Interview with Bobbie Davis at Refreshing Spring Community Church:
What is the story of this ministry at Refreshing Spring? The ministry actually started in April of 1973. I am the second pastor and the first pastor first lived in the San Francisco area and he left up there when he felt the call to pastor and felt that the Lord called him to Riverside. He came to Riverside and at the time he worked for Xerox. He found a little church building and he started a ministry over on the corner of 7th and Park which is now Mission Inn. There is a little church building there and that is where he started. 19 years later he passed and we are part of The Church of God in Christ Organization which is worldwide and the largest black Pentecostal church in the world. So our bishop at the time was Bishop Charles Blake appointed me as pastor. On December 2nd it will be 19 years that I have been pastoring this church.
How did I get involved in becoming a minister? It started back when I was in my twenties. I grew up in Portland Oregon with 8 brothers and both my mother and father were part of the church. My father was a minister and my mother was an evangelist so I was brought up in the church. When I was 21 or 22 I felt that one day I would be the pastor of a church. I didn’t know when or where but I knew that that was a calling upon my life. At the time I worked for State Farm Insurance in Oregon and they transferred me to Costa Mesa in 1986. I worked at that office and then moved out to Moreno Valley to start my own insurance agency. When we moved out to Moreno Valley we looked for another church to become a part of and came across this church. In 1988 we joined this church while I was running my own business as a State Farm Insurance Agent and within the next few years the pastor got sick and when he got sick I was part of the committee looking for another pastor. In the end the lot fell on me.
I continued my insurance agency up until about six years ago. I found myself spending more time here at the church than at my agency. The calling was just great on my life. I had a nice business but I wanted to work with people. I was more concerned about the welfare of people so I retired from my agency and started working for the church full time which I have been doing for about seven years. I went back to school and got my masters three years ago from Azusa Pacific in Pastoral Studies which is similar to an MBA which prepares the pastor to pastor. It hones in on the skills and church organization and my bachelors was in business management so they kind of married each other very well.
What do I think is my most important aspect in being a pastor? The people! Not only just ministering to people but as you know the economy has its effect upon people and upon families. Families are really being stretched right now and they need that spiritual guidance. They need someone there and they need that rock there to help them navigate these times. As a result my calling and my passion is people. I love people. In our ministry we have minister to those who are in need. We have a very powerful ministry and each Sunday morning we have services here but we also have services in a park. That is for those who are the homeless and so we are there. Twice a month we go into the neighborhood and we have a street ministry on university Tuesday and Thursday night ministering there. How does that work? Well, we have one of the ministers, Fred Black, who has a strong military background and who worked for the sheriff’s department who just loves people. He spends those two evenings giving out food and clothing and whatever else they need. We just minister to them. We have been doing that for almost my whole 19 years. The church supports that and during Thanksgiving time we do a feeding and at Christmas time we do a feeding and New Year’s. Periodically we will just give out clothing and just give out what is needed. The way I feel is that the ministry is here to help and we definitely need it here in Riverside.
I had my theological training in Azusa and my Bachelor’s degree from Azusa Pacific at the Haggard Seminary. I spent four years there where they have an excellent program training pastors and it is specifically for pastors for ministering. They just start at the basics and one of the things I felt was just phenomenal is that most of the professors are either ex-pastors or people who were in ministry. They bring a lot of their own experiences along with the teaching of the Bible. They bring the theological aspect to the table and so we have classes on church growth, on preaching, and just the whole myriad and then the theological classes as well. Their stance is really equipping the pastor to minister with the climate that we are in.
What is my favorite Bible verse? It probably is I Corinthians 15: “Finally my Brother be steadfast and immovable always abound in the work of the Lord knowing that your labor is not in vain.” How do I interpret that? It is an encouraging scripture by the Apostle Paul encouraging us even during the tough times of difficulty. Even in the times of loneliness and whatever is coming our way to just keep on keeping on. It says you are doing a great work and you are heading in the right direction don’t give up. Right now if you check the statistics there are pastors that are quitting the ministry because of discouragement. Ministry is not easy. Taking on other people’s problems and my wife says how many families have that many issues within your marriage. You bring those in and we even had a local pastor who killed himself. It’s tough right now being a pastor and that particular passage from the Apostle Paul is encouraging the pastors that they are doing good work and to not quit. That your labor is important.
Sometimes you preach to people, you help people, you teach people, and it seems like you are wasting your time. Is it going in this ear and going out that ear? Is there anything staying in there? But you do have people where you do see that it’s not. There are some people who are listening. There are some lives that are being changed. We have a number of people who were homeless and were sleeping in their cars and who were drug addicts and/or alcoholics and were prostitutes. There are people who were gang bangers and we had people who would fit all of those categories and I am proud to say that you can see the change in their lives. You are preaching and you are doing and you are sacrificing but it is not in vain are you are not wasting your time keep on doing it. Your reward will come from the Lord so keep doing it. When it feels to me like I am against a brick wall, and the economy has definitely made its toll, and you want to do so many more things for the Lord and you want to help so many more people it just breaks your heart to turn away people. You have to cut programs and discontinue doing those things that are really helping people. But I want to do that and that is my heart and it is heartbreaking not to be able to do that and to have to say no or to come back or we can’t do it right now.
Those things because I am here to help. I see myself as a vessel or an instrument and I want to do the Lord’s work. I want to and a lot of people don’t realize that ministering takes dollars to help people. There are programs out there and you have to be creative and you have to do a lot of things to make the programs work but it still comes back to meeting the finances and needing the backing and in this economy the dollars are just not there. So when you see someone who you want to help well, I found myself just yesterday who has been here before I gave him some of my old outfits and told him to go to a tailor to get them altered and to let me know what it would cost. I mean you want to do those things and you want to help. How many people don’t have in this economy socks? Socks! Just socks! Little things like that. And you want to help. You want to meet those needs.
It isn’t always just the spiritual needs but you want to be there for the natural needs too. We have a program that we call WOE and the acronym: “Women of Excellence”. That is a group of young ladies from the ages of 19 to 35 and teaching them how to be mothers. Some of them are single parents and teaching them how to be mothers. Not just all Bible studies but teaching them how to mother, helping them with cooking skills and financial needs. We just had a gentleman come this morning and he wants to do a financial seminar and I was looking into how we can make that happen to help them on how to stretch the dollars that they have. To manage the dollars that they have.
We have a program with a nursery here called ”The Kingdom’s Kid Corner”. This is for kids up to the age of four helping to teach them how to read. The fundamental skills so that when they start kindergarten they are ready. Many times you find that the low income kids who start kindergarten are already behind. By being behind in kindergarten they have problems throughout all of school. Studies have shown that kindergarten and the first grade are very vital years for the little kids so we have a program for before they get there. Sitting still and you find that a lot of the little kids don’t have the skills to sit still. We are finding that they don’t know colors and don’t know how to count and various things like that. We’ve had to cut back where we were helping these kids while we are also teaching their mothers in how to parent and with their educational goals as well. This year I’ve started a program for the young men. We have a very generous donor who gave us a few dollars and we were able to take 20 young men which ages between 19 and 20 but also some older guys and we took them on a retreat and we talked about purpose. Many of these guys don’t know purpose. They don’t have a purpose and that is why they are in the gangs. That is why they are turning to drugs. That is why they are going to alcohol. Because they don’t have purpose. We spent a weekend and we took them to Orange County to the Double Tree in Irvine. We took them there for a weekend and just really talked about purpose and got them to open up and to talk about their lives and steer them in the direction where they can become citizens as well. We do things like that through our Men’s Ministry.
I just talked with our youth leader last night. In the past we had a full time youth leader which made things so much easier and much more effective but now this person is a volunteer. We still want to produce and after the first of the year we are starting a tudoring program that on Thursday nights the kids can come out and we have a couple of teachers and assistants here who can help them with homework so that they can be successful at school. Another program that would be interesting with some of the younger men and some of the older men we have a couple of contacts with people who have their own businesses. One of the guys has a car repair shop is going to come and help teach how to work on cars. We have another who is an electrician and owns an electrical company and with others will be mentoring guys to help them learn trades. So we have been not been doing things on grand stages but if we can just change one or two lives or get two or three off the street and get them headed in the right direction we have done our job. That is what we are trying to do.
Refreshing Spring Community Church is located at 2111 Atlanta Ave. Suite 100 in Riverside, CA 92507 phone 951-784-0860 FAX 951-784-0861 e-mail: pastor@refreshingspring .com web site www.refreshingspring.com