The Hawthorne church had a major growth spurt on April 22, 2017, as the Carson International Group joined them in membership, adding 46 persons, 40 of them by profession of faith. An additional dozen persons plan to prepare for baptism or joining the church by profession of faith at a later date.

Tongan group provides special music. Photo by Filemu T. Filemu
Tongan group provides special music. Photo by Filemu T. Filemu

Months before, L.A. Metro Region Director Gerard Kiemeney had prayed with Pastor John Jenson, South Bay church, and a member of the Region staffing committee. “What if God impresses two churches to get together?” he asked. Pursuing that possibility, Kiemeney met with the Hawthorne church board and found them receptive. Then he interviewed the pastor, knowing they needed the right pastor for the delicate task of bringing two congregations together. When the board asked, “Why not just invite them to come here?” the idea of the Carson International group actually joining with a mother church was born. “My conviction,” said Kiemeney, “is that the idea is God-birthed. In Him, it’s going to work.”

Later, commenting on the joining together of the two culturally diverse congregations, Kiemeney added, “When the Holy Spirit moves among us, it’s no longer about differences; it’s about what they hold in common. Everyone
here is that soldier willing to accept that mission to go out. You will meet, mingle. You will call them to follow Christ; going to seek and to save the lost. In Your hands, there is no failure, only success.”

“‘Together Is Better’ is the message today,” affirmed John Cress, SCC executive secretary and ministerial director. “It is rare for churches to join together. This is a unique, rare moment. Jesus has brought this about.”

“In nature, the redwood tree illustrates what happens when we come together with a shared mission,” Cress continued. “The tree’s roots intertwine and strengthen each other. All of you together are Christ’s body, with one thing in common: all are God’s church. We are one body, one Lord, one baptism. Together is better.”

Pastor "Mu" Filemu. Photo by Betty Cooney
Pastor "Mu" Filemu. Photo by Betty Cooney

Cress concluded with a blessing on the church: “May the door of the church be wide enough to welcome all who hunger for love and fellowship, and narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride.”

Pastor Filemu T. Filemu (Mu) had shepherded the Carson International group prior to the merger and is serving as the pastor of the Hawthorne church. “The church and community represent so many cultures,” Mu said. “We have Filipino, African-American, Caucasian, Hawaiian, Indonesian, Fijians, Hispanic, Tongan — and I am Samoan!”

More than 40 members of the church come together at 6:00 a.m. on Sundays in a “Stop and Pray” area in the front of the church, which faces busy Marine Ave. The group is intergenerational and cross cultural; children come, too.

“After our prayer and study time together on Sundays,” Mu continued, “we have exercise in the church gym. It’s been a bonding time for the generations and members of both groups that have come together. When we walk as part of our time together, I encourage members to pray about our church; that someone will come here and meet Christ.”

“We want to be open to the neighborhood,” Mu added. “Recently, I was changing the information on the sign in front of the church and some people walking by asked, ‘What is this?’ pointing to the church. ‘It’s a church,’ I told them. ‘Come visit us, or come for lunch!’”

The Hawthorne church is located at 3939 Marine Ave., Hawthorne, CA 90250.