California church sees spiritual renewal through new members baptism
The Holtville, California, Church of the Nazarene had been experiencing declining attendance at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The salvation and baptism of a new member drastically changed the outlook of the church, helping to bring new life.
Onan and Loyda Ruiz pastor Holtville Church of the Nazarene. The small church averaged 20-25 people per Sunday service, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has been nearly cut in half.
“We were praying for growth, and at that moment we had a lot of prayer requests because of COVID,” Loyda said.
During this time of difficulty, Hernan Camarena, who prepares taxes for the Holtville church came to Onan with questions about God and the pandemic. Onan responded that God was a loving and merciful Father, and that God was waiting to help him with his questions and give him peace. After his conversation with Onan, Camarena visited a few other churches in town but felt like God was telling him to “go to Onan’s church.”
“I had been looking for a church for many years, a church I felt identified with my beliefs that God is unconditional love,” Camarena said. “Where the pastors will preach with the example of giving love no matter who you are. I was asking the Lord for a long time for a place like this.”
Camarena continued to hear God tell him to go to Onan’s church. So, on 19 September 2021, he attended the Sunday worship service at the Holtville church. After the service, he approached Onan with a simple request: to play bass for the worship band.
The worship band at the time was just Onan, Loyda, and their 16-year-old daughter. He practiced with them before the next service and started playing in the worship band on the very next Sunday.
“That day, the church was nearly empty with 10 of us singing with all our hearts,” Loyda said. “We all felt brokenness in our hearts. We immediately felt something that filled the room with joy and warmth, and the presence of the Holy Spirit moved tremendously.”
During time for testimonies, Camarena stood up and told those in the service about how God had been speaking to him about going to “Onan’s church.”
“I am so happy,” Camarena said. “Because God sent me to the right place where I feel loved.”
The following week, Camarena was baptized.
While Camarena had been searching for a church home, Onan had been praying for a leader in the congregation like Camarena. Since joining Holtville, Camarena has been helping Onan paint the church in addition to volunteering with the worship band. Ultimately, Hernan just wants to serve God in any way he can.
“Ever since I started attending the Church of the Nazarene, I feel like I’m doing what God wants me to do,” Camarena said. “It feels like He wants me to be there for something good. I have no idea what it is, but I have studied the scriptures and spiritual leaders for a long time, and I believe that He has a plan for me to serve Him in a great way.”