Happy 54th Anniversary, Desert Hills!
Published February 23, 2023
My very first event at Desert Hills involved me being yelled at. Admittedly, I was a willful eight-year-old and probably deserved it. The event in question was a potluck held in the building, which in those days doubled as both the sanctuary and fellowship hall. I had recently befriended the Rasmussen boys, who lived across the street from me, and who so happened to be the sons of the new pastor of the church. For whatever reason, I was allowed to tag along that evening.
Our table at the potluck was located near the small church organ, which sat off to the side of the stage. I decided to walk up to it (why not?) and hit the keys (it was off). My actions were met with a terse reprimand by an older gentleman who has long since been promoted to glory with the words heard by many a child, “that is not a toy.”
I smile sharing this story, as 35 years later, I am here at this same church, now serving full time on pastoral staff. As one can probably surmise, my stories and memories here do extend far and wide, and they are too many for all to be shared in this space. But what is more important is that they are part of a larger story of God working faithfully within this body.
Today, Desert Hills Bible Church (originally known as Desert Hills Evangelical Free Church) will mark its 54th anniversary. It was on February 23, 1969, that the first worship service was held at the small Merry Go Round Daycare Center, located at the old Westtown Shopping Center, just west of the I-17 and north of Cactus Road. That small faithful band of believers would eventually move in 1972 to the property it had purchased on Greenway Road, west of 35th Avenue.
The very first building on the Greenway site was a prefabricated structure, and all the materials for it were delivered to the property. Not wanting to lose any of these items to would-be thieves, a group of men from the church decided to spend the night keeping watch over everything, sleeping in shifts on the recently laid foundation. The next day, many from the church came together to put everything together and construct the new building.
Years would go by; additional buildings would be built; pastors would come and go. My story would intersect regularly with that of Desert Hills in the mid-1990s, when I started attending regularly, being pulled in through the High School youth group. I was amazed by the desire of these fellow students to grow in their relationship with Christ, which impacted me tremendously and set me on a path to do the same at a critical time in my adolescent life. Many lifelong friendships were formed. Eventually, I would find my way into serving as a volunteer in numerous capacities, including serving as a worship leader. This was largely during the senior pastorate of Chuck Rasmussen, who served this church from 1988 to 2009. I count him as a friend and a father in the faith.
During the turn of the millennium, our church would experience the excitement of moving into a new and much larger worship center on the Greenway campus, which would become another place of memories for me, the pinnacle being my marriage to my beautiful wife. Our first Sunday service in that building was January 9, 2000, where I had the privilege of leading music. The space felt massive, and many were wondering if we would ever really “grow into it.”
Our family would be away from Desert Hills for about nine years, serving in another ministry capacity, but would return in 2020. At that point, not only was our church finally “growing into” that worship center, but we were growing out of it, thus necessitating our move to our current campus on 51st Avenue.
Our journey to this new campus was full of many unknowns, yet so many of us had a front-row seat to seeing God providing for His people, allowing us to purchase this property without a mortgage. We believed, and still believe, that if we were faithful to Him, He would be faithful to us.
We look forward with excitement to see what God will do over the course of the years to come. It has been very exciting to see the breadth of our church expand as Pastor Robb and other leaders have faithfully tended to the depth of it.
On my office bookshelf sits a small stone plaque which was given to the church 23 years ago at the dedication of the worship center. One of the Scripture references on that plaque comes from Ephesians 2, and the words ring appropriate for us who are part of Christ’s church:
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)
I pray that our church, as Pastor Robb has faithfully reminded us, will seek to be relentlessly biblical in all that we do. May we always remember that this church ultimately belongs to Christ, our cornerstone, and may we always seek to grow to be like Him.
It has been an honor, and very humbling, to serve in this church over the years. I praise God for His mercy in bringing me into fellowship with so many wonderful saints over the past few decades. There are many wonderful people who have since gone to be with the Lord who spoke such great truth and wisdom into my life throughout the years. I dearly miss them.
One hopes that I’ve matured a bit from the mischievous eight-year-old boy I was 35 years ago. But I will admit, whenever I stroll past one of our keyboard instruments, it is hard to resist hitting the keys.