An open letter to Pastor David Alvarez
Dear Brother Alvarez, (aka Happy Pastor)
Every year around this time, my thoughts turn to you and your wonderful wife. Thus far, out of all the pastors that I have had, I was under your ministry for the longest period of time. (May of 1989 until January of 2,003 to be exact) I am so thankful for that night long ago when you called my husband (we were living in New York) and asked him if he would prayerfully consider coming to Fairfield to assist you with the church. We had been seeking God about where to go, because the church we were attending was no longer adhering to or preaching sound Biblical doctrine. God seemed to be giving us the green light, so we loaded up what few possessions we had and made the trek from New York to California.
You were different from any other pastor I had been under, due to the fact that you were (and still are) such a joker and prankster. These are some of your light hearted ways that come to mind. When I was on the way to the hospital to give birth to Jennifer, my husband called you on the phone to let you know that “this was it.” You showed up with a pair of plastic gloves, all ready to help deliver the baby. Then, you had some hand held video game that you were trying to explain to me when I was in the middle of a contraction. I think it was your kind wife that fortunately, led you out of the room. Later, I found out that you and Sister Alvarez had stayed in the waiting room all night. Of course, I think that was due to my husband coming out to the waiting room every so often and telling you that “We’re almost there. It won’t be much longer now.” (I wonder if he did that on purpose.) For our second child, Paul, we were a little wiser and did not call you until after he was born. J
Some of your long standing punch lines were to ask me where my broom was if ever I happened to wear my hair down to a service or to greet me (and many others) with, “Hi ornery. You staying out of trouble?” I recall several snow fights inside the condos we used to rent up at Lake Tahoe and a few super soaker fights with the saints while we were running Mega lot sales in the church parking lot. Over the years, you took to calling my husband “Carnal” instead of Connell, but we learned to live with it. My dad used to have a saying that he repeated a lot when we were kids. “Those who are teased the most are loved the most.” You certainly know how to spread the love!
Leaving aside your jovial nature for now, I can say that through your ministry, I really learned a lot about what it means to live as a Christian. Without a doubt, I know that the greatest thing I learned from you is that Christianity is about having a relationship with Jesus Christ. You stressed that over and over again, and I’m so glad you did. You also taught me that living for God should be a joy, and that God truly wants for His children to have joy. I’m thankful for your stubborn refusal to have “dead church.” You taught me the value of praising God in spite of my circumstances. Many times, I remember you saying over the pulpit that “we can praise our way through anything.” I appreciate the great example you gave us in worship. You are and always have been a participator in worship and not a spectator.
For most of my life, I have struggled with shyness and insecurity, which can be debilitating and a great hindrance. God used you to help me overcome some things in this area. I wasn’t thrilled when you asked me if I would be the ladies’ auxiliary leader or the church secretary. I was scared to death, because I felt so incompetent, but somehow, I couldn’t say no to you. Through this, I learned to pray and lean on God more and discover that He could give me strength in my weakness. Thank you for the confidence that you expressed in me. It means more than you’ll ever know.
Finally, I want to say that leaving your church to go start a home missions work was one of those bitter-sweet experiences of life. We were excited at the prospect of being used by God to start a new work, but yet at the same time, it was hard to say good-bye to you and everyone at Promise Land. I know God used you to bring me and my house to where we are at today, and I am truly grateful for all that you have invested in our lives. May you continue to find all the joys (and hopefully, not too many heartaches) that come with being the “happy pastor.”
Love in Christ,