“Ordination is a public recognition that you have a call from the Lord,” said Luis Carlos, associate pastor at the La Sierra Spanish church.
Though Carlos has been serving as a minister since the mid-90s and is now preparing for retirement within the next year, he was never publicly recognized with an ordination for his service until this year. On June 19, 2021, Carlos and his wife, Gloria, gathered with church members, friends, and fellow pastors for his official ordination.
“I was grateful to be able to celebrate with everyone,” he said.
Since 1985, when he was hired by the Central California Conference, Carlos has pastored in San Jose, San Diego, Vista, and Riverside, and he has taught at several schools, including Bella Vista Academy in Puerto Rico.
“People are my favorite part of what I do,” he said.
He demonstrates this every day, managing several areas at his church in addition to the typical pastoral duties, including children’s ministry, men’s ministry, and Sabbath School. He even directs both the children’s and youth choirs.
“Even in my retirement I’ll find a way to remain involved,” Carlos confirmed, “because it truly brings meaning to my life.”
Meshach Soli, pastor at San Diego South Bay church, who was ordained on July 11, also finds it rewarding to connect in various ways with people.
“We just started a paddleboard ministry,” he explained. “At the beach, when people ask about renting the boards, we love watching their faces as we tell them we’re offering free lessons through our church. It’s such a wonderful way to connect with people, and these relational experiences really enhance our church.”
Soli has been pastoring for nearly 14 years, all of them in the Southeastern California Conference (SECC). And it all started two days after he was baptized in his late 20s.
“My pastor asked me to lead in the youth room, and I agreed,” Soli recalled. “A year into it, I told my wife, ‘I could do this forever!’ And the next thing we know, I’m being laid off from my longtime job as a truck driver and God’s sending me off to La Sierra University to study religion.”
Soli’s wife, Linda, and their five sons, Marley (22), Isaac (20), Zion (10), Gideon (8), and Judah (4), all played significant roles in his ordination. The event was based on 1 Corinthians 1:27, in which Paul talks about God using the foolish and weak things of the world to shame the wise and the proud so no one can boast.
“God could have chosen anyone, and He chose me,” Soli said with awe. “My ordination wasn’t about me—it was about God. I was just blessed to be a small part of what He’s already doing.”
Much like Soli, Jeffrey Harper, associate pastor at both Mentone and Arden Hills church, didn’t set out to be a pastor.
“I always thought I’d go into medicine,” he said. “But during my junior year of academy, a taskforce chaplain from Walla Walla University had a huge impact on my life.”
After a year working in his academy chaplain’s office, Harper enrolled at college as a religion major, and the rest is history.
Today Harper is also a husband and father, both roles he takes as seriously as he does his pastoral one. He does his best to ensure there is time for his family every day, and sometimes that time overlaps with church ministry. His wife, Nickele, and their children, Judah (5), Levi (3), and Eden (1), accompany him to visit church members from time to time.
“They love seeing my kids, and it’s good for the kids to not only see their parents serving others but to be part of ministry themselves,” he said. “I love Jesus, and it’s an honor to serve him. God has a place for everyone to work in His vineyard, and we can all pool our resources to share His love with the world.”
Resources are exactly what Will Penick, ordained as associate ministerial director for the SECC on May 1, is focused on—specifically, providing resources for around 205 conference pastors.
For the past four years, Penick has served with his wife, Connie, and daughter, Ariella (2), as pastor for the Chula Vista church. He previously served at other churches in various capacities during his eight-year journey to getting his M.Div. degree.
“My call to ministry was a little dramatic,” Penick said. He was headed down a completely different path, having already achieved a degree in psychology and nearly completed his master’s in business administration.
“I was getting ready to open an office, and in that process I just felt this strong conviction that was almost anxiety,” he recalled. “With it came a thought: ‘Will, I want you to go into pastoral ministry.’”
Penick argued with God a lot over this.
“I had my own plans, and I didn’t want to be a pastor,” he said. “Once I surrendered,
though, a voice in my mind very clearly said I was making the right choice.”
Penick doesn’t want to create programs just to say he’s doing something; rather, he wants to partner with God in meeting the needs of SECC pastors.
“Sometimes pastors feel isolated and alone,” he said. “We want our pastors to know we’re here to support them, and that they have the tools they need in order to thrive.”
By Becky St. Clair