God’s Faithfulness In Santa Ana - After One Year

Testimony Given By Kyle Houlton at 2018 SGC Pastors Conference

Planting a church in Downtown Santa Ana, California is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

In 2016, after attending the Pastor’s College and then pastoring at Sovereign Grace Church in Tucson, Arizona for two years, my wife, our three boys and I moved to Orange County, California. We moved because we believed God was calling us to plant a church in Santa Ana.

We moved to one of the most expensive areas in the United States with no guarantees. The only job offer I had was from Starbucks. Starting as a barista.

To boot, Santa Ana probably isn’t the kind of city you think of when you think of Southern California:

  • It’s urban.

  • If you look at the 9 Marks or Gospel Coalition church finder, you’d see not one dot on the landscape of Santa Ana.

  • The city has 10% of Orange County’s population, yet 40% of its homeless live in Santa Ana.

  • Gang violence hangs steady at around 1 shooting per day.

  • 87% of the population is hispanic. The 2nd most hispanic large city in the US - A majority of whom are undocumented immigrants.

  • Buying a home in the area requires a minimum 6 figure annual household income, yet most of our neighbors are packing 4-5 families in a home just to pay the rent.

The city seemed impossible. We had almost no money. And I barely had a job.

Yet, as we prepared to move there, Eric Turbedsky kept telling me, “don’t worry about the money. God will take care of that. Money isn’t the biggest need. It’s the Gospel in this city.”

And as frustrated as that made me to hear that, God has taken care of it. And He’s taken care of more than we could have expected.

You see, we didn’t realize just how fiercely dedicated Sovereign Grace Orange, our sending church, would be to seeing this thing through – even to the point of saying goodbye and sending some of their best to be a part of the core team.

We didn’t anticipate the equipping we would receive through my church planting coach, Chris Daukas, or through the year-long church planter cohort, alongside 3 other planters – Bill Berry, Joel Carlson and Stephen Bowne, sitting under the instruction of Ian Mcconnell and numerous others committed to being a part of seeing churches like Sovereign Grace Santa Ana being planted.

We didn’t anticipate the effect of the encouragement and continual prayer from churches in the west region and beyond. Your prayer. Your Gospel partnership. Pastors and wives. The members of your churches.

We didn’t anticipate how God would provide the funds. But He did. Sovereign Grace Orange stuck their necks out there and supported the work entirely in our first year of services. But gifts also came in from other SG churches across the country. Unexpected. Unsolicited. And the Lord has provided me with a great job at a Christian foster/adoption agency.

This has been so hard that I’ve had many doubts whether or not this would all really amount to anything.

But three months ago, we had our first baptisms.

People from the neighborhood have been attending. Even if they don’t speak English. I wish you could meet Esperanza. She’s been coming for 6 months. Every Sunday. Immigrated 10 years ago. Doesn’t speak a word of English. But she comes, follows along through the Spanish sermon outline we provide, reads a Spanish Bible we provide, does the best she can to learn a little English. But she comes for her kids. For her family. Hoping that they would one day join her. And 6 months down the road, they have. Her husband. Her two kids, attend Sovereign Grace Santa Ana.

And we’ve met and worshipped with dozens like them, since we launched services in November, 2017.  

Three Sundays ago, we had 18 new guests with us.

It’s been hard. It’s looked improbable if not impossible. We’ve operated on a shoestring budget. Our meeting place is unimpressive.

But God is building a church in Downtown Santa Ana, through His Gospel, which is impressive.

Through Gospel proclamation.

Through Gospel partnership.

On behalf of everybody at Sovereign Grace Santa Ana, thank you for your Gospel partnership. Would you pray for us? For continued faithfulness? For the raising up of new leaders? To be positioned as soon as possible to ourselves be Gospel partners for the next improbable church plant?

Thank you.