The Testimony of Pastor David Rosales
Pastor David Rosales was born in Whittier, California in 1950 and grew up in Norwalk, California during the tumultuous 60s. At age four David thought his mother was dying and prayed as she laid on the floor of their home. His mother had been giving his baby sister, Madelyn, a bath when he heard a crash. The door was closed and it began to shake. He and his 6-year-old brother, Frank, slid the pocket-door open and his mother’s body fell at their feet. He couldn’t understand what was happening at the time, but she was having an epileptic seizure. Her head was at his feet as he began to cry and pray, “God please don’t let my mommy die.” His brother ran down the street to get a neighbor who took care of their mom. She suffered seizures from then on for many years. David was raised in a home with a very sick mom and began to fear at an early age that he would lose her.
She lived, and David tried to please God and be a good son while always living in fear of coming home to find his mother dead. Raised a Roman Catholic, he received his first communion at age eight and was confirmed at age twelve. In spite of his religious training, by age 15 David began to feel that life was not fair and experimented with alcohol, then marijuana, and finally began using hallucinogens over the next five years. In his late teen years he was invited several times to attend church with friends, but because he was raised a Roman Catholic he believed them to be in error.
By age 19, he admits, “I messed up a relationship with a girl and this time, it tore my heart. I felt so bad about how things had gone and it was then that I realized that my life was going nowhere. It seemed that every person I truly cared about eventually was hurt by something I did, and I just got tired of being such an unkind person. I was invited to go to a small church in Costa Mesa, but being raised a Catholic, I did not want to go. I reasoned that if I was going to attend church services it would be in a church like the one I was raised in. I was invited to attend several times and always refused.” Finally during the summer of 1970, at age 19 he accepted an invitation to attend the church, but tried to be as offensive as possible. He went, but was barefooted, wore a t-shirt, drank some beer, and smoked marijuana before climbing into his friend’s van and heading to church. He thought the people at the church would be hypocrites and would reject him and that he could use this against his friends so that they would never bother him again. He was shocked when he walked inside the small church building filled with about 300 young people that looked like him. The speaker was Lonnie Frisbee and this was his first encounter with Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa.
“That was the summer of 1970 and the church, led by Pastor Chuck Smith, was averaging more than 2,000 people each weekend. Lonnie Frisbee came out to speak and I was amazed at how I related to him and was strongly touched. When the invitation to receive Christ was given, I never considered making such a decision. I thought I was already a Christian even though I was drinking, doing drugs, lying, and stealing. I was so lost but I thought I was already a Christian so, though I did not go forward to make a decision, I did think about it.”
By this time, David saw friends dying. One friend was drinking and taking drugs, and drove his motorcycle into the back of a parked truck, dying instantly. Another friend died of a drug overdose, and another was stabbed to death. What hit David hardest was the death of a friend he had had since age 5. His dear friend, Ray, was shot to death in a backyard across the street from where David lived. It was at this time that David began thinking that he too might end up dead if he didn’t change the way that he was living.
In early 1970 at the age of 19, David nearly overdosed on a combination of wine and barbiturates. He drank nearly a half-gallon of wine and took five reds (Seconal) and almost died. He had a station wagon that he had placed a mattress in that he would use as a crash pad, sleeping in it when he was too drunk or drugged to drive. As he lay on his back, he began to want to vomit but he was paralyzed and could not turn his head. He knew that if he did begin to vomit, he would suffocate and die. For the first time in many years he began to cry out to God. David remembers saying, “God, please don’t let me die. I’m only 19, please don’t let me die.” David thought how terrible it would be for his mother and father to discover his body, and asked God for help. In His mercy, God spared his life. Sadly, David did not think much of what happened and it did not cause him to turn to the Lord. It was a short time later that David went to Calvary Chapel, and though he was impressed by what was happening in the church, his way of living only worsened. “My life continued to sink further after I left the meeting at the church. That September I planned to go up north to the Monterey Pop Festival held annually in Monterey, California. I dropped some magic mushroom and hallucinated myself into 3 days of rock and roll. By that time I began thinking that I needed help and began praying. I remember vividly that I would pray and tell God that there was something wrong with me, and I needed help because I just couldn’t take it anymore.”
“About three months later, a friend invited me to attend what was called a Maranatha concert at the Hollywood Palladium on December 27, 1970. I didn’t want to go, so I drove to his house to tell him that I would go with him another time. When I told him that I didn’t want to go he said, ‘No, you’re supposed to go,’ and began to argue with me in a nice way. I insisted no because I had a friend with a kilo of marijuana and we were going to smoke some pot that day. So I climbed into my car, started it, and waited to exit his driveway. His Volkswagen van was parked behind my car and was filled with Jesus Freaks. As I looked through my rear-view mirror, I saw their heads disappear and then come back up. His door opened, he came to my door and I rolled my window down as he said, ‘We just prayed and God said you are supposed to go with us. So turn your car off and come.’ I thought if God said I had to go, then I should go. So I turned my car off and climbed into the van and drove off to the Palladium.”
“There were about 4,000 young people there seated on the carpet at this place that previously hosted Maranatha concerts on a regular basis. This was an all-day concert mixed with evangelistic messages, so I heard the Gospel presented throughout the day. The final speaker was a street preacher named Arthur Blessitt. He stood to give an evangelistic message and gave an invitation. Earlier that day I had come to the realization that I didn’t know Jesus, and the Lord spoke to my heart in a very personal way.”
“I still remember sitting on the carpet, looking around and feeling very uncomfortable as a voice began to speak to my heart. The voice said, ‘You are uncomfortable aren’t you?’ and inside I was responding, ‘Yes I am.’ Again the voice asked, ‘Why are you uncomfortable?’ and I replied, ‘Because I’m not like these people.’ Then I heard the question, ‘What makes you different?’ I answered, ‘I am not a Christian.’ That was the first time I realized that I was not a Christian because, up to that point, I thought I was.”
“That day I realized that I had not hungered for the Lord, His Word, or His people. I was extremely convicted as God’s voice spoke to me. I knew that I was not a believer and at one point everyone stood up to sing. The words were: Love, love, love, love, Christian this is your call; love your neighbor as yourself for God loves all.”
“All the young people were putting their arms around the people next to them. As far as I could see, in my area I was the only person with my hands in my pockets while everyone else had their arms around one another. I felt alone even though I was among all these people.
A friend named George opened up a space between him and a girl named Laurie and invited me to join them. We put our arms around one another and I realized that this was what I needed and was where I should be. Arthur Blessitt gave an invitation and I remember him saying, ‘If you want to give your heart to Jesus right now stand to your feet.’ I closed my eyes and said, ‘God I can’t. I’m shy and unable to stand in front of anybody. If somebody were to stand with me,’ I prayed, ‘I would stand.’ At that moment Arthur said, ‘Perhaps you are afraid, but if someone were to stand with you, would you stand?’ My friend George was seated next to me. He had become a Christian, and the change that took place in his life had really impressed me. Before he got saved we had taken LSD together, and many times had smoked marijuana and drank. I had seen God change him from a selfish young man into a caring Christian, and it impressed me greatly. Such is the power of a changed life. When Arthur gave the invitation, George tapped my shoulder and said, ‘If you want to stand, I’ll stand with you.’ So I stood up and gave my heart to the Lord. There were 12 people who gave their hearts to the Lord that day, and I was one of them.”
David surrendered his life to Jesus Christ during that Maranatha concert at the Hollywood Palladium at age 20. “From there I went home and crossed the street to my friend’s house, who was going to provide me with the marijuana that night. This was the same home that my friend, Ray, had been at the night he was shot to death. My friend wasn’t there, so I talked to his mom and family and shared with them that I gave my heart to Christ and was born-again, and then crossed the street and went home.”
“I walked into the den, and my family was together watching television. I had been a distant son to my parents for five years. I never told them that I loved them, I showed no care for them, and I had been arrested three times for alcohol-related events. My father had sent me to a psychiatrist to see if he could help me solve my problems and sort them out. I had been a totally rebellious and angry kid, showing no love and having no conscience. As I walked into the den I said, ‘Mom, Dad, Madelyn, Rebecca, I love you! Praise the Lord!’ I left the room to go wash my hair and prepare to go to bed when my sisters came into the bathroom and asked, ‘What happened to you?’ I gave my testimony about what God had done in my life that day. My mom was concerned for me and went into her room to say a rosary and was afraid I had lost my mind. So I just shared what Jesus did – He forgave me of my sins.”
“That night my sister, Madelyn, went to bed and received Christ. Three weeks later I was reading my Bible (as I had been encouraged to do) and read in Revelation 9 something about men with iron teeth, women’s hair and scorpion stings, people wanting to die for 5 months but could not. I didn’t understand a word, but was afraid by what I read. I went into the kitchen where my mom and dad were as I held my Bible in my hand and said, ‘Mom and Dad, I need you to hear me.’”
I held up the Bible and said, ‘Mom, Dad, this is the Word of God and this is what it says,’ and I read Revelation 9 to them. I looked at my dad, who was a very good man and said, ‘I don’t understand all that it is saying but I know that it is not speaking to me, but it is speaking to you. Daddy, you are a good man, you are the best man that I will ever know, but you will be the best man in hell if you don’t give your heart to Jesus.’ I said, ‘Daddy, I love you and I don’t want to go to heaven without you. Bow your head, you’re going to receive the Lord right now.’ Both my mom and dad bowed their heads in that little kitchen and gave their hearts to Jesus.”
“My life changed. I had been dodging my induction date into the military by writing letters to the draft board, postponing my entrance into the service. After I was saved, I volunteered for the draft and served in the Army. Because I had caused my dad to be so ashamed of me, I decided to volunteer for Airborne training, and completed the course and was assigned to a unit in the 82nd Airborne Division, where I served for 18 months. Upon leaving the service, I backslid for a short period but then rededicated my life to Christ.”
David enrolled at Biola College, a Christian college in La Mirada, California and began leading a home Bible study in September of 1973. His first members were his dad, mom, sisters, and some neighbors. A year later his brother, Frank, got saved, and David and his sister Madelyn would drive from Norwalk to Ontario to teach him Bible studies. It was at this time that his brother began inviting friends to attend the study, and one of those attending was a young woman named Marie. Marie did not know the Lord, having come to the study out of curiosity but within three weeks, she had given her life to Jesus. Shortly thereafter David asked her to go out on a date and from that day on she has not left his side. She would sit at his feet when he taught his studies, and Marie has literally sat at the feet of her husband and pastor since 1974.
After getting married, David and Marie began attending Calvary Chapel in Downey and later, in Claremont, California. While serving in Claremont, in 1979 he was ordained and began serving as an assistant Pastor. In 1981 he launched a new church with 30 adults and 20 children in the home of his sister-in-law, Pattie Lopez. They soon outgrew the house and relocated to a Church of God, Seventh Day building. “They eventually evicted us because we had a Halloween alternative called a Hallelujah Party and also because we celebrated the birth of Christ, which made them think that we were a cult. The church’s first Hallelujah Party for Halloween had less than 20 children (two decades later 7 to 8,000 children would be attending the annual event). The church leaders told us in December of 1981, to plan to move by the end of January.” David had written a letter to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in September requesting fellowship with other Calvary Chapels but had been declined by phone since there were two Calvary Chapel churches in the general area. He was encouraged to reapply later.
Central School in Ontario looked good as a possible new meeting site but the $1000 monthly rent they wanted was more than the little church could afford. On a Wednesday night, alone in his bedroom before leaving for the mid-week Bible study, David lay his face down on the carpet weeping to God saying, “Some churches lose 60 people in a weekend and not notice that they are gone, but God these 60 people are the most important people in my life. I need you to do something about getting us a new place.”
“After returning home from Bible study that night and about to go to sleep the Holy Spirit spoke distinctly to my heart that we would need a place that seated 200 people for Easter Sunday, April 11.” The next day, while preparing a Bible study from John 12:24 (unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and unless it die it abides alone), he closed his eyes and told God, “I am dead.”
About that time the mailman brought mail to his house and the Lord spoke clearly to him, “Your letter is here.” Getting the mail, he sat with it unopened at the dining room table praying, “You know my desire to be a part of Calvary Chapel. But if it is not your will I accept that.” David turned the letters over and the very first one was from Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. He opened it and inside was a letter from Pastor Chuck Smith. His heart rejoiced as he read the words, “Welcome to Calvary Chapel.” That weekend, in January 1982, they became Calvary Chapel of Ontario. The church they had been renting also gave them an extension until March 28, 1982.
That winter in 1982, between January and March, the small congregation grew from 60 to 120 adults. They relocated, as agreed, and the finances for the needed rent money at Central School were provided. They remained there for about a year. The congregation cheered when their pastor, on that wet and stormy Easter Sunday of 1982, announced that 200 had attended that day and all 200 chairs God had promised were filled.
Within one year, by 1983, the church relocated again as attendance reached 200-300 adults and 100 children. They remained at the Ontario Christian School for almost four years (1983-1987). Their 300 capacity worship space soon required a second service. Then attendance jumped to 700 and the church purchased new property in 1987. Maximum seating capacity was reached during that same year and the church added a second site and met in the 1,200 capacity auditorium at Ontario High School in 1988. Between 1989 and 1991 attendance jumped to 2,800 with 2,000 adults and 800 children.
In 1990 Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, was planning the Harvest Crusade suggested to him by Pastor Chuck Smith, Sr. After David Rosales left a planning meeting, he received a telephone call from Pastor Chuck about a contact he had with a realtor. He encouraged David to check out a 10.6-acre church property, located 10 minutes from Ontario, in the city of Chino. David had seen the property a year earlier, but was unable to get information about it so he decided that the Lord closed the door on the idea. Even before he and Marie married, they would drive by the property and talk about how great it would be to have a church there. It had been on his heart all those years.
Calvary Chapel of Ontario bought the property in October 1992 and began ministering as Calvary Chapel of the Chino Valley. The original 10.6-acre purchase included a barn, a stable, 800-seat sanctuary, kitchen, and banquet room (they have since purchased an additional 3 acres). Houses had been converted for the banquet facility and children’s ministry. They began holding three services and increased their attendance by 500 people their first weekend. Seating capacity was quickly increased to 1,050 for each of the three services.
People continued to come as a new 1,800-seat worship center was built in 2003 and attendance reached a new high of 3,000 people. Another 300 seats were added almost immediately bringing the seating capacity to 2,100.
“Evangelism and sermons are intentionally simple and direct.” Rosales clearly remembers, “While a student at Biola, I came home one day and shared some nice big words during a Bible study. My dad smiled at me like a proud father but the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘You are using your college words. Who are you trying to impress?’ I still remember His word to me that day.” Pastor Chuck Smith frequently reminds Calvary Chapel pastors, “I’d rather speak a few words in a language and be understood, than to speak 10,000 in a language people don’t understand. Always keep the message where everyone from children to adults can reach it. Keep it simple.”
“If you were to walk into our fellowship,” said Pastor David, “There are four pillars painted on the wall in our foyer: Word, Worship, Withness (fellowship), and Witness. These are the first words you encounter when you enter our building. Jesus is the chief cornerstone. This is what we are all about.” The passion of the church and pastor is graphically printed above the pastor’s head in every service, John 12:21: “We would see Jesus.”