Our history as a church is a wonderful mix of outside interest and help along with local community members putting in hours of volunteer time. Many of the names here you will recognize while many have no more link to our community. We record these names and events here to recall the loving hand of God, through dedicated people of many walks of life, that established and maintained this church. We recognize that we are here today because of God’s mercy and grace embodied by the years of quiet, faithful service of many community members. If you have additional knowledge of the events or people named here please contact us and help us get the story straight! Help recover mountain history by contacting us if our pictures contain anyone you can identify for us.
Beginnings, Outreach and Service in a “Needy Place” (1929-1972)
Hester Creek School, circa 1955
In 1929 American Sunday School Union (now known as American Missionary Fellowship or AMF) made efforts to help meet the spiritual needs of our mountain community. One of the AMF staff, D. C. Elder, organized a Sunday School which met at the Hester Creek School on San Jose-Soquel Road, two miles from Summit Road.
Mrs. J. M. Hemmey was a local teacher at the Hester Creek School and served as our Sunday School Superintendent from 1929-1943. Long time resident Dennis Heimer remembers Mrs. Hemmey built her own house and lived on Old San Jose Road across from Timber Lodge. Listen to Mr. Elder’s remarks over those years:
“This Sunday School is led by the efficient public school teacher who has been there for a number of years …These youngsters are receiving fine helpful Christian instruction … A fine service to a needy place by a consecrated public school teacher, … Fine leadership.”
Other local volunteers included Mrs. W. Wragg, Mrs. J. Wood and Mrs. Ernie Waltz (along with Eva and Muriel Waltz, this family served every year from 1934-1943!) Their records say that 18 children were in regular attendance in 1934. The children helped by this are not named but they were the generation that fought WWII, raised ‘baby-boomers’ and now are enjoying retirement. The church continued in this form until 1943 when the school closed.
In 1943 the Sunday School attempted to be connected to Skyland Church under the leadership of Robert L. Skillman. Other volunteers at this time were Marjorie Wicht(Mason), Muriel Waltz and Mr. T. D. Hopping. The AMF staff member who supported us at this time was Charles P. Chamberlain who served from 1944 to 1958.
In 1950 our church returned to its use of the Hester Creek School building for Sunday school and the first mention of a “preaching service” is noted.
By 1955 additional leadership came from Charles and Mora Grabeel, Mrs. Williams and again, Marjorie (Wicht) Mason. The next ten years were even more active and added more volunteers: L. V. Foth, Paul N. Olson, Mr. and Mrs. A. Creech and Mrs. LaPorte. Others who came from outside the community to help were Rev. Henry Olson, our preacher Rev. and Mrs. Ed Conant (1957-1963) and the new AMF missionary for this area, Carl W. Jungkeit (1958-1964). A note on Vacation Bible School held July 5-10, 1959 says 59 children were enrolled and 14 made decisions to follow Christ.
The early 60’s saw such activities as “rallies” with special speakers and musical presentations from visiting choirs. More leadership in these days came from Mel and Lee Klassen and Ed Hilner. In 1966 Clifton Keene of AMF made regular visits to help, staying involved until his retirement in 1978. In 1965 activity had ceased for a while with a note of a Vacation Bible School with just 21 enrolled and most coming from Chemeketa Park. It was the Park’s Clubhouse that allowed AMF to expand their work. Bruce and Marie Franks were key volunteers at this time and place.
The Hester Creek school building was purchased in 1957 and remodeled. This building became the center for Sunday meetings and summer programs.
The name of the church became Mountain Union Chapel in 1964.
1967 was a strong year of activity as Roy Paulson, a scientist for Stanford, began to preach. He would continue until 1972 in this vital role. Other leaders of this period were Mr. and Mrs. Lindley A. Christensen, Mrs. Dorothy DeRosa, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hullar and Mr. Robert Pitts. Mr. Pitts died from a heart attack on June 26, 1971 and a memorial fund in his name sent many kids to camp that year. Among others who came to help, Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto helped us hold Vacation Bible School in 1968.
Much activity of the early 70’s centered around the youth of the mountains. The adults that hosted these events were Phil and Marge Mason, and Jerry and Dottie DeRosa. Some events would draw 50 teenagers and included friends from the town of Los Gatos.
Projects, Incorporation and Pains (1973-1981)
In 1973 the Hester Creek building was sold for $25,000 in order to purchase five acres near the intersection of Summit and Old San Jose-Soquel roads. The Sunday meetings were held at the Mason’s home on Stetson road (1973-77) and the Pavilion in Redwood Estates (1977-82). The property was gradually cleared and developed with a donated, ‘fixer-upper’ mobile home placed there in 1980 and occupied December 1981 by John and Kim Haak as caretakers.
Leadership in these years included preachers Kent Washburn (1973) and Ron Greene (1974-81). Other leadership came from Phil Mason, Ann De Rosa, Jim Robison, Connie Brennan and Karl Moeller. The AMF missionaries Clifton Keene (1966-78) and Greg Sanders (1979 to Present) helped us at this time.
In 1977 the church incorporated as Mountain Bible Church of Loma Prieta. Additional leadership came from Rich Hagedorn, Bruce Fournier, Rob Panza and Thom Jones. Significant heart aches of these years include the death of a leader in the church, young father and San Jose policemen Tim Jones (1979); a young man Shawn Brennan (1980), and a long time devoted volunteer Marjorie (Wicht) Mason (1981).
Building, Growth and Disasters (1982-1989)
In May of 1982 the church ordained John Haak, a local construction worker, San Jose Bible College graduate and a volunteer youth worker in the church. By October of that same year the church employed John as their first full-time, paid pastor.
In 1982 winter storms created land slides that killed one local resident and 20 more in the Love Creek area of the neighboring community of Boulder Creek. By way of some of our members from the Felton area we sent relief.
In 1983 the church started a private school, Mountain Bible Christian School. The church moved its meeting from the Pavilion at Redwood Estates to the old Loma Prieta School Multi-Use Room. Both buildings have since been torn down.
In 1984 the church decided to attempt to finish the building project on Old San Jose Road. This had been a visible “project” to many residents as they drove by or stopped in to look at the large two-story framed building and to ask, “What is it?” For the first time we planned on going into debt in order to complete a meeting place of our own. We estimated a need of $150,000 to finish Phase I of the project which included a multi-use room, kitchen, office space, classrooms and bathrooms; about 3,000 square feet. We created a loan from our own membership under California Plan of Church Finance. We prayed very specifically to fall clearly short or get really close according what God wanted us to do. After gathering pledges we had $75,000. This was exactly half! The “clear” message was to pray more and that our God had a real sense of humor and creativity. We were currently on our second year of renting the Loma Prieta School facilities and anxious to not overstay our welcome from the gracious School Board. As we considered what this meant we decided to approach a local church, Global Youth Evangelism, about renting their building on Summit Road. We thought we could use it in the afternoons for our main Sunday meeting. When we met with their leadership we learned that they had been thinking of leaving the community to focus on their headquarters in Orland, California. They had developed quite a large correspondence school, outreach in Mexico and a ship that traveled world wide with medical care and Gospel literature. Their main concern was to see another Bible-believing church occupy the facility for the good of the community. Everyone recognized the great fit that was now in place. We had a desire to serve this community, a need for a building and local people to fill it. They had a desire to reach out globally with no need for this building (6,000 square feet) and many good opportunities elsewhere. They also had a need for a good down payment from us although they would carry the balance on easy terms and at zero interest. We had never had more than $10,000 at a time because we would turn around and spend it on developing the property. “It just so happened” that the $75,000 we had raised was just what GYE needed as a deposit.
Once again in God’s sense of humor and “heavenly economics” we had raised half the money we needed and ended up with twice the building! We moved in March of 1985.
On Sunday, July 7, 1985 the 15,000 acre Lexington Fire started. While our shake roof caught many embers the fire was fought off 1,000 feet away on Tuesday night behind the local school grounds as it raced by on its way up Loma Prieta. It may have helped that our paid pastor, John Haak, had just joined the Volunteer Fire Department but also unusual July rains arrived on Thursday to bring an end to the fire. All the local churches banded together to be a center of help called Good Neighbor Fire Relief out of our building for the next few months.
During the second part of the 80’s the church employed a part-time Youth Pastor Mark Thompson who again brought large groups of youth together for service projects and Bible teaching. The school now enrolled 28 students and had four full-time teachers. Our church helped found Love INC of Santa Clara county, a benevolence network of Protestant and Catholic churches.
On Tuesday October 17, 1989 the 7.1 Loma Prieta Earthquake struck our community. Our building was closed for six months for structural repairs but the main “box” of the building was solid thanks to diagonal 1” x 12” sheating on the exterior walls and roof. We received much help at this time from others. Fellow AMF churches and staff came or sent assistance. One AMF pastor/carpenter stayed here for a week crawling under our building making repairs. Cityteam Ministries used Love INC to administer $500,000 of donated relief spread out over the whole Bay Area. While we connected some community members get this help, we also received money for some of our repairs. Other churches were a help to us at this time. Christ Child Church here on Summit road opened their arms to our school staff and 28 students. A Catholic church in Milpitas took an offering and sent us over $1,000. An Episcopal church in Los Altos bought large commercial cooking pots for our use in the kitchen at the Community center to feed those without kitchens of their own. Local structural engineer Roger Redig and his company Rudolph & Sletten donated $20,000 worth of work. Once again the local churches banded together to co-ordinate relief. We returned to our “resurrected” facility on Easter Sunday 1990 after using the Loma Prieta School multi-use room during the six months of repairs. Many of these events made broadcast news that you can view on video.
We started our Annual July Flea Market to bring the community together. Over the years we have used it to raise funds for special interests like battered women, home building in Mexico and assisting victims of the violence in Guatemala.
Stability, Staff and Completions (1990-2007)
We were able to add our first paid part-time secretary, Sara Ewing from Upper Ellen Road in 1990. We initiated a new program for pre-school children and their parents called “Mom’s Morning Out”.
After the repairs of 1989 it was time to complete the building on Old San Jose Road. Don McCullough, of Comstock Mill Road, recently retired and full of energy, led the project of completing the partial structure intended for our meeting place. It was now to be a church owned house that could replace the mobile home moved there in 1980. Every member joined in this work and donated over $65,000 to see it completed debt free by December 1992. We held a dedication ceremony that spring with many who had worked on the property over twenty years there to celebrate with us. The upstairs was now a three-bedroom home while the downstairs was unheated storage available for future development and current youth needs for meetings and recreation.
In 1996 five of us made a trip to Guatemala with the AGROS organization to work for a week among the Ixil people as they built new homes and farmlands. 12 of our members returned to this same area for more outreach in July of 2001. Here is an update of how the new village of Trapichitos is doing in 2010!
Eight more members went with New Tribes Missions in Bolivia in June of 2003 and another 12 members returned there in the summer of 2006.
Some of the 2006 Missions Team to Santa Cruz, Bolovia
After a series of good volunteers like the Wilsons, the Walkers, and the Lynns, we hired a part-time Mark Adams as our Youth Pastor, in 1997. He is a graduate of Bethany Bible College and an English teacher at James Lick High School in San Jose. Mark has become a real enthusiast for AMF’s summer camp where he leads many of our youth to service each year.
In 2002 we hired Don Strand as our part-time Music and Worship pastor to serve along with his wife, Wendy. Don also brought great skills to lead our ALPHA outreach program and served on the board of our local Love INC as well as the Director of Love INC for two years. In 2006 Don moved to the small community of Cazadero about 90 minutes north of San Francisco to be a pastor at a struggling AMF church.
Expanding to New Work (2007-present)
Big doors have begun to open to us in these recent years …
*”Kids Club” – an after-school program at Loma Prieta Elementary School which we started in 2008 with 35 students. We do this in partnership with Christ Child Catholic Church and the help of Compassion Bridges.
*Jamaican Mission – our member Todd Brown, serves with Youth With A Mission at their base in Montego Bay. He is our first member who has gone into full-time service overseas.
*West African Muslims – One of our elders and his wife have been going over there for annual two-month stays as we built a relationship that has now blossomed. You can read about this in our articles about the Teleqan and Daoud. This is changing a whole tribe of people who only last year got the book of Genesis in their own language.
So, our church’s story has come full circle. We are now providing what others did for us in the years gone by. God has allowed us to grow from a “needy place” to a place able to go to others in need.
To God be all the credit!
Hester Creek School 1929-1943
Skyland Church 1944-1949
Hester Creek Church (former School) 1950-1973
Mason’s home on Stetson 1973-1977
Redwood Estates Pavilion 1977-1982
Loma Prieta School Multi-Use Room 1983-1985
23946 Summit Road Building (former GYE) 1985 to present
Our local AMF Missionary
D. C. Elder 1929-1943
Charles P. Chamberlain 1944-1958
Carl W. Jungkeit 1958-1964
Clifton Keene 1965-1978
Gregory Sanders 1979 to present
Ed Conant 1956-1963
Roy Paulson 1967-1972
Kent Washburn 1973
Ron Greene 1974-1981
John Haak 1982 to present
Sunday School Superintendents
Mrs. J. M. Hemmey 1929 -1943
Robert L. Skillman 1943
Marjorie Wicht 1944 -1947
T. D. Hopping 1948 -1949
Marjorie (Wicht) Mason 1950 -1953
Mora Grabeel 1954 -1957
L. V. Foth 1958
Mora Grabeel 1959 -1961
“Various” (not named) 1962 -1966
Lindley Christensen 1967-1970
Robert Hullar 1971-1972
Phil Mason 1973-1977
In September of 1977 the church incorporated and the leadership changed to a Board of Elders.
Phil Mason 1977-1983
Karl Moeller 1977-1981
Ron Greene 1977-1981
Tim Jones 1978-1980
Bruce Fournier 1978 to 2004
Jim Robison 1979 to 2007
Rich Hagedorn 1979 to present
Thom Jones 1980-1981
Rob Panza 1980 to present
John Haak 1982 to present
Chuck Wilson 1992 to 2005
Roger Brockenbrough 2004 to present