This is a work in progress. Even the parts already written and available here are currently under revision. This is intended to be a complete history of my grandfather's ministry, and is being compiled from extensive interviews with my grandmother, who of course, knew him and his church best, along with extensive research in the church archives housed in Ontario at the Mountain View Baptist Church.
The Life, Work, and Legacy of Pastor R.G. “Jerry” Osborne
Written By His Grandson
In the city of Norwalk, California, stands a church on the corner of Norwalk and Alondra Boulevards. A passer-by could never know that a life is represented by that church. A visitor may not realize that one man’s work is memorialized in every square foot. Most of its current members may fail to understand the legacy which flows silently like an under-current beneath its foundations. Once the site of the Community Bible Church, a church built with dedication and commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to win lost souls for the Kingdom of God! This is a history of faith, a memoir of the ministry of Pastor Jerry Osborne, written that others may be inspired by the faith and fervor of the man God called and used in a wonderful way!
Jerry Osborne was born Richard Jerold Osborne on Thursday, October 25, 1928. However, to his mother’s dismay his birth certificate was inaccurately recorded, and “Jerold” legally became “Gerald”. Though named first for his father, Richard Mattison Osborne, his mother, Nilla, loved the name “Jerold,” which became his middle and prominent name; and this is why for rest of his life he was ever referred to by his nickname, “Jerry.” Often his name would appear written as R.G. Osborne, but anyone who knew him called him “Jerry” or “Pastor,” though I had the privilege of calling him “Grandpa.”
Jerry was born in Buena Park in a home built by his paternal grandparents, Murphy and Goldie Osborne, who lived on Orangethorpe Avenue near Western Avenue. His mother was only sixteen at the time of his birth, and his father had only a month earlier turned nineteen; yet, they were able to move into the house next door to his grandparents, one of three houses the Osborne’s had built in the burgeoning township. Buena Park would be home to Jerry for the next 23 years of his life, until he married and settled in nearby Norwalk.
In his years as a pastor he would often remark on the wonderful and godly influences of both his maternal and paternal grandparents. The formative years of his life were spent next door to grandma and grandpa Osborne. His mother’s parents, Fred and Hattie Witt, took great care to be involved in his life as well, and this was of immense importance during his childhood as his parent's marriage quickly spiraled downward, deteriorated by a steady stream of alcoholism and abuse.
Two things mentioned by Jerry often over the rest of his life prove the severity of what he witnessed and experienced as a child of the “town drunks.” First, he recalled that his earliest memory was that of standing in his crib at age three and watching his father beat his mother. Second, he once wrote concerning the home in which he was raised, “I remember no happy days, only misery unlimited.” One can only imagine the horrors experienced by a little boy who was treated so severely by his father that at eight months old his eardrum was ruptured at his abusive hand.
Jerry came to despise the violent drunkard who was his father. For a brief time at the end of the second World War, Dick Osborne, as he was commonly known, was actually drafted into the military, though in his mid-thirties at the time. Jerry was only in his early teens, but he had already come to hate his father and was glad to see him go, hoping for the worst. When his father came back he was actually saddened that he had not been killed, and was sorry to see him return home to them. For young Jerry, the days spent with his mother and sister apart from his father were far too short.
Thank God for his grandparents who gave him so much love and attention. He used to tell a story of working with Grandpa Murph out in the Garage. One day when Murph smashed his finger he blurted out a curse! Looking up to his grandpa the way he did, little Jerry wanted to be just like him; and so as he went back into the house he repeated the foul language in the presence of his grandma Goldie, who quickly reprimanded him and proceeded to wash his mouth with soap. As this was taking place, Grandpa walked in and asked what all the commotion was about; and upon hearing what his little grandson had said, he humbly told his wife that she had better wash his mouth as well. So, sure enough, grandpa and grandson together, both had their mouths washed clean.
Jerry, often and with great affection, joked that his heritage made him a “half-Witt!” And Grandma and Grandpa Witt played a significant role in his youth as well. Though Jerry grew up outside of the church with no spiritual influence whatsoever from his own parents, his mother’s parents were devoted religious people who attended a denominational church in nearby Fullerton. Hattie was a first generation American, whose father had emigrated from Germany to Wisconsin. Both Fred and Hattie were born and raised in Madison, and didn’t move West to Buena Park until after their daughter Nilla was born. They were a dignified couple who would never be caught with a swear word on their lips as might the Osborne side of the family. Though limited, Jerry did receive some moral and spiritual guidance from them.
The story is told of how Grandpa Fred observed Jerry working outside and mowing the lawn one Sunday as a young man. Fred took him aside, and with great wisdom and stern tenderness, the old Wisconsin farmer admonished his grandson about violating the Lord’s Day, saying, “Jerry, I never took my hay in on Sunday.” A word of wisdom that he never forgot, which echoed deep into his eventual ministry as a pastor, as noted in his own writings, such as, “God’s Day Defiled.”
Jerry relied on his grandfather for the least bit of stability in his unhinged existence at home. One day when he could not convince his mother to leave the bar and come home, he went to his grandpa and told him all about it. Fred proceeded to forcibly remove his daughter from the bar, and drove her home where he actually spanked her! This wise and loving man enjoyed an enduring relationship with his grandson, who years later at his request, would bring young people from the Bible Church of Buena Park to sing his favorite hymns to him when he was on his death bed. Jerry had only been a Christian for about a year at this time, but certainly his new-found life in Christ must have blessed his grandfather’s heart, as Fred new all too well the despair that his grandson had lived with. Before he died, Fred remarked how much he appreciated his grandson for spending time with him, and for bringing his friends to sing for him. These accounts reveal in a very deep way how the relationships my grandpa had with his own grandfathers were of such obvious influence to him in his relationship with me and his other grandkids when he became a grandfather himself.
Aside from his grandparents, there was another part of his family that gave him great joy. When he was eleven years old his sister, Judy, was born. How he loved his little sister! She would recount how he would dress her up and take her around town when she was just a toddler. Since their parents were hardly mindful of the children, the responsibility of her care often fell to him, and during his teens and twenties Jerry looked after his sister with great affection. When he finally began attending the Bible Church Judy was with him at every service, even riding on the handle bars of his bike when the car was not working. Even after he was married, Jerry was sure never to miss spending Christmas Eve with his sister. One Christmas early in his marriage, when he and Wanda were too poor to exchange gifts with one another, he made sure Judy received a bike! To say he doted on his little sister is an understatement.
They had suffered much together, and such made their bond even stronger. On many nights as children, they were often left to sleep in the car while their parents spent the evening drinking. When he reached adulthood the time even came when Jerry felt compelled by his father’s continued abusive outbursts to take matters into his own hands. He would no longer stand-by and allow his father to hurt his family. As a child he could do nothing but suffer; as a man he could now intervene and put a stop to it, which he did. One day, prompted by another bout of abuse, Jerry answered the tears of his mother by taking her and his sister away from his father. He placed them in a motel, and though Dick Osborne, in a suicidal state, cried to his son to tell him where his wife and daughter were, Jerry refused. The two were summarily divorced, Jerry made sure of that. He would put up with it no more, and neither would he would allow Judy to suffer another day. Consequently, it was to their new home in Covina, where Jerry would visit with Judy and his mother for Christmas Eve.
As they grew older Judy eventually moved out of the state, and there would be years during which they did not see one another. On occasion five to ten years would lapse between them, but whenever possible Jerry was sure to see her, and always kept in contact with her. In 1993 his family arranged for her to be flown out from Florida to California and surprise him at the Easter Sunday morning church service. I have never seen my grandpa’s eyes light up the way they did when his sister walked through the door! He ran up to her, picked her up and twirled her around on the platform! It was incredible to see, and a great joy to experience it with him. But, there’s quite a story between here and there. First, let’s discover how he became a believer in Jesus Christ.
The story really begins at Huntington beach when he was a teenager of fourteen in the early 1940’s. He was out swimming one day with his friend, Lloyd, a chunky kid as grandma tells the story. Suddenly Lloyd was caught in a rip-current and slipped into a hole beneath the waves. Jerry tried to help, but was quickly pulled under by his panicking friend, who struggled against him and climbed on top of him. Jerry was under the water for quite some time as Lloyd continued to fight to stay on top of him, keeping him pinned beneath the waves. He felt he would surely drown that day! Thankfully, a life guard was on duty, who finally observed the fray and jumped into action, saving both of their lives. With death coming so close, this event impacted Jerry in a way that would eventually help him to open his heart to the Lord Jesus.
At seventeen years old,Jerry Osborne was lost and miserable. As lost and miserable as anyone could be. In fact, to this day his headstone bears perpetual record to the fact that “At 17 he was weary, worn, and sad.” My grandfather grew up with pain and bitterness of soul brought on by the drunken living and domestic violence he witnessed and suffered under throughout his entire childhood and adolescence. As his grandson who spent so much of my life with him, I cannot recall a single instance when he ever mentioned his parents in a positive way. I must emphasize that he rarely mentioned them at all. There is the story of his tragic account from his crib, and there is one other that he would tell.
When we would drive through the Los Coyotes Hills he would occasionally reminisce about his time spent on the Emery Ranch. The ranch owned by Charles G. Emery was situated near the crossroads of Beach Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue at the northern extremities of Buena Park where it meets with Fullerton and La Habra. He remembered how his father had secured a position as supervisor over the Emery Ranch when he was a small boy. The Emery’s spent most of their time in Los Angeles, and so Dick Osborne was hired to watch over the affairs of the ranch, a position which included such benefits as a home right on the ranch itself. My grandpa would speak of all the fun he had playing in the hill country which surrounded the ranch. However, his father could not muster the will-power to keep himself sober. Once, Mr. Emery showed up to inspect his ranch and found Dick drunk on the job. He was warned that if it ever happened again he would be fired. It did happen again, he was fired, and the family lost their home and security.
These two accounts form a composite of my grandfather’s perception of his parents and reflect his relationship to them. He resented his father, and distanced himself emotionally from his mother even though he greatly loved her. So the stories he shared tended to be about his grandparents and his friends and cousins, only referring to his parents to illustrate the pains and abuse he endured as their son.
However, Jerry had a cousin named Ronald who was a Christian. Jerry, Ronald, and their friend Lloyd, who were all about the same age, loved to spend time together. During Easter week in 1946 Jerry was invited to spend his vacation with Ronald who lived about 30 miles away in the Home Gardens area of Corona, California. Later, Jerry would write that Ronald had ulterior motives, and that he had “the express purpose of leading me to Christ and getting me saved.”
On April 17, Ronald brought Jerry to the Wednesday night prayer meeting at his church. After the service the pastor, Art Walters, asked naïve Jerry if he had ever been saved. Jerry affirmed he had, then told how he was saved from drowning at Huntington Beach. The pastor, who no doubt must have chuckled at his answer, then began a more thorough explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, around 9pm Pastor Walters invited Jerry to receive Christ as his Savior. Jerry would later write that he simply shrugged him off, but the pastor persisted in his pleas: “I said, ‘Some other time’ to the Pastor. The Pastor said, ‘Now!’ I thank God for that Pastor.”
The persistence and urgency of Pastor Walters, in assuring that my grandpa did not leave the church that night without knowing Jesus as his Savior, was something that influenced his ministry immensely. Even in my life with him, how many times did “Just As I am” play during an invitation, as my grandpa would wait just a minute longer, saying that there was a pastor who waited for him. He would plead with people to come, and he would wait. Sometimes others might have wanted to hurry things along and get the service over with; but grandpa would wait, he would have another stanza played if he thought there was the slightest chance that one might come. I cannot personally hear that song without remembering my grandpa standing in the aisle waiting for those who needed prayer and those who needed salvation.
His heart was burdened for the lost, and his ministry reflected that burden in its focus upon evangelism. With great fervor he wrote, “In these last days we desire to stand straighter and firmer against sin and worldliness, and FOR GOD AND COUNTRY than ever before. God helping us we are going to use every means we can, in every way we can, at every time we can to win the lost to Jesus. When you pray for us, pray for souls, for ‘There’s no business like soul business’. Without souls, life to us is as nothing!” (Capitalization and underscores are his.)
Whatever criticisms the naysayers flung at him, one thing is certain, Jerry Osborne knew the power of the Gospel!
Jerry Osborne accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior at the age of seventeen, and what is inscribed on his headstone is true, “He never got over it!” The Fire of the Holy Spirit began to burn in his heart, and he immediately immersed himself into the Church and Christian service. After returning from his week in Corona Jerry made his first visit to the Bible Church of Buena Park on Seventh Street, where he was immediately baptized along with other new converts, including Bessie Ester, his future mother-in-law who later became a founding member of Central Baptist Church in Pomona, California, a church which was greatly used by God during the sixties and seventies. (Central’s first services were actually held in her later home, located in Chino.)
Wanda Ester, the woman who would later become his wife, recalls Jerry’s early days at the church. She was walking to church one April Sunday with her brother and noticed an unfamiliar car, a 1937 Ford, sitting in the parking lot. She asked if anyone knew whose it was, and the reply was, “Didn’t you hear? Jerry Osborne was saved, that’s his car.” He would never miss a service in the six years he attended. Wanda would later write, “Right off, Jerry… was baptized… He always went to prayer meeting-- I never had. On Saturday, he stood on the main street of Buena Park, Grand Avenue, and handed out tracts-- I never had. He, under the direction of our pastor, started [the Boys Club of Buena Park]. At Fullerton High School, he handed out tracts-- I never had. [He] didn’t care who laughed at him-- and they did; or who tore up the tracts-- and they did. [He] was so glad that he was saved, and he was so happy that he wanted to do all he could for Jesus, and help others find what he had found. Oh, how his life convicted me.”
Jerry’s fervor was contagious and sparked a revival in the Bible Church. He began attending every service, including the little-attended Wednesday night prayer meeting which quickly grew with his presence there. He was soon leading the music even though he could hardly sing, but he loved making a joyful noise for the Lord and serving him in any way he could. Yet, as seriously as he took his ministry to the Lord, Grandma tells the funniest story about his time as a music leader. During one service as he was leading the music and singing away, he suddenly darted off the platform, stumbling away like he had been shot! After a few moments he returned with a grin and asked a rhetorical question of the congregation: “Did you ever swallow a fly?”
Those who knew Jerry Osborne certainly knew that he sang in church, and that he sang bass. His early efforts as a fly-swallowing song leader aside, one might wonder how this young man ever did finally learn to sing in a respectable manner. A few years after the fly incident a neighbor of his in Norwalk, an older man, asked if Jerry would take him to prayer meeting where he might hear the old hymns. The old man had a wonderful bass voice and sang with great passion. It was on these Wednesday nights that Jerry would take the opportunity to sit next to him and listen to him sing bass, and learned to sing himself.
My grandfather loved Jesus, for in Him he had found all the love and joy that he had never received from his parents: In church he found family. That family was the congregation of the Bible Church of Buena Park. In the pastor, Franklin Huling, he also found someone he could look up to and admire as a father; a man who mentored him like a son. Jerry was constantly at the church, learning from and studying with Pastor Huling. He helped with cleaning and maintenance, mowing the lawn and anything else that needed to be done. He was always a hard worker, and was never content to let good enough alone. He had only been saved but a couple of weeks when the pastor asked him to start a ministry which could reach out to the boys of the community. With great enthusiasm Jerry ventured out under the guidance and leadership of his pastor and began a successful ministry. On Thursday nights his boys club grew tremendously in both numbers and influence, so much so, that as my grandmother recalls, “Every mother wanted her son in Jerry’s club.” Jerry carried on his ministry with the Boys Club of Buena Park for six years until he moved to Norwalk, and the organization continues to this very day, over sixty years later.
The Death of His Pastor
That year 1946 was a landmark year in Jerry’s life-- everything had changed for him overnight. He was on a new and exciting and spiritual path with the Lord Jesus. He had been born again and was now being tenderly nurtured in his faith by a great man of God. Pastor Huling’s influence would resonate in his Spirit throughout the rest of his life and ministry. Yet tragically Huling’s presence in Jerry’s life would be cut short. On a Saturday afternoon just before Thanksgiving, Pastor Huling was up on the roof of the church making repairs to the chimes in the steeple. He lost his footing and fell to his death. The incident crushed my grandfather. “I can never tell you how [he] was at the death of our pastor,” my grandmother would later write. She says he just cried and cried.
Another pastor would take Huling’s place in the pulpit, but no one could ever take the place he filled in Jerry’s life. The loss was felt strongly for years to come, for as he followed in the footsteps of his pastor into the ministry he would lament his death over and over again when Huling wasn’t there to instruct him how to perform his first wedding or funeral. He would seek out the advice of Pastor Huling’s widow, Maude, whenever he needed help, but he would often remark to her, “I need him here!” Yet, that which drove Jerry Osborne was not his love for a certain pastor, but his commitment to and his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. He mourned his loss deeply, but continued all the more in carrying out the things that he had been taught by his first and much beloved pastor.
This, however, was not his only loss during this time. In fact, he would suffer the loss of three influential people over a span of only six years. Only a few years earlier he had grieved bitterly at the death of his dear grandma Goldie who passed away in 1941. And it was not even a year after his pastor died that his grandpa Fred went to be with the Lord. He still had grandma Hattie, who would live to see his children; and he would become especially close to his mother-in-law, Bessie. However, with Goldie gone, grandpa Murphy had moved away to Arkansas; and with Pastor Huling gone his church moved in a radical direction under the leadership of one, Marion H. Reynolds, Sr. Though Jerry and Wanda supported their new pastor, his conflicts with Huling’s philosophy of ministry could not be denied. It is no coincidence that Jerry’s church in Norwalk would be more reflective of Huling than of Reynolds, though Jerry sat under the latter far longer. He was certainly influenced by Reynolds to be sure, but was also conflicted by this influence as well as will be noted later. Jerry Osborne had reached a dramatic and significant turning point in his life, the likes of which would not be seen again for thirty years! His life would not see such personal losses or such dramatic changes again until the late 70's, when three beloved saints would be taken from him in only a few months time.
The Past Behind The Pastor
In 1947 Jerry graduated from Fullerton Union High School, and guided by his new pastor, Marion Reynolds, that Fall he began his pastoral training at the Fundamental Bible Institute in Los Angeles. It is significant that he did not choose to attend his former pastor’s school of choice, the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles, known now as BIOLA University. This heralds our history back in time a bit when both Frank Huling and Marion Reynolds were part of the Fundamentalist movement of the earlier part of the twentieth century, albeit with contrasting perspectives.
Huling was an Army chaplain in the first World War, and upon his return to civilian life studied for the ministry and became a pastor in the Northern Baptist denomination, now called American Baptists. He was pastor at a church in Salt Lake City during the great Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the teens and twenties, at which time he was forced out of his own church when he refused to submit to the orders of his denomination to cease preaching on and about the “Blood” of Jesus Christ. It is told that one Sunday morning he arrived at his church only to find the locks changed and his entry forbidden. This experience within a denomination motivated him to eventually build his own independent fundamental church in Buena Park, which he simply named the Bible Church. The church was built on his own private land in 1934 and he and his wife kept the deed, preventing him from being locked-out of his pulpit ever again!
Huling came to be friends with R.A. Torrey through his work with the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles (BIOLA) where his wife had once served as the Dean of Women. The Institute published at least five pamphlets written by him during the 1920’s on various subjects including, “What Is The Difference Between Mormonism And Biblical Christianity?: A Kindly Word Of Distinction” and “The Difference Between Liberalism And True Christianity.” Seeing his great ability in his work as a teacher and author as well as his passion for the Gospel, Torrey, along with another acquaintance, J. Gresham Machen, encouraged Huling to move forward and plant the Bible Church of Buena Park. Throughout his ministry at the Bible Church Huling kept ties with BIOLA, taking part in events held on their campus and encouraging his young people to attend.
However, the pastor who occupied the pulpit of the Bible Church after Huling’s death had a far different relationship with the Bible Institute. As an alumnus Marion Reynolds served on the faculty staff of BIOLA for twelve years, but was asked to resign in 1928 over his accusations against the dean, John MacInnis. Reynolds believed MacInnis to be a Modernist who was leading BIOLA astray from the fundamental tenants of Biblical Christian doctrine. Upon the school’s publication of McInnis’ “Peter The Fisherman Philosopher: A Study In Higher Fundamentalism,” Reynolds quickly compiled a rebuttal paper called, “Is 'Peter the Fisherman Philosopher' True to the Scriptures?,” a work which ignited a firestorm around the Institute and eventually led to the resignation of MacInnis. Regarding dean MacInnis, whom Reynolds so virulently attacked as a liberal modernist, it should be noted that the material of his "controversial" book had been earlier delivered in messages presented at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. BIOLA simply compiled them in book form as a complement to their new dean, only the second man to hold the position, succeeding the venerable R.A. Torrey. In response to the attack on MacInnis, G. Campbell Morgan dedicated his 1930 book, “Categorical Imperatives of the Christian Faith”, which opening page reads thus,
JOHN MURDOCH MACINNIS, D.D., PH.D.,
Saint and Scholar
True as Steel to the Evangelical Faith, and a
Revealer of the Truth that the Spiritual and
Intellectual are not Incompatible.
Morgan had been teaching at the Institute for nearly two years when this controversy broke out and offered his letter of resignation in loyalty to MacInnis, wherein the venerable preacher said that his friend was “absolutely loyal to the fundamental things of the Faith.” However, this affinity for MacInnis was certainly not shared by Reynolds who started his own school, the Fundamental Bible Institute Of Los Angeles in opposition to his established alma mater and the likes of G. Campbell Morgan, R.A. Torrey, and the infamous John Macinnis.
In the aftermath of this conflict we note that Jerry’s first and most influential pastor sided with the Bible Institute, while his second pastor whom he also embraced was at odds against the school, believing it to be infiltrated by Modernist liberals who denied the truth of Scripture. Huling was a fundamentalist indeed, but Reynolds was a radical. What a contrast! And Jerry, who was obviously relying on Reynolds as a guide into the ministry, enrolled in Reynolds’ school, the Fundamental Bible Institute. A friend, Janet Perry, had earlier began attending BIOLA, and this was understood in the Bible Church to be in conflict with the pastor. Jerry needed no such distractions, and more so, he needed all the support he could get, since he had none at home. I believe if one looks closely at his ministry, the tension he felt between the fundamentalism of Huling and the radicalism of Reynolds can be readily seen.
For instance, in the 60's and 70's the great King James Only controversy first began to rumble in the pews and pulpits of independent fundamental churches, and Jerry's pastor, Reynolds, along with others such as Jack Hyles, fervently preached against the use of any and all modern Bible translations. Jerry openly agreed with the basic sentiments of the KJV-only preachers, even imploring from his own pulpit that we need young men who will keep to the fundamentals of the Faith, "preaching nothing but the King James." However, at home with his kids he would read from the Berkley Version during family devotions, and later would purchase New King James editions of the Precious Moments Bible for his granddaughters. In his study he had other versions of the Bible handy for the occasional cross-reference, and his wife kept a copy of the NIV at home. While he was obviously influenced by Reynolds radicalism, he clearly toned down his own rhetoric on the subject, taking a more subdued approach to volatile subject matter as did Huling so many years earlier.
The Student And His Love
Jerry Osborne had once aspired to be an architectural engineer who would build bridges and skyscrapers, yet he now felt a profound calling over his life to build a church like the one he was saved in and like the one his beloved Pastor Huling had built. This came as a surprise to his father who knew that his son envisioned himself as an architect. He questioned Jerry who had made preparing for full time Christian service his primary goal. Of this turning point in his life Jerry wrote, “I remember well my dad saying, ‘Jerry, I thought you were going off to be an engineer and build things. Why are you going to the Fundamental Bible Institute?’ I said, ‘Dad, I’m a Christian now and I must be about my Father’s business!’ And bless his old unsaved heart, he didn’t argue with me, but just said, ‘Oh,’ and as he drove me to the bus he said ‘Good luck, son’.”
Over the next six years Jerry Osborne completed three years of Bible college at the Fundamental Bible Institute, and then obtained a two-year degree from Fullerton College. In fact, he was actually the first student to study theology there, the college forming their theology department to accommodate him. During this time, Grandma Hattie intervened to take extra care of her grandson! When he came home each Wednesday she always made sure to have his clothes washed and his shirts ironed. To his delight she was ever sure to have fresh homemade cookies prepared for him to take back to the dorm. He concluded his education with one year spent at Covenant College in Pasadena. These years were very challenging for him, but he persisted, ever growing in his faith and in wisdom. He was also falling in love.
During his senior year of high school he had asked Wanda Ester to an outing, but was turned down. She would later relay her side of their love story: “[Jerry had] asked me to go with him to a function in our school science class. I wanted to go with him so much. I was thinking he was awfully cute. But I had a Bible class to attend and several girls were depending on me for a ride. I was afraid that if I told this shy boy ‘No’ he would never ask me again. But remembering my [earlier] surrender to put God first in all things, I told him I was sorry, but I could not go. It took him four years to ask me again, but he did! And I got him! It pays to put God first… In [Jerry’s] second year at the Fundamental Bible Institute he was class president. He was chosen to be class speaker at his third year graduation. The shy boy was coming alive. By the time we graduated from the Fundamental Bible Institute, I was getting this strange feeling about [Jerry]. I asked God to take it away if it were not in His will, but it just grew worse. I could be in a room filled with people, but if [Jerry] was not there, it was like no one was there. I knew the love-bug had bitten me. After [Jerry] had graduated [from the Bible institute] and finished one year at Fullerton College, we were coming home from a youth rally one night and he asked me to marry him. [He] did not believe in unmarried folks kissing, but I was always glad when he would hold my hand. I will always remember the joy that swept over me when Pastor Reynolds said at our wedding, ‘I now pronounce you man and wife.’ I thought, ‘Oh glory, Jerry Osborne belongs to me!’… And then-- forty-six years of serving Jesus together. You may ask: Were there no hardships? Oh, yes, we knew that ship well. But it never really mattered. The blessing of serving Jesus was far greater than any hardship. And even in the hardships we were together. We never considered turning back. In a million years [Jerry] would never turn back. His salvation meant everything to him.”
The Wedding and the Smudge Pots
Jerry Osborne and Wanda Ester were married at 8pm on Friday, June 29, 1951. That morning brought a late frost to the local citrus groves; and Jerry along with his life-long friend and best man, C.A. Nickell, was sent out to help preserve the fruit by warming the trees with the use of “smudge pots.” A smudge pot is an oil fueled furnace which is placed between trees in an orchard. The burning oil produces a sooty smoke which covers the fruit, promotes condensation, and aids in the reduction of frost damage to the crop. Due to the oil and the heavy soot which is created working with these furnaces is extremely filthy work, hence the heaters earned the name, smudge pots. After working in the groves all morning and handling the smudge pots, my poor grandfather was a dirty, grimy mess. I can only imagine what was going through his mind realizing he was supposed to be spruced up for his own wedding in a few short hours.
Everyone in my family, as long as I can remember, knew grandpa to be a bit of a nervous man. I do not mean that he was apprehensive about things that he did, he certainly was not, but he could be set on edge. Often when grandchildren were in the car,and the noise level from the back seat would rise, he would let out a gasping sort of reprimand, “Kids! Kids! Calm down… you’re making me nervous!” He loved entertaining his grandkids, but in the proper setting. Enclosed spaces mixed with loud noises was not his thing. In fact, he would admit to being claustrophobic. He was a quiet man who enjoyed listening to classical music. He was reserved and dignified, and he always did everything in an orderly and scheduled fashion. He was very punctual, and valued his time, never wasting a minute.
However, when things depended upon others who weren’t so prompt, he would become irritable and fidgety. Patience was certainly not a virtue that flowed through his English blood. A flaw which afforded him not a few speeding tickets in his day! That’s what I mean by him being a nervous man. He was always on the go and he hated to wait. He would pace, he would honk, and he would come in to see what was taking so long. I distinctly remember going out to eat with him, and how he would get up and serve his own coffee if the waitress didn’t notice his repeated attempts to flag her down. I hesitate to add what it was like to sit next to him on a crowded freeway. So what he must have felt on his wedding day as he was unexpectedly sent out to work with those smudge pots is beyond my imagination. I can hear him now as he must have chided his best man: “Hurry up, C.A.! I’ve got a weeding to get to!”
The Pastor and the Cabbage Patch
Back in 1951 Norwalk was nothing more than an unincorporated country suburb of Los Angeles, a place of dairy fields and farmland. But it was also a place primed for a population explosion. A generation earlier, the Sproul Family had sold a section of their land to the Rail Roads in exchange for a stop on their lines to be placed in Norwalk. This insured that people traveling to and from Los Angeles would become aware of the small community, and eventually those from the big city began to migrate to Norwalk where they could have a home in the country.
In the few years before the city incorporated Jerry Osborne and his soon-to-be-wife, Wanda, began picking up kids in the area and taking them to Sunday School at the Bible Church of Buena Park. Eventually in 1950 Wanda and her friend, Thelma, began holding a kids meeting on Thursday afternoons in a Norwalk neighborhood off of Norwalk Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue. The meetings began at the home of one Mrs. Sprinkle on Abbington Avenue, then moved two blocks away to the house of Rose Jones on the corner of Funston Avenue and Lyndale Avenue. There was about 50-60 kids gathering weekly, and as Jerry Osborne started to think about planting a church, he began to think about Norwalk. He wrote, “It is therefore understandable how that after my training my heart was drawn to Norwalk. Other fields were considered, but always God drew my heart back to Norwalk.”
Two widows, Maude Huling and Mable Mcdowell, would meet often with Jerry during this time, and they would pray together for the Lord’s guidance and provision for his ministry vision. The women had promised their finances for the purchasing of property. There was a piece property available in nearby La Mirada which seemed to fit the specifications for which Jerry was looking, but there was a lack of peace about it in the little prayer group; and yet the women encouraged him, “Keep looking, Jerry.” Finally, he inquired about a little cabbage patch near the South-east corner of Alondra Boulevard and Norwalk Boulevard, a short distance from where Wanda and Thelma were holding their kids meetings. It was a small patch of land in the midst of dairies, but the hand of the Lord was felt to be directing Jerry Osborne to just this place. The cost was $1200. He also located a building, a narrow school house which was being sold by the city of Long Beach, which could be wholly moved and set on a foundation for an additional $1200. He spoke to a banker in Norwalk who agreed to finance the church loan of $2,400 if he could secure the property and get the building placed on it. And so it was, as the widows financed the purchase of the property and the building, the banker in turn financed the mortgage of the church by which the widows were immediately repaid.
In remembering these days of walking by faith rather than sight the would-be pastor wrote, “Someone said, ‘Jerry, what are you doing out here in this cabbage patch in the midst of these dairies?’ And I said, ‘I must be about my Father’s business because He sent me here to build a church’.” The cute little country church was finally open for just that business on the first anniversary of Jerry and Wanda’s wedding on June 29, 1952. The inaugural service of Community Bible Church Of Norwalk was held in the afternoon so that friends from the Bible Church could come down from Buena Park. Jerry wrote, “On that first Sunday we knew we would have boys and girls and young people, for whom we came to Norwalk; but God in His grace also brought us a few adults, some of whom blessed our hearts for years… on that first Sunday… I had all the money in the world I had in one pocket, which was just enough to buy ourselves a malt after the service to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. But GOD NEVER FAILED US!”
At his wedding, Jerry’s best man, C.A. Nickell had encouraged his friend, “Hit the road, Jerry-- RUN!”, and certainly the young aspiring pastor did just that. All who knew him wondered if he would ever slow down as it seemed he was ever on the move-- sowing, planting, working, building-- and the things that would take place on that corner lot over the next forty-six years blatantly testify to God’s approval of Jerry Osborne as a man of God and as a faithful servant of the Lord.
The Family Grows
As Jerry and his young bride nurtured their burgeoning ministry times were tough and slow, but full of prayer and faith. Though their finances were meager Jerry yet displayed great grace and humility to those in his little church, illustrated by an incredibly selfless incident, one that perhaps was even too bold for his wife. One evening after service,Jerry was approached by a member who confessed his need for some money that week, and asked the poor and novice pastor if the church could help. Well, the church was the pastor, and the pastor was the church in those days; and pastor Jerry had but $5 in his pocket which Wanda was expecting to use for groceries. Jerry gave it away without hesitation. When confronted by his wife he simply offered: "I had to, he didn't have a penny!" Such was the heart of the young man of God.
The newlyweds had found it difficult to settle into Norwalk at first. Wanda recalls the days when they could only afford a place in a farmer’s made-up barn! She was diligent in her attempts to be a submissive and supportive wife; however, one morning when she woke up to a cow peering its head through the window and staring her in the face as she lay in her bed, her diligent attempts were then exacerbated, and she insisted that Jerry get her a decent place. She was expecting after all! And in no condition to put up with cows in her bedroom! Jerry had believed he should only work at building the church, and that a secular job would only hinder the Lord’s work; but the Lord was clearly saying to him as He had once said to Abraham, “Listen to your wife.” And so it was that Jerry secured a job with the school district as a bus driver, and moved his wife into their first home as they anxiously awaited the arrival of their first child.
Finally the day came, it was August in the summer of 1952, and Wanda went into labor. At the hospital Jerry waited, and no doubt paced as was his nervous custom. Then the moment of birth was upon them, but rather than a baby’s cry, an awkward and terrible silence filled the room. The child was a baby girl, but she was not breathing! The doctor quickly went to work, but it was in vain, he could not revive her. As he laid her on the table, he looked up at the hopeful father and shook his head. Jerry was full of tears, and could do nothing but stare back at the doctor with desperate eyes plainly declared his breaking heart. The doctor looked at Jerry, then down at the lifeless baby girl-- his heart was moved to try again. He went back to work on the child, exhaling his life into her lungs. The moments passed like hours, but suddenly she caught his breath and burst to life with the most precious sound Jerry ever heard… the first cry of his daughter, Cathleen, to whom he gave the middle name of Grace, for her life was the grace of God to him.
It was not long before another daughter was born, then a son, and finally another daughter. Four children: Cathleen Grace, Janet Ruth, Paul Richard, and Donna Faith. The fifties were a busy time for Wanda and Jerry, as both their home and church began to grow and expand. As they moved to a larger home they also found it necessary to add-on to the little school house which served as their church; so in 1955 the building was extended and remodeled. Jerry spent countless hours working on that little lot with the little country church, beautifying the aging structure inside and out. He planted trees and bushes and flowers, and cultivated a lovely lawn. He built a sign in front of the church, and by 1956 had placed a Cross-shaped road sign on Alondra Boulevard inscribed with words that preached to every passer-by: “CHRIST DIED FOR YOU.”
In 1958 as Wanda and Jerry moved into the house at 14608 Horst Avenue which would be their home for the next 35 years, they saw the Lord bless the church to such an extent that work on a separate and larger sanctuary began on the west-side of the little church. The construction project was made up of much volunteer work, and was near completion in only three and a half months. The new auditorium was dedicated on November 1, 1959, and a cornerstone plaque was placed at the north-west corner of the building which faces Alondra Boulevard, declaring the purpose and vision of Jerry Osborne’s toiling in the fields of Norwalk:
“Dedicated to God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit
That Every sinner might know Jesus Christ, and
Every Christian might know the fullness of the Spirit of Christ.”
Commemorating the day, the Herald American Newspaper wrote: “As Pastor Gerald Osborne recalls the first days of the church seven years ago, he affirms that starting a new work from a children’s class, with no assurance of adult backing is not the easiest thing, but states Rev. Osborne, 'God has proved Himself faithful and sufficient'.” While the road sign and the plaque have long since gone, Community Bible Church of Norwalk was a place where the preaching of the gospel was the supreme motivation and purpose of everything the founder did. However, just as in later times in his ministry, Jerry faced opposition from within even as the Lord was working so powerfully in causing many to be saved and baptized.
In 1960 Satan sought to quell this vibrant ministry and tear down this godly man, and it was nearly successful. Bitterness began to grow in the hearts of a few who allowed themselves to be used as instruments in the hand of the Enemy, and they called for Jerry to resign out of a complaint that his ministry was too “blood-soaked” and “Gospel-oriented.” Jerry was crushed by this, and grandma recalls how he wept over it. The accusers were friends and peers, people he had served for many years by this time. How could they question his ministry and God’s hand upon it after all that the Lord had done in just the span of eight years? The church had grown exponentially in attendance, with a large Sunday school and a growing congregation of over 100; and yet those of his own fold were calling for him to step down and resign. Surprisingly, he decided to do just that!
It must here be noted how sensitive my grandfather was. It was never his aim to be confrontational about anything. He simply had a heart to help those in need and minister the love of Jesus to his community in any way he could. Certainly all who remember "Pastor Jerry," remember an open-hearted man who was ever seeking to point people to the Lord. His whole life was wrapped up in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; it was both his purpose and motivation. He would never compromise his stand for Christ, nor his Christian standards of living as his preaching often emphasized; however when it came to personal confrontation, he would rather give-way than risk losing someone in his church. Herein, one of his greatest strengths became a great weakness. His great heart was often betrayed, and his tenderness used against him for advantage. And so, when some in his church called for his resignation he was willing to give it and move on. And yet, what a lesson is here for so many Christians who will not give an inch to anyone over anything, who hold on to place and position no matter what the cost. Jerry Osborne was a humble servant of the Lord who did not identify so much with his position as with his Master. Like Isaac of old he was indeed content to move on to another well rather than become bogged down in strife- because in truth it changed nothing but geography. He would serve the Lord wherever he was, because that was fundamentally who he was: A Servant of Jesus Christ, who was truly his Lord.
While the church made arrangements for a special business meeting the following week, Jerry quickly found employment with the school district in Ontario and was searching for a home nearby. He knew the area well, as his beloved in-laws lived in nearby Chino where they had a chicken farm. Jerry drove the family to Chino often, spending many holidays and Saturdays with Gummie and Gumpie, the names the children called their grandparents by. No doubt he and Wanda looked forward to being so close to her family, and certainly they could serve the Lord at her church, Central Baptist in Pomona, just as well as they could in Norwalk. But, as He usually does, the Lord had other plans.
At the business meeting back at Community Bible Church, a Pastor from another Church in Pomona came to moderate the proceedings. He set up a tape recorder and invited members to make public their dissatisfaction with Jerry Osborne. No one moved, no one stood, no one spoke. Finally, a dear friend of Jerry’s came forward. Charles Wooley was not a Christian at this time, nor did he attend the church regularly, but he had come to stand for Jerry Osborne. A dedicated member, his wife, Lucille, had recently been through a cancer scare, and Jerry had been there with them through the whole ordeal, even waiting with Charles at the hospital while his wife endured surgery. Charles was a quiet and somber man, and no one could recall ever hearing him speak in church before; but he came that night to make his voice heard on Jerry's behalf. In light of this testimony, others came forward to give witness to the godly character and spiritual anointing of God's man. In turn the moderating pastor motioned for the membership to keep such a man as their pastor, and so the church voted to reject Jerry’s resignation.
However, as one might imagine, it was no easy task for Jerry to simply return, and he earnestly sought the Lord for guidance; but in the end he accepted their vote of confidence and returned to his pulpit. While many great days of prosperous ministry lay ahead, other trials would also come. Trials which would cut far deeper, and be far more painful and difficult. As I look back I wonder if he shouldn’t have left, and yet his endurance is a testimony in itself. In Revelation 21:7, the Bible says, "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Jerry was a true son.
The Church Thrives
The sixties were a wonderful time for the church and the family. Hundreds of kids came for Sunday school and the various youth activities that were held on the grounds. Soon buses began to roll, and more property and more room was needed. In 1963 the church purchased property and built a Sunday school building to the south of the existing church. It was ever referred to as the Educational Building, though later it was named Troutman Hall, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Troutman who had given so generously to the project, by far its largest financial backers.
The lot had three structures at this point: The original small church building, which became known ever after as the Annex; the main Auditorium; and the new Educational building. Yet Jerry was never satisfied to just sit still, and he was constantly on the move to expand even further! He would say, "We're a going church, and we can't sit still!"
The church continued purchasing parcels of property to the south and west, pushing ever closer to Norwalk Boulevard until they finally hit a brick wall, literally. There were three properties which paralleled the Church on Norwalk Boulevard, separated from the church by a large cinder block wall.
The house closest to the corner of Alondra Boulevard was a dilapidated Victorian Eastlake relic from the 1890’s. It was eventually demolished, though not before a commune of hippies took up residence there and disturbed many a service with their loud music and wild parties. My mother recalls the sweltering summer nights when the church windows would be closed to keep out the noise, only to leave those inside with no relief from the stifling heat.
The other two houses were much newer, home to the Nafe family and the Wilson family respectively. The Nafe’s were Christians, and Mrs. Nafe and her daughter attended the church; but the Wilson’s were not believers, and did not at all support the growth and expansion of Community Bible Church. However, as time went by, both the Nafes and Wilsons sold their properties to the church. In fact, when the Wilson house came up for sale the church was so full of excitement about expanding that one member brought in a full-week's paycheck in support; and one Mrs. Elizabeth Jorritsma loaned the church $22,000 interest free to help with the purchase, then, later generously reduced the repayment by $5,000! She would again play a significant role in the growth of the Community Bible Church later as well. The houses still stand, and over the years have been used in a variety of ways, and were ever referred to as House 1 and House 2.
Jerry preached about ever moving forward, and never resting while their was more work to do, and the work he believed in and gave his life to was the work of the Gospel. He encouraged and charged his congregation to this end. He believed that their church should ever have more and more room to house more and more kids, which he saw as both souls in need of salvation and the future of the Church. Furthermore, Jerry would often invite evangelists to hold weeklong (or longer) revival meetings. Men like Joe Boyd, Bob Eaton, Bob Schuller, and Jack Fautenberry would come through and rouse the community, and Jerry wanted as much room as possible to hold as many visitors and kids as could be crammed onto the church property!
The Patriotic Pastor
As the sixties progressed the nation soon found itself in turmoil and unrest. The New Morality of the Sexual Revolution was transforming the morays of the culture, clearly manifest by the Hippie movement, as well as the music and films and television shows of the day- though only a shadow of what would follow in the 1970’s. There were marches on Washington, protests in the streets, assassinations of several public figures and politicians, including the President of the United States. It was the era of the Civil Rights movement and racial tensions; but it was also a time when Americans felt the dangers of Communism as it spread across Eastern Europe, South-east Asia, and onto our very door step in Cuba and South America. We had thousands of serviceman deployed to Viet Nam, an undeclared war that was becoming a quagmire of death and horror. During this time Pastor Jerry Osborne took a stand for American idealism and Christian fundamentalism.
Jerry often wrote opinion pieces which appeared in the local newspaper; and two should be noted in this regard. The first was published in 1967, entitled, "I Thank God I'm An American", wherein Jerry laid out in no uncertain terms his reaction to what he believed was the root cause of America's moral and religious decay:
"...My blood boils as I see 'cheap, long-haired punks' who discredit my country and desecrate my flag. My blood boils as I see what the murderous, God-denying, Christ-hating, home-wrecking Communists are doing to my country. Can you see it? Or are you duped like so many?... Yes, America is very needy. Foremost, to return to the God and Saviour of our Fathers. But one thing we don't need is a band of 'yellow-red, traitorous cowards' tearing away at the foundation of this great country... Your right, I'm a 'mad' American; and if more of us don't get 'mad,' we're going to find ourselves planted six feet under with a 'red' heel stomping on top of us!"
A second and similar column was published in 1969, entitled, "A Tribute to the Serviceman's Mother." Here, Jerry responded to the disrespect he saw in the treatment of American soldiers and their families by anti-war protesters.
"We pay the highest honor to you, the mothers of our servicemen. How much we owe you, and yet at no time in our great history have you been so neglected.... We are very sorry for the way you've been treated. Every American should give notice to you, for we owe you so much! This is a war that is not even called a war. There is no flag in the window for your serviceman, no victory garden, no war bond rallies, nobody seemingly rolling up the sleeve. Just you and your boy! It seems you and your boy are doing all the suffering, all the paying, all the dying. We are ashamed of this!... It may not be easy to hear the voices of the sane, God-fearing, loyal, red-blooded majority over the loud-mouth, long-haired, communistic rebel faction of the minority, but we hope you get our message."
Jerry preached against the moral decay of the country and exhorted believers, “If Christian then different.” He stood up for a strong Christian standard of living which he defined in both spiritual and patriotic terms. He believed in a Christianity which affected a believer's life inside and out, from the way one dressed to the way one talked, from being active in church to being a patriot for country. He saw a good Christian as a good citizen. Jerry shrugged off the cultural revolution with a huff, standing firm as an old-fashioned, Bible-believing, flag-waving Christian! And in this way was the foundation for the seventies laid at his church.
The Osborne kids who were in junior high and high school when the decade began, and would all be married by decade's end! The children grew up, and the church bustled against the seams of the auditorium walls. In 1970 the auditorium was extended, but the small educational building and the old annex were still too small, and another building was noticeably needed. There just wasn't room for all the kids which were numbering in the multiple hundreds by this time: The Sunday school was exploding! In 1973 the church began to average 400 children and adults.
During this exciting time Jerry and Wanda's children engaged in their own service to the Lord. Cathleen married Gregg Fromm, who had also grown up in the church, and together they led the large and vibrant youth group at the church.
Janet also married, though she would serve the Lord elsewhere with her husband.
Paul became a police officer, and was ever a faithful in helping his parents in anyway he could at the church. Even delivering a sermon on occasion, proving the apple had not fallen far from the gospel tree from whence it came.
Donna was active on a Sunday school bus route, and served the Lord with her eventual husband and Jerry's later assistant pastor, Terry LaFramboise.
The church was growing and thriving, and in response to the need for more room the godly and faithful Mrs. Jorritsma financed a new two-story structure which was built in 1974. Mrs. Elizabeth Jorritsma was a wealthy widow of a local dairy family, and she believed in the work at Community Bible Church and desired to use the resources the Lord had blessed her with that many others might come to know the gospel. Her generous Christian stewardship was a great and awesome testimony, and thus after her death the building was named Elizabeth Jorritsma Hall.
Her's was an enduring legacy, for though I never knew her, I always knew of her. As a child I asked what in the world was a "Jorritsma," and why do we call it "Jorritsma Hall?" The story was told to me of her great faithfulness to her Lord and her church, and so I repeat it now to all who read this biography. But, as I think of her picture which once hung in the hall that formerly was graced with her name, I can never forget her legacy, nor how much she meant to my grandfather, nor how much she once meant to her church. Her testimony will always live on as long the story of Pastor Jerry Osborne is told.
In Proverbs, the Bible emphasizes the value of the ancient landmarks which those who came before have set. History, especially a record of faith, has great value to those who will learn from it. And the two-story building which stands on the property of 12226 Alondra Boulevard is a stark and shining example of how faith becomes reality when God's people seek first His Kingdom. Her name has been removed by those who never knew her, but as the building stands, so does her legacy of selfless love for her savior also stand in silent testimony.
Demons And Exorcism
Two striking episodes of demonism must be shared here which greatly testify of Jerry Osborne's great faith and boldness in Christ. Both Wanda and Jerry came from rural backgrounds and small towns, especially Wanda who was born in the back country of Oklahoma. The two were old-fashioned country folk whose simplicity of faith gave them great power in the Holy Spirit. Jerry prided himself on this fact, often referring to himself as an old-fashioned, Bible-believing preacher. He would often plainly declare: "God said it, I believe it, that settles it!" Thus when it came to demonic activity, they neither doubted nor remained inactive, taking such claims seriously and prayerfully, contrary to the prevailing disbelief in such things.
The first instance occurred in the late sixties and concerns Mrs. Hill the church's organ player of many years. A fascinating woman, Hill had a long career in the intelligence community as an undercover field agent with the F.B.I., and carried a gun in her purse at all times. But Hill believed that a portion of her home was filled with an oppressive demonic presence. She finally called Pastor Osborne to bring the deacons over to deal with the ominous presence. She insisted that it was affecting her life, and that she could no longer avoid the issue. So Jerry came with the men of the church, pleading the blood of Christ over the home, and cast out the presence in Jesus Name! The evil was never felt again, and Mrs. Hill said that ever after she felt that a great weight had been lifted off of both her home and her life.
In 1971 Peter Blatty's best-selling novel, "The Exorcist," was released being loosely based on a documented exorcism from 1949. The day after Christmas in 1973 the film adaptation was released by Warner Bros. Pastors and preachers across the country condemned the film for its explicit and blasphemous content and warned people to stay away from it. Billy Graham even said the film was cursed! Jerry Osborne joined in denouncing the film from his pulpit at Community Bible Church.
Jerry believed that certain conduct could open a person to demon oppression, and even demon possession; although he did not believe a genuine Christian could be possessed bodily. He believed that a movie like "The Exorcist" could act as an invitation to evil in someone's life. Against his admonition a certain young lady from his congregation had gone to see the film. The family soon after noted some peculiar and dark behavior from her, especially at church where others testify of her unusual demeanor. She was a pretty girl, and very dignified and lovely in her appearance and behavior previously; but she now became careless in her appearance and erradic in her behavior. During this time the church was holding nightly revival services with a guest evangelist. During services she would squirm uncontrollably and cry out unexpectedly. Finally one night the woman's father brought her to the altar for prayer, but Jerry quickly discerned that something evil was afoot. He called for the deacons to join him in his study where they would cast out the evil entity which was clearly wreaking havoc in the body of this woman.
Wanda joined the family in the pastor's study along with her husband and his deacons. She testifies of the unnatural strength the girl asserted when being restrained, as well as the deep and gutteral voice by which she communicated after Jerry called the demon to confess his presence. Pastor Jerry Osborne pleaded the blood of Christ over the young woman, and cast out the demon in Jesus Name! And before several witnesses she was healed.
1976: Baptist Community Bible Church
During the seventies the church continued to grow, and even change in some ways. There were some who did not understand certain aspects of my grandfather's philosophy of ministry, especially as it touched on the name of his church. Why did he not call it a Baptist church? As the seventies progressed Jerry Osborne was more and more involved with independent Baptist churches both locally and around the country. He felt comfortable with the Baptist circles he moved in, yet his church was quite noticeably not called "Baptist." To those who truly knew him, or to those who read this account of his life, it would come as no surprise, since it was a Baptist denomination which betrayed his own beloved pastor. But to many back in the seventies it made no sense at all.
In small compromise, Jerry began to refer to his church as "Baptistic," even having the term labelled with the church name in his weekly bulletins. But this was not good enough for his critics, many of which were ministry partners and even dear friends. Students who were bound for Bible college also began to have difficulties getting in to certain schools such as Tennessee Temple, which even sought to re-baptize kids from Jerry Osborne's fold. The school refused admission on the basis of church affiliation, and since Community Bible Church was a non-demonational church the school refused admission to their membership. Jerry negotiated with them tirelessly rather than change the name of his church on such unsubstantial grounds, for who could doubt that Jerry Osborne was a tried and true fundamentalist, whether or not he was a Baptist? After all, as he would say, he was Baptistic.
Many encouraged Jerry on a name change, even Ray Batema, the young and fiery preacher from sister church Central Baptist in Pomona, pressed Jerry Osborne on changing his church's name to reflect his Baptistic doctrines. The years of difficulty and controversy over this matter began to wear him down, especially when a woman came to town and started a church using the same name. Not only were kids confused at stringent Baptist Bible colleges, but now even the mail was getting mixed up! Finally at an event at Biola, President Emeritus Dr. Sam Sutherland told Jerry that the name of his church should inform people of his fundamental doctrines, and that if Jerry was at heart a fundamental Baptist preacher then he should call his church a "Baptist" church. Jerry buckled, though begrudgingly and not very swiftly. In point of this fact, it was several months after the church voted to amend the constitution and change the name before Jerry actually began to use the name I always knew: Baptist Community Bible Church. It was very important to Jerry that he keep to his "Bible Church" roots, and Mrs. Maude Huling, the dear wife of his beloved pastor was sure to admonish him, "Remember Jerry, yours is a Bible church, first!" Even after he publicly displayed the new name, he continued to emphasize that his church had "No Denominational Affiliation."
Jerry Osborne believed American Christians should be informed citizens who are actively engaged in the democratic system of our country. He was a staunch supporter of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and in 1977 pushed his church forward politically as he had never done before and would never again do afterwards when he led his church in support of a petition against homosexual school teachers.
Labelled as the "Protect Our Children" initiative, the petition was spearheaded by Orange county legislator John Briggs. The proposed law targeted homosexuals, and "provided that a public school teacher, teacher's aide,
administrator, or counselor could be fired if the employee was found to
have engaged in either 'public homosexual activity,' or 'public homosexual
Jerry had advertised and promoted signature drives, and was a strong proponent of the campaign which was ultimately successful in gathering enough signatures, and the initiative was to be placed before the voters for the 1978 November election as Proposition 6. Jerry was sure to advertise "Yes On 6" rallies in the weekly bulletin, strongly advocating for its passage, and kept the measure ever before the eyes and in the ears of his people.
Jerry joined forces with the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Pomona- the church which had begun in his mother-in-law's Chino home was now one of the largest churches in the county. Together with Central's political action committee,"Citizen's For Decency And Morality," Jerry called his church to donate money to the campaign to run local television ads, raising over $1,000 from his own congregation.
The opposition campaign was led by the late Harvey Milk, the famed gay politician from San Francisco. From the Conservative ranks, the "No on 6" coalition was joined by the newly formed and pro-homosexual, Log Cabin Republicans. More support was gained by former Republican President Gerald Ford who opposed the measure as well. The campaign was steam-rolling toward victory with 61% approval in the polls that September, just 60 days before the election; but by the end of the month approval had dropped to 45%! While still two points in the lead, opposition then came from an unexpected source which stalled the movement to a stand still.
Ronald Reagan had been a popular governor in California during the 60's, running on a Conservative Republican ticket; however, just one week before the 1978 election, the soon-to-be presidential candidate released a bombshell editorial in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Concerning the issue Reagan stated: "Whatever else it is, homosexuality is not a contagious disease like the measles. Prevailing scientific opinion is that an individual's sexuality is determined at a very early age and that a child's teachers do not really influence this." The blow was devastating, and, even with a high 70% voter turnout, Proposition 6 was soundly defeated with 58.4% voting in opposition.
Jerry never failed to let his positions be known at election time, typically posting his own sample ballot in the vestibule. He was a man who believed that Christians should be active in their churches and in their communities. He believed that the Church needs strong committed Christians standing for Christ, and that a community would be better served if those same Christians made their presence felt around town and at the ballot box. Often Jerry would rouse his people to protest some moral issue in the city. For instance, he led his church in a successful fight against the city council to forbid the establishment of a XXX theater in his town. And later, he led his church in a victorious battle with the city to forbid the selling of liquor at the gas station across the street from his church.
The End of an Era
The late seventies were surely a time of transition, if not a tumultuous time of transformation as the little country Community Bible Church became the more businesslike Baptist Community Bible Church. Nothing so staunchly enumerates this shift than the passing of so many integral members and close family and friends during the fall and winter of 1977-1978.
First, in October, there was the death of Mr. Troutman who, with his dear wife, had largely funded the Educational Building. Of his passing Jerry said, "This man [was] used of the Lord greatly in establishing the work here-- not only in finances, but in 'encouragement.' He stood beside his pastor faithfully... and even after becoming blind, he never lost his vision of reaching the lost. Now as never before he realizes the best investment he, as a businessman, ever made were the investments in reaching the lost. As we remember this dear brother, let his life challenge us to hold lightly to the things of this world."
Then, the week before Christmas, the gracious and godly lady Mrs. Jorritsma, who was so influential in many of the acquisitions and building projects undertaken by the church, passed away. Of her Jerry declared, "The Jorritsma Hall is no longer in honor of her, but in memory of our dear sister who meant so much to us all, and did so much with her resources to put tools in our hands to win the lost to Jesus Christ... God be blessed for this beautiful handmaiden."
That same week Wanda's older brother, Lawrence, succumbed to cancer; then, a month later, Mr. Nels Torkelson also passed away. This man had built many of the original pews, had helped remodel the original church building, and even built the original steeple. Jerry warmly wrote, "He was a great soul-winner, example and help to this preacher. I loved him and will miss him. He always said: 'Jerry don't quit!' ...God be blessed for Nels Torkelson, who called himself 'my old buddy.'"
These losses were amplified by the deaths of several others in close succession who were connected to the church. It was a severe time of loss, especially for Jerry who had such close relationships with his people, and the aforementioned in particular.
The loss, however, was not merely emotional, for this also left a substantial void where pastoral support was concerned. Jerry had been on the move for over 25 years at this point, ever building and enlarging the church God had entrusted to him. However, in the years that followed the "building-pastor" would be faced with more detractors than supporters, and eventually his plans would come to a halt, and what he ultimately envisioned would never see completion. Oh, might this bring conviction to every Christian as they think about their responsibility to their church, and their commitment to their pastor.
But even in the midst of such drastic and dramatic changes, the Lord was yet at work, and some dynamic times were ahead for the church which had built the largest Sunday School in Norwalk.
At ten minutes to eight on October 3, 1971, a teenaged boy named Terry LaFramboise accepted Christ as his Savior. He was infused with a zealous fire to win others from the start. On his high School campus, on his ship in the Navy, and even in the Far East where he was stationed for two years, Terry was ever engaged in winning souls; and while in the Philippines he even established a church which continues to this day. This sailor would eventually find his way to Baptist Community Bible Church, and decades later his own ministry would carry on Jerry's soul-winning legacy.
Ironically, Terry had a salvation experience remarkably similar to Jerry Osborne's own story. An experience Terry was asked to share with the church one Sunday Evening in November 1978. He spoke of growing up with 7 brothers and sisters raised by a divorced and single mother. He grew up in veritable poverty, his family moving all the time. He was born in North Dakota on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation, and had lived in South Dakota, Ohio, and in several places in Southern California, finally ending up in Norwalk before joining the Navy in 1973.
While raised Catholic, Terry's family had never been devout observers of their religion, and he had certainly never imagined that one could enjoy a relationship with Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. However, in 1971 he came face to face with death, a moment which caused him deep reflection upon the truth of Eternity.
One day Terry and his older brother John were out at Huntington Beach taking a swim near the pier. Suddenly they were caught in a severe rip-current and could not swim back to shore, let alone to safety. The boys were drowning. The current tore relentlessly at their strength until they could no longer fight back. Thankfully, a lifeguard had seen their plight and had taken swift action to save their lives. Terry and his brother had been saved!
Not long after, John became a born-again Christian and began attending services at the Norwalk Brethren Church. After much persuasion, he was finally able to get Terry to attend a Sunday evening service. Terry was uneasy about stepping through the doors of a non-Catholic assembly, convinced that it was a sin against his own religion to do so. But he loved his brother, and acquiesced. At the end of the service John went forward to pray; Terry thought he was making for the front-side exit door, and followed him up to the pastor by mistake. The pastor, Dr. Stan Jensen, asked plainly if Terry had ever been saved, to which of course, he frankly replied, Yes, not too long ago at Huntington Beach. Next thing he knew, Terry was in Dr. Stan's office discussing the gospel and his own need for it. Finally, he broke down and agreed to ask Jesus into his life to be his Lord and Savior. And yet, even at that moment Terry was suspect of just what he was really doing, and whether it was right. But he explains, that as he prayed the Lord gave him peace and assurance of salvation- and he was never the same. All he could do was tell people about Jesus: his family, his friends, people next to him at a train crossing, whoever would listen he would share with them.
His last two years in the Navy he was stationed in San Diego, and would drive up to visit his family on the weekends. As fate would have it, while Terry had been overseas, Jerry Osborne had begun picking up his brothers and sisters for church on the bus. Eventually, Terry's older sister was married at Baptist Community Bible Church, and he was asked to be a groomsman. He was paired with Pastor Jerry's youngest daughter, Donna. Terry recalls how from the moment he saw her at his sister's wedding, he knew that he had found the woman God had made for him to marry.
Now Terry was driving from San Diego for more than just church services and activities, he was driving up to spend time with his sweetheart, Donna Osborne! And by default, Pastor Jerry had just inherited a great gospel-worker.
The Day Gentle Ben came to church... and other Great Days in 1977!
In 1977 Terry was made Director of the
Bus Ministry, and quickly set his sights on bringing in 1,000 riders. No
doubt ambitious for a church which had averaged between 400 and 500 total attendance.
One day, someone came up with an idea... bring a bear and they will come. Though the TV show, "Gentle Ben", had been cancelled in 1969, the show was still popular in re-runs among kids eight years later. Calls were made, and the next thing you know, the famous bear was scheduled to appear at Baptist Community Bible Church in May of 1977!
For months the event was advertised. For months Terry and his 12 bus captains proclaimed the arrival of Gentle Ben the Bear. And the hard work paid-off with a jackpot Sunday of over 1,000 people flooding the corner of Alondra and Norwalk to see him. To this very day it remains the largest crowd ever assembled at the church on a Sunday morning!
Jerry and Wanda also celebrated the church's 25th anniversary a few weeks later, and over 800 were gathered to observe the momentous occasion- the second largest crowd in the church's history.
Nearly 600 were in attendance on December 4 when Max Palmer came to speak. Palmer called himself, "Goliath For Christ," and was between 7' 7" and 8' 2" in height! (Records differ.) He was truly a giant, as even basketball legend Shaquielle O'Neil is only 7' 2". Palmer had made television appearances, and was also featured in the 1953 film, "Invaders From Mars." (Unmistakable as the largest of the martians.) As an evangelist he gripped his audiences by his stature and presence, and delivered a powerful gospel message. Over 40 made decisions for Christ when he visited Jerry's church.
The church was invigortated with growth and possibilities. The same year, 1977, a pre-school was established, named appropriately, Faith Pre-school. An elementary school was added with classes for kindergarten thru third grades in 1979. In 1980, the church was renovated, and a wing was added to the west wall of the auditorium, which was also reversed in its orientation, from south-facing to north-facing. It was an exciting time of growth and expansion, and yet a great sin would leave an indelible scar upon the church.
The Great Sin
During Pastor Jerry's ministry few were ever as helpful and loyal as the man who worked alongside him during the exciting days of the 70's. Jerry recognized the sincerity and faithfulness and work ethic of this man, and a wonderful friendship was formed. Soon Jerry called him to be his Assistant Pastor.
As the decade wore on, however, others became envious of the position to which Jerry had elevated him, and secretly began to seek his removal. Finally, a meeting was called where Jerry was confronted with dubious accusations against his friend, and eventually the church was stirred with gossip, rumor, and slander. Pastor Jerry Osborne was furious over the manner in which his church was treating his friend and fellow laborer. One Sunday evening he brought his feelings on the matter to bear in a sermon, wherein it is testified that he stood upon a pew as he scolded the congregation and pleaded with them to right this terrible wrong. But it was too late. The damage was done, and the family of his dear friend publicly shamed.
After the fires of hate had simmered down a bit, Jerry invited his friend to address the church one Sunday evening. Two weeks later Jerry wrote this in the Sunday bulletin:
"Two Sundays ago [my friend] preached a message in church. I was very proud of him because of the straight forward way he sought to set things in order in the confessing of his faults to us and seeking our forgiveness. Some of you will never understand until the Judgment Seat of Christ the way I really feel about this man and how I feel I failed, though I know you try. What happened should not have happened; [my friend] should still be here...May we learn and not be so dumb the next time, though we be but sheep in God's pasture."
This marked the end of the old-fashioned and familial church that so many had come to love and enjoy; where multitudes had been saved and baptized, and from whence many had been sent out as missionaries and pastors. As the 80's would unfold, Jerry's vision and ministry would be further tamped down by vicious politics and fierce antagonism, from which it would never fully recover. Pastor Jerry would keep at it, never failing in his passion for Christ, but so many would stand in his way that nothing of the seventies could ever be repeated, let alone surpassed- for more than just the name had changed. Community Bible Church was no more.
My grandfather was a great man of God whose entire Christian life was spent for the cause of Christ. Jerry loved Jesus Christ, and sought with his whole heart, mind, soul, and strength to serve Him in spirit and in truth. What follows in my account of the 80's and 90's is the story of a godly man who was deceived and maligned by those who served the Accuser and father of lies. Certainly, I have the benefit of hindsight, and am able to see things by their end results, not to mention witness the devious motives which brought them to pass. In the moment of history, Jerry made the decisions he thought best, because he trusted those with whom he made them. Jerry was a kind-hearted man who could never have imagined from whence his greatest heartbreaks would come.
While on vacation in the summer of 1981, Jerry was contacted concerning a merger of his church with another in financial straits. He was asked to allow his church to assume the debt and assimilate the staff of this troubled congregation. This was a massive and unprecedented request! Jerry had prided his church's ability to pay off their own mortgage only a short time earlier. Baptist Community Bible Church was thriving and debt-free, while this other church had accumulated tens of thousands of dollars of debt. The move would also merge and expand the school to include all higher grades, including high school. The members of the other church were also expected to come over, along with church and school staff. The decision was too be made soon, and Jerry was pressured to make it hastily. Though Jerry Osborne rarely acted without cautious deliberation, on this occasion he even shunned the admonition of some of his most faithful members. One long-standing member lovingly and respectfully pointed out with great deference to his pastor of many years, “Jerry, you know this is never going to work.” But believing against reason in the necessity of the merger, Jerry pushed ahead with it.
Looking over the span of his life, I cannot find another moment quite like this, where Jerry acted with such haste. Yet his motivations were honest and sincere. He believed he was helping a congregation, and in the process creating a greater church.
While the merger gave the promise of a bigger and brighter future, the only thing it delivered was strife. People were obviously concerned about the mountain of debt the church had assumed with virtually no assets in return. And as the other church's school came in, the founding principal was soon ousted, along with Terry, his dedicated Bus Director, both of whom the church could no longer afford due to the obligatory salaries now forked over to the newly acquired staff.
While some of the merging church's members did come over for a while, after a few months only a few were left. Within a year the merging church's staff began butting heads and finally left as well. The following year all that was left was the massive debt and a couple of member families. The toll of the merger was felt in every aspect of the church: membership waned due to strife, finances were strained due to debt, and the Sunday school faded into an afterthought due to the loss of Terry LaFramboise as Bus Director. However, married to Jerry's daughter, Terry remained faithful to the ministry, and would yet play a major role in another move of God's spirit.
Jerry could have never foreseen that which I record. I do not fault him, rather I pity this pastor who simply had a desire to serve the Lord, yet found himself embroiled in a catastrophic and church-altering disaster! But Jerry pressed on and the Lord provided. This great trial in the life of Jerry and his ministry presents some important lessons, namely that serving the Lord is not always easy, and moreover it is often undertaken with the burden of conflict. Sometimes conflict is inevitable, and sometimes it is avoidable, and yet suffered due to mistakes plainly seen in hindsight, and was this merger. Jerry was a man persistent in the things of God, keeping his eyes on the Lord, and trusting Him with both the results and consequences of His decisions.
One may clearly observe that this biography presents not a perfect pastor and a perfect church, but a man yielded to God and serving Him in a church through problems and difficulties. It's a story of true-life ministry, illustrating the reasons why so many pastors flee from their churches and ministries today. The life of a Christian is not free of hardship, and so much more the life of a pastor and his family. Jerry and Wanda made it through the difficulties and heartbreaks for no other reason than the fact they simply trusted the Lord through it all. They were not playing spiritual games, and they were not seeking personal gain; they were simply serving the Lord whom they loved with their lives. For them it began and ended at the Cross of Christ, and nothing else mattered but the Lord Jesus Himself. So many are willing to serve if they are first served financially and emotionally; but few there be who just serve faithfully, with regard to none but the Savior.
As for the trial of the merger, eventually the trouble subsided, the debts were paid, the conflicts were removed, and the Lord brought a time of peace and prosperity. The church settled into its newly urbanized environment, the changing congregation came into its own, and once again Pastor Jerry was itching to build.
The Fellowship Hall: "Together We Can" (1989)
During the decade of the eighties Jerry had longed to renovate his church. In 1981 architectual plans were prepared to design a complete overhaul of the main auditorium and an additional attached two-story building which would house a larger hall and provide staff offices upstairs. The ambitious plan envisioned a church on the move, with increased growth and outreach. Jerry was never satisfied, for he believed that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance; and Jerry wanted room for all!
Pastor Jerry was emboldened in his plans when the aforementioned merger was offered to him. It promised all the finances necessary for such a bold new venture. However, soon after the merger, Jerry found his own church's finances stretched to the limit as unpaid taxes surfaced from the merging church that had previously been hidden from Jerry and his church, and which ultimately proved disastrous to Jerry's building plans. As the truth of the merger became clear, Jerry knew that it would be a long time before he would be able to move forward with the new design.
Finally, in 1987, Jerry believed the time had come. The church had stabilized from those rocky years, and the school was beginning to grow, providing financial flexibility to the church. At this time, Jerry asked Terry LaFramboise to join him on staff once more, and help him prepare the church for a building project, the scale of which had not been seen since the Jorritsma Hall in 1974. Terry accepted, and the two moved forward together on a project that would be promoted under the banner, "Together We Can."
However, Jerry immediately felt the loss of his late members who had supported him so faithfully. Baptist Community Bible Church was filled with members who had not seen the church grow out of a cabbage patch, and many were not comfortable with the church using their tithe for a building project.
But Jerry pushed ahead, teaching his church why they should never cease to move forward in the things of the Lord, preaching from the book of Nehemiah and using that great builder of God to inspire his people just as he had in the past. Though he wisely realized he could accomplish his task with greater support by dividing his project into two stages. Thus he reduced the scope of his immediate plans by eliminating the renovation of the auditorium and the second-story of the hall; though the new "Fellowship Hall" would still be built in such a way as to be prepared for a future enhancement. An example of this is seen in the large storage are that was built into the hall directly in it middle on the south wall. This "storage area" was actually fitted to be used later as an elevator shaft. Everything about the construction project was done, as Jerry always did things, with a keen vision of the future in mind. Though the fullness of his vision was never to materialize, this aspect of his character, to ever be building higher and moving further, are great examples to all who would remember his story or hear of his legacy. Grandpa could not sit still, and would not be satisfied with the stagnation of the status quo. But do not miss the reason for this. It was not so much that Jerry was simply "that type of person;" but he would claim that it was because the Lord is that kind of Savior! He passionately believed in doing all he could to maximize his church's potential in reaching lost souls for Jesus Christ. He did not preach the gospel as lip service, but as the only service worth doing.
On Sunday, July 4, 1976, while at his pulpit preaching, Jerry Osborne received word that his first grandson had been born. He erupted with joy before his people who rejoiced with him in his rapture. Jerry was finally a grandpa, and he entered this new role in his life with gusto! Jerry relished time spent with his grandson, and as new arrivals joined the family, Jerry only increased in his doting upon his grandchildren! By the mid 1980's Jerry had been blessed with nine grandchildren: 5 rambunctious boys and 4 precocious girls! All of whom loved to come over grandma and grandpa's house whenever they could; although if the truth be known, it seemed we spent as much time with them at the church as we did with them at their house. This points out the blessing of raising kids and grandkids in such a way that they do not discern a distinction between family and church, but learn that family and church are one, and that all is centered around Jesus Christ. Jerry and Wanda modeled this perfectly and without hypocrisy; and they taught their children and grandchildren that all was to be done as unto the Lord.
The Last Full Bus
Jerry Osborne believed that a church should have a strong children's ministry and outreach, which was why he was committed to the Bus Ministry at Baptist Community Bible Church. The church was founded upon his wife's neighborhood children's ministry, and during his tenure as pastor, he never failed to keep Child Evangelism at the forefront of the church's mission.
During the 80's, the Bus Ministry ebbed and flowed in regards to numbers, but Jerry's commitment never wavered. It was of chief importance to take the gospel to children in the area, especially underprivileged minority children. Jerry felt that winning people when they were young was vital, in that so few ever give their lives to Christ as adults if they had no Christian influence as a child.
As the 90's came along, the buses numbered fewer and fewer, and of the those which remained, only three or four were consistently on the road, yet typically with low ridership. Some of the decline may certainly be attributed to a change in the times, and the hesitation that parents began to have about sending their kids on a bus with people they did not know to a church they did not attend. Yet, it was also true that Jerry's church had come to lack vibrant young people who were willing to go out and bring them in. Among the congregation, the bus kids had become more of a nuisance than a ministry. Mostly from low-income neighborhoods, the children were usually undisciplined and could be very challenging to control. Thus, Jerry found it increasingly difficult, not only to fund the ministry, but also to keep workers running it on a weekly basis.
Then came Mr. Kevin. He was Terry LaFramboise's younger brother. The year was 1991, and Kevin had recently returned from First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana, where Jack Hyles was pastor, and where the bus ministry was king- they had the largest Sunday School Bus Ministry in the country! Kevin was energized and enthused from his time there, and came home to Norwalk to replicate some of the successes he had been a part of back East.
Quickly joined by Terry's eleven year-old son, Nathanael, Mr. Kevin ventured into the area of Hawaiian Gardens, about 10 minutes south of Norwalk. He felt God was calling him to this area, infamous in the region for its poverty and gang activity. Mr. Kevin and his young accomplice marched up and down the neighborhood streets inviting all the children they could find to ride their bus on Sunday morning. They knocked on doors, talked to parents, and rounded up kids of all ages, and even some adults.
As the Summer pressed on Mr. Kevin and Nathanael's bus became the number one bus in ridership. 50, 60, 70 kids every Sunday, and the numbers continued to climb. Emboldened with his brother's "Win the lost at any cost" mentality, Mr. Kevin found new and exciting ways to get kids on board his bus. To motivate the kids he did things from giving out cups of live goldfish to taking pies in the face, and even allowing his kids to bomb him and Nathanael with water balloons! And sure enough, one Sunday in 1991, a bus designed to seat 60 overflowed with 115 passengers!
Mr. Kevin and Nathanael's bus became the life of the church, and once again the congregation was reminded of how exciting soul-winning and gospel outreach could be. As September came along, others began to jump on the band wagon. Students from Baptist Christian Schools volunteered to help out on the bus and even get up early on their day-off to do it. Eventually, six or seven high school and junior high students were helping with all of the kids on Mr. Kevin's bus. This excitement also spread to the other bus workers, who were once again invigorated to build up their routes and bring more and more kids in for Sunday School.
In stark contrast to the sixties and seventies, this revival was short-lived, and by the summer of 1992 the church was reeling from strife and turmoil stirred up by begrudging and embittered members. Mr. Kevin moved out-of-state, and with him departed the bus ministry fervor that had enraptured the church, never to be experienced again.
The question begs to be asked, "Why must it be so in the church?" Jesus promised that their would be tares in His wheat fields, thus the history of the Church universal has not been so different from that of Community Bible Church. Jerry encountered his fair share of tares to be sure! Many come around with the Lord on their lips, but as Jesus Himself said, not all who say, "Lord, Lord" are part of God's Kingdom.
Baptist Christian Schools Expands
While some things were going backwards others were moving forwards. In 1988, Terry LaFramboise had been named principal of Baptist Christian Schools. Within 5 years the enrollment increased from less than 150 to over 350. Though numbers were up across the board, the high school saw the greatest per capita increases, as more and more junior high students continued their education at BCS rather than move on to other high schools as was previously the norm. Baptist Christian Schools was finally enjoying a reputation as strong as that of Faith Pre-school, and word-of-mouth was bringing in more and more students.
This proved to be bitter-sweet, however; for as the school prospered the beurocracy of power increased as well. As more money and resources became available, so did men's hearts grow dark with envious lust and malice. Soon, Jerry would wish that Community Bible Church had never moved out of 60's, and was still a small rural church, full of members who believed in and followed their beloved pastor.
Jerry's Personal Ministry
My heart breaks as I record the truth of the destruction of a vibrant ministry and the attacks upon a faithful man of God. It is difficult to process, let alone place on the pages of history; however it is in great contrast to the deep and personal work which Jerry himself accomplished. He was a man who touched the lives of so many people. Though Jerry's public ministry was maligned and undermined from within by cowards and fools who worked the work of their father the Devil, the impact he made in the hearts of those who sincerely called him pastor will always remain as a great and wonderful testimony of a man who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and ever sought to build His Kingdom.
Many who grew up in his ministry during the Community Bible Church years were sent out by Jerry and used greatly by the Lord. Men who learned the ways of God from Jerry Osborne's teaching, preaching, and testimony later followed the Lord's call into pastoral ministry themselves. There are many churches today who owe Jerry a debt of thanks for their own pastor.
Perhaps the most touching and personal story of Jerry's long ministry is that of his beloved Tomas. One day a Mexican immigrant, who could barely put together two words in English, came knocking on the door of Jerry's church. Tomas told the pastor he was interested in doing any work that the pastor needed done. Tomas, however, didn't have much experience except as a ranch-hand in rural Mexico. The pastor yet took him under his wing and taught him carpentry, plumbing, and other construction related work. Soon Tomas was working everyday for the pastor at the church and at his home, gaining more and greater experience, until eventually his years of experience with Jerry led him to a wonderful job opportunity. Yet even after he had moved away, Tomas was ever at Jerry's beckon call. Tomas loved Pastor Jerry, and he was greatly beloved by him. When grandpa died, no family outside our own was as deeply affected as that of Tomas'.
Jerry's Move to Chino
The summer of 1992 was by far and away the most difficult and painful time in Jerry's long and fruitful ministry. A man to whom Jerry had reached out to help, grabbed hold of Jerry's hand of mercy and pulled him down as hard as he could. After nearly years of support and encouragement from Jerry and his church, both financially and spiritually, this ingrate began to secretly call for meetings with Jerry's church members where he would fill their itching ears with all sorts of slanderous gossip about Jerry Osborne and his family. None were spared! Full of stinging betrayal and crushing heartbreak, Jerry did not see how he could possibly continue. Long-time friends were abandoning him and leaving the church, and those who remained hardly seemed loyal. I must emphasize the impact this emotional trauma had on both his ministry and his life. Such was the blow to his ministry that he publicly resigned from the pulpit, and such was the agony personally that he moved from his Norwalk home of 35 years, taking up residence in the former home of his mother-in-law in Chino. Jerry Osborne had been humiliated and brought down to the lowest depths of despair. It has been often wondered aloud if this greatest of trials did not indeed shorten his life.
Jerry publicly resigned for the second time in his 41 year ministry, but the Lord was once again going to re-instate him- and again perhaps Jerry's life would have been fuller, if not longer, if he had retired. But pushed and lifted and encouraged by the closest of his family, he took up his post once more on the corner of Norwalk and Alondra. Not with his former vigor, to be sure, but with great resolve nonetheless.
Most men have abandoned the ministry for far less than what Jerry endured at the hand of one of his own. But Jerry was never in the ministry for himself, and this is the only reason he persevered the way he did. If a verse could sum up the motivation and ministry of my grandfather, perhaps it would be 1 Peter 2:21-23: "For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps...Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."
Much of his strength to carry on was no doubt gained by the sheer pleasure he took in his new residence in Chino. The home had been built in 1954 by his father-in-law, and was situated on nearly one-quarter acre of land in a rural portion of the city. In no time Jerry had spruced up the place, renovating the property and remodeling the house; in fact he even bought a horse named Jet Propulsion. The 15 year-old quarter horse quickly became Jerry's closest ally in a time of great need.
When Jerry would roll up to the house and get out of his car J.P. knew it, and he would winnie up a storm. That old horse would stomp and prance around, welcoming Jerry home and inviting him back for some country relaxation. It was just what the old preacher needed. And Jerry responded in kind, always keeping treats for J.P. nearby to thank him for the joy he gave. Jerry would feed the horse, brush his coat, and just spend time with him. It was a match made in Heaven!
The reader may recall how impatient Jerry could be, and the commute back and forth from Chino to Norwalk proved no exception for this vice. But Jerry manged it well. After making two round-trips on Sunday, he would take Mondays off. Then, during the week, he would make it a point to leave Norwalk by 2 PM in an effort to get ahead of the worse traffic. He even came down on Saturdays from time to time when the traffic was inconsequential. However, there was nothing he could do to get through his morning commute any faster, and both sides of the round-trip often took over an hour to make. In an ironic side note, how grateful he would have been to see the carpool lane, completed after his death, which now stretches from his church to his home with no need to ever even change lanes, and which cuts the commute time in half!
Jerry spent the remaining few years of his life in a place he truly enjoyed to live; but little did he know how short his time really was.
1997: A Few Things Jerry Didn’t Know
The 90's proved increasingly challenging for Jerry, as it seemed his church board stood in opposition to nearly everything he envisioned to do. They were constantly confronting him about various policies and issues, especially as it related to the school which had become exceedingly profitable to the church. Some board members even asserted that the church should not have a school, regardless of the ministry potential and the revenue stream. The pastor was more often in conflict with his board than actually accomplishing the business of the church with them.
By the end of 1996, among his family only his eldest, Cathleen, and her husband, Gregg, remained at the church. The struggles continued to mount and the pressure steadily increased. He found his authority often challenged by the board, who even began to question his soundness of mind. He was being perpetually undermined no matter his course of action. At 68 years old, Jerry, for the first time, was noticeably aged and worn: his nerves were frayed, and he truly looked tired.
1997 proved to be an unbearably strenuous year in particular, full of backbiting and grief and scandal. To make matters worse, a 30 year friend and member of the church was also diagnosed with cancer.
At October's end Jerry and Wanda decided on an unprecedented and extended Fall vacation. They took a car trip back east, visiting family and taking in the scenery, and taking a break from their increasingly volatile life at Baptist Community Bible Church. His last sermon from the pulpit of his church was entitled "A Few Things Samson Didn't Know." Fitting, for certainly Jerry did not foresee what was coming next, nor how soon it would confront him.
It came to pass, while they were away, that their dear friend succumbed to cancer. Jerry and Wanda immediately boarded a plane to return to Norwalk for the funeral. Since losing so much support at the church, he spent much of his four days of interrupted vacation seeing to various odds and ends at the church, recruiting Donna's boys, his beloved grandsons, to help him.
On Thursday he returned to his vacation, only to cut it short, to make a bee-line for Chino. A week later he was back at home, but feeling sick. The next morning, Saturday, November 15, Jerry felt even more miserable. He groaned from the pain through the early hours of the morning. Wanda brought him some toast and orange juice, but after one bite he ignored the rest. Finally, he asked Wanda to call the paramedics and moved to the front room where he sat in the large yellow chair. When the paramedics arrived he went into cardiac arrest, suffering a massive heart attack. In his final moments he looked to Wanda, his wife of 47 years, before his eyes rolled back into head. Jerry was gone.
As I sift through his papers and remember the pains encountered that year I am saddened for my grandfather, and I wish things could have been different, especially near the end. Their were so many things to confront in 1992 and 1997, but he was not the kind of man who was up to such terse and nasty challenges. He and Wanda just wanted to see as many people brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ as possible, and they were ill-prepared for some of the nitty-gritty aspects of church ministry, such as personal confrontations and public resolutions. In her later years, after witnessing a remarkable point of conflict in her son-in-law Terry's church, where he prudently and publicly dealt with those who caused division, Wanda admitted how Jerry just couldn't handle it. He was so tender-hearted and sensitive to deal with ministry conflict the right way. No wonder their are so few churches that can boast of a pastor who has been there for more than a year or two. The devils minions are ready and willing to tear into their hearts and crush their spirits. Woe to you dividers of Christ's body! "Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matthew 23:33)
My heart aches to think of the final years of Grandpa's ministry, and how terribly cruel many from his own congregation had acted towards him. And yet, as I read the Scriptures, I see the same story played out time and again. I see the trust King David had placed in his general, Joab, only to be betrayed by him. I see Nehemiah the builder confronted by Tobias and his cronies. I see Paul the Apostle maligned and abused by those he loved and trusted, even abandoned by many he considered friends. Ultimately, I see Jesus Christ the righteous, rejected by His own, betrayed by a friend, and abandoned by those He loved at the time of His greatest need. As Jerry followed in the footsteps of His Master, he suffered, just as others have suffered who have endeavored to do the same.
But for all of the strife, the Kingdom of Heaven is a fuller place because of the ministry of Jerry Osborne; and I am assured by no less than the Word of God that Jerry is seated in the heavenlies before a great reward, and was received with an abundant entry through the Gates of Glory. No matter what scorn he suffered, or heartbreak he endured, the words of his Redeemer were worth all his tears and sorrows when Jesus said to him: "Well done, Jerry, my good and faithful servant!"
The Legacy of Jerry Osborne and Mountain View Baptist Church
While a new and fundamentally different church has since been established upon the grounds of Community Bible Church, this does not mean that the ministry of Jerry Osborne does not continue today, for his legacy lives on through those of his family who have faithfully continued to serve the Lord, as well as others who were sent out from Community Bible Church of old.
Wanda played the piano for over 45 years at Jerry's church, and played her last public church service at Mountain View Baptist Church in Ontario, California. This is where her daughter and son-in-law, Terry and Donna, have served the Lord since 2003. Wanda would play for the evening services where her grandson, Michael, would give the Bible study each week. It's a church just 5 minutes down the street from where she lives, and where Jerry spent his last years. This is where the legacy and ministry of Jerry Osborne truly resides and faithfully continues. This is where his life lives on as a great testimony of faith. This is where those who loved and cherish him still move forward with his great vision of the Gospel.
Thank you, Grandpa, for giving to the Lord... for I am a life that was changed, and countless thousands can say the same!
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord."
1 Corinthians 15:58
Jerry's Life's verse.
Pastor R.G. Jerry Osborne in the late 1960's.
From Right: Jerry with Wanda and daughter, Cathleen, and his mother, Nilla, and grandmother, Hattie. (c. 1960)
Laying the foundation of Community Bible Church in a cabbage patch, 1952. Beloved mother-in-law, Bessie Ester, is pictured in lower left; Jerry & Wanda in lower right.
The first church service in June, 1952.
The original church interior in the 1950's.
A Sunday Morning in the Early 50's.
Above (Top): Jerry & Wanda with daughters, Cathleen and Janet, and infant, Paul, in 1956.
Above (Bottom): Ruth Balentine Fromm and her children in 1959.
Wanda and Ruth were dear friends whose children grew up together with the church.
Jerry & Wanda arranging slide photos at home.
Anniversary Sunday in 1964
Above (Top):The Church in 1956.
Above (Bottom): The newly erected street sign in 1959.
The Osborne Family around 1970.
Kids from Left: Janet, Paul, Cathleen, Donna.