By Pastor Nick Stumbo, Lead Pastor
By now, you probably know that East Hills and The Grove are headed into a time of transition. After 14 and ½ wonderful years here, Michelle and I have accepted a role with Pure Desire Ministries in Gresham, Oregon. As their new executive director, I will be tasked with helping this ministry grow and reach more churches and people with a message of freedom and hope.
While this new opportunity is exciting, I find it hard to imagine leaving such a great church family. Over the years, we have shared some good times and some great memories. As I think back on these, I wanted to share a few with you:
VBS/Soccer Camp/All-Star Camp: Our summer outreach has gone through many iterations in the time I have been here. In 2000 when I first came as an intern, we did “Veggie Tales”. The entire church building would be transformed into different scenes from the Veggie Tales movies. Pastor Steve Fowler was Bob the Tomato and I was Larry Cucumber. I still have kids (now adults!) around town who know me better as Larry then as
Pastor Nick. I remember cabbage bowling, water balloon fights, and being completely covered in shaving cream when our team lost.
Awhile later, the idea of a soccer camp outreach developed. Watching Pastor Caleb run around like crazy with 100+ kids from the community was a real joy. This idea led to the merger of VBS and Soccer Camp into All-Star Camp at a local grade school. I loved watching Pastor Ann’s creativity shine, the Jerry and Bobbi Wilson drama team draw kids in, and the tireless work put in by so many volunteers to show the love of Jesus. Over the years, I got to be Montana Jones and Inspector McDouglenuggets as the MC. I have happily handed that role over to others like Robbin Treadway and Pastor Josh.
EHA Remodel: When I first arrived, the church was green. Literally. The ceiling in the Main Hall was an odd sea-green, the pews matched, and the carpet was a horrible blue-green. (My apologies if any of you were part of picking that out in the 60’s!) In 2007, after much planning, we tore into the Main Hall and replaced every single surface in the room other than the wood beams. I loved watching Leon Rennells guide the process, Kirk Sherrell skidding across the floor in his knee-pads as he tore up flooring, and Bob Simmons give expert advice on safety. We finished the whole project in 7 weeks and paid it off in less than 2 years. And someday, 40 years from now, a new pastor might wonder about all these shades of maroon!
Christmas Talent Shows: Every year, the kids who perform get better with age! It’s been a joy to watch my own kids grow through the years as their contributions develop from the ‘Ah shucks that was cute’ category towards the ‘wow, they can really sing!’ one. Leah Suh, Kenzie Milligan, Staff shenanigans, and now the Jorgensen’s duet have become part of our family’s Christmas tradition. You just might see us back for the next one, folks!
Bosnia Partnership: In 2009, I couldn’t have found Bosnia/Herzegovina on the map. Now I can’t get it out of my heart. The small church there fights bravely against a spiritual darkness that is far greater than anything most of us have ever encountered. I have enjoyed each trip I have been on (four) and getting to send teams I haven’t been on (two). I love that in our church, we have almost 30 people now who have been part of these teams. The international workers in Sarajevo are more like friends to us, and the pastors are people I can pray for by name. Church- may we stay in the fight with these dear friends until the light of revival starts to break over this Balkan land!
Combined Services: I love that we have had a vision of reaching our community for over 2 decades now. God has made us to be truly an ‘outward looking’ church. A big representation of this has been our combined services- and in particular Easter- at local schools. We’ve held Easter Celebrations at Coweeman Middle School, Kelso High, Mark Morris High, and most recently Monticello Middle School. Each one has been a glorious display of teamwork as worship, welcome, Kidville, and social fellowship volunteers make these gatherings happen. Each one has its own unique feel, and God always shows up. I dream of a day when East Hills and The Grove will outgrow any school in town and continue looking for larger and larger venues. God will do great things through you, church!
The People: The best memory I have will be of the people of East Hills and The Grove. When I hear other pastors speak of the troubles they have faced- gossip, power struggles, division, deception and hostility- I have to smile. Certainly not for their trouble (I pray for them) but I smile because of all of you. The grace and acceptance you have always put on display to my family and I is remarkable. In 2011, when I shared about the journey I had been on with pornography, you all gave me nothing but support. You didn’t reject me or run away; you leaned in and said, ‘we struggle too.’ You jumped into groups and faced real issues in your life. I can’t say how proud I am for each and every one of you who has journeyed through a Change Group- 7 Pillars of Freedom, Betrayal and Beyond, The Genesis Process- God has used these to shape who we are as a church.
And the future just keeps looking brighter and brighter. God has birthed a campus-vision for reaching more communities. He has brought together a solid and reliable staff. He is stirring up a passion for healing and for prayer. He’s taking us into the community in new ways every month. I am glad that I still have the summer to be part of all this. Our last Sunday won’t be until August 14th. Until then, we will continue to pray, serve, and love one another, together.
May these memories of the past be the foundation of thousands more in the future as God does his good work among all of us.
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6
You are loved-