I grew up in a Christian home in Phoenix’s Northwest Valley. My family’s church roots were found in the Assembly of God, where my grandfather was a pastor. Since our wedding day in 1977, Nancy and I have always loved the church, participating in various ministries with local Phoenix church families.
During my twelve years as a Firefighter Paramedic with the Phoenix Fire Department, I regularly encountered people who were lost, broken, desperate, addicted, and suicidal. The defining moment started when I was 28 years old, working as a booter (a probationary firefighter) on Engine 5. We had just sat down for dinner when we got a call for an attempted suicide.
We arrived at a horrific scene involving a 21-year-old male who killed himself with a double barrel shotgun because of his extreme despair over losing his girlfriend. This particular call, along with many others like it, gripped me with the reality of the thief who comes to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10a).
As I thought out the implications of what I was experiencing as a Firefighter Paramedic, the Holy Spirit led me to seriously consider what would change the trajectory of individual lives, marriages, homes, and communities. As I scrolled through the options, I made the following conclusion:
- Politics can pass new legislation that can be helpful
- Economy can provide greatly needed jobs
- Education can teach useful knowledge of the world
- Self-help programs can offer effective methods of behavioral modification
- Psychological techniques can aid self-understanding
While all of these are good, not one has the power to transform the human heart, heal a wounded soul, turn hatred into love and bring about meaning, hope, and happiness like the Gospel. Jesus said that He came that we might have life to the fullest (John 10:10b).
We started Desert Breeze Community Church in September of 1990 in our home with 16 friends and family members built with this underlying conviction: Whatever the capacity for human sin and suffering, the church has a greater capacity through the Gospel for healing and wholeness (Romans 1:16).
After immediately pursuing and gaining our 501(c)(3) status, our first official DBCC church service was held on Easter Sunday in 1991, at the Boys and Girls Club in Glendale, AZ. There, DBCC grew to approximately 150 people through our potlucks and community outreach efforts.
By 1995, the facility no longer met the needs of the church family, so we relocated to a leased facility at the Rose Garden Business Center located at 19th Avenue and Rose Garden Lane. Here, DBCC grew from 150 to approximately 400. We were becoming a place where strangers became friends and friends becamefamily.
DBCC was experiencing aggressive growth, and just before our next move, I made the decision to leave the Phoenix Fire Department and be placed on the church payroll. I had not accepted any compensation from the church until this point. Once again challenged for space, we remodeled an old nightclub called Sinsations at 1707 West Bell Road in North Phoenix. Many who danced and got drunk in the nightclub now came to DBCC and became fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
By the end of 2004, DBCC had outgrown the nightclub facility. We decided to decentralize our administrative offices and meet for Sunday services at Sandra Day O’Connor High School. It was a time of great camaraderie and teamwork as our church family worked hard in setting up and breaking down our portable church to serve our growing congregation.
In 2013, with the money we had saved and raised, God graciously led us to purchase and fully renovate our beautiful permanent location at 17600 N. Black Canyon Highway, with the future never looking brighter (Jeremiah 29:11).
As Nancy and I look back on this amazing journey, we see how God has blessed us more than we could ever deserve and greater than we could ever dream. We are increasingly convinced that nothing conquers sin, wipes out shame, heals wounds, reconciles enemies, restores broken dreams, and ultimately changes the world one life at a time like the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This life-transforming message has been given to the church, which means that the future of people’s lives rests in the hands of local congregations like DBCC (Matthew 28:18-20).