Showing Love to the Community
At lot has changed since a group of 50 members of the Bonanza Company met on Jan. 5, 1980, to hold their first service in the Bonanza City Library in southern Oregon. What hasn't changed is the energy these believers bring to serving their Lord and their community.
With the encouragement and guidance of Ray Erwin, pastor, and his wife, Dorothy, the Bonanza Company chose officers on Dec. 29, 1979. As the group began meeting in the library, the local café buzzed with the news, which in turn attracted visitors to Sabbath services. Jon Speyer agreed to speak, with assistance from his wife, Kinzie, in the Erwins’ absence. They and the church was supported by the officers: Elbert Davis, head elder; Elsie Davis, Dorcas leader; Jim Yoder, treasurer; Nancy Yoder, Pathfinders; Art Fry, elder; Jeanette Fry, pianist and Pathfinders; Will Thompson, musician; Vicky Thompson, kids’ classes; and many others.
In spite of near-death experiences and crowded conditions, the little company persevered over the last 40 years, finding prayer to be the key. Max Torkelson, former North Pacific Union Conference president, while making a surprise visit, commented on the group’s remarkable togetherness as they work together to achieve their goals.
The first Bonanza Vacation Bible School brought kids from many denominations to the high school gym. Church members also invited the community to a long-remembered Thanksgiving dinner. A large gathering of nondenominational women’s ministries in Bonanza invited Nancy Yoder to speak.
The church children’s classes at the library became so crowded they moved outside in the summer of 1981. A small house with land was purchased in Bonanza, and members held the first service there on Nov. 27, 1982. Excitement escalated on April 23, 1983, when the company finally became an official church.
The church began using a small reservoir for warm-weather baptisms. A large horse trough served for baptisms during the cold months. As the years of witnessing progressed, Darylene Dysert brought a family who lived in a treehouse to church. Soon her van filled up with others who enjoyed Sabbath School, cleaning up, new clothes and food.
Nancy Yoder and Jeanette Fry organized an Adventurers club, which grew into a large Pathfinder club. Kids earned many honors while serving the community. Yoder and Fry lived their motto, “servant of all,” and they believed in adventure.
Pathfinder Daisy Mae Yoder never let her severe handicap stop her desire to achieve. Following her death, her name was engraved on a Pathfinder achievement plaque at the conference office. Each year at camporee, a special Pathfinder or staff member is now honored and their name added to the plaque. After Daisy's death, her grandmother Nancy Yoder, then 75, retired from 43 years of Pathfinder leadership.
The church family needed more room, so Sid Dyer and Bob Roach were asked to work on plans for a new church and fellowship hall. Thanks to Maranatha volunteers, the church moved into the fellowship hall in 2015, allowing even more community involvement. An open house followed, which was attended by previous pastors and even Al Reimche, who was the Oregon Conference president at that time. Maranatha came to the rescue again, and the sanctuary was completed in 2017.
In spite of the recent pandemic, the Bonanza Church continues to help the community. The church has actually experienced growth in membership since COVID-19, while wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Every week Jim Osborne, pastor, gives a spiritual phone message of encouragement to members. Nonmembers and members watch church services online as well.
Jerry Bandy designed a wood box containing a large family Bible to be placed in a local store. The public may enter a drawing for the Bible. The tickets include a place to check for a visit from a pastor, Bible studies and other connections.
The Bonanza Church's sanctuary may not be full to capacity these days, but its members are still full of energy to serve the Lord and help their community. To quote one community member, “If you have a question about church involvement in the community, call the Adventist church. They care!” Bonanza Church is still alive for Jesus.
Nancy Yoder, Bonanza Church member, as told to Judy Whitlock, Bonanza Church communication leader.