; and Jason Whitley, associate pastor. Photo by Betty Cooney

During a “Remembering Our Past” segment of the program, Melashenko also told of a time when a meat boycott worried area school administrators. “What we will we feed the children?” they asked the church, having heard that Adventists were vegetarians. Melashenko invited dieticians from Loma Linda to conduct a nutrition seminar and vegetarian cooking class at the local Episcopal church, giving school leaders healthy alternatives for student cafeterias.

In the 50-year history of Camarillo church, members have taken evangelism very personally. “Baptisms and the growth of our church are tied to each aspect of the varied ministries and personal friendships of our Camarillo church members,” said Dennis Stirewalt, who pastored the church from 2004 to 2016. “The church truly has been blessed through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in gifting Camarillo members with a passion for lost souls.”

Dennis and Raschelle Stirewalt reflected on their 12-plus years of ministry in Camarillo. Pastor Stirewalt lauded the spiritual leadership of past Camarillo associate pastoral teams, including Janeen Little, Derick Littrell, and William Sellers, especially to young members. “Their creative talents and love for the Lord brought a spark of life to children’s ministries, youth ministries, college students, and the entire church,” he said.

Darlene Dickenson received roses for coordinating "a great team of leaders" for the entire anniversary celebration. Photo by Connie Vandeman Jeffery
Darlene Dickenson received roses for coordinating "a great team of leaders" for the entire anniversary celebration. Photo by Connie Vandeman Jeffery


The Camarillo church began with 50 charter members. Today, its membership tops 400. “The most effective evangelism tools of our church (based on the demographics of the city of Camarillo),” Stirewalt said, “were the varied talents of members that were expressed in music, health and fitness, children’s programs, Bible studies, Christian education, and community involvement.”

From the church’s earliest days, pastors and members have reached in and out of the congregation to help meet needs and affirm people. George Swanson, affectionately referred to as “Mr. Music Man,” was the church’s music director for more than 27 years. For the anniversary celebration, Swanson traveled back to Camarillo from his home in Colorado to practice for a week with musicians for the celebration.

“The radical good news about the character of God,” noted Melashenko in his message for the day, “is that we are here in the story of the Prodigal Son. It is up to us to go out of our doors and finish the story; to tell others about the good news of the gospel. The heart of the Father and His Son Jesus Christ must be our hearts.”

“At the Camarillo church, we have a wonderful foundation to build on,” said Erwin Joham, the current pastor. “The 50th anniversary celebration was an excellent opportunity for us to see where God has led in the past. Our challenge now is to build on that and to make a real impact in the community. Our plan and hope is to implement the biblical principal of having everybody in the church involved in soul-winning, with the goal of having small units all working in concert toward this common goal.”

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