A Brief History of Guam First Church of the Nazarene
Updated December 2019
Guam, USA, “Where America’s day begins,” is located 5,000 miles west of San Francisco, 1,350 miles from Tokyo, 3,796 miles from Hawaii, 1,600 miles from Manila. It is home to 168,000 people with over 125,000 visitors per month arriving through the airport. Guam is a beautiful tropical island paradise. The island has been home to Chamorro and many different people in the past century and controlled by different nations for over 500 years. Through it all, the people remain resilient but also in need of knowledge and experience of the good news of Jesus Christ.
The Church of the Nazarene has had a long history of involvement on the island of Guam. In the mid 1950s, Harold Dalrymple made a great impression on the Christian people of Guam with a very strong Sunday School group of Nazarene and others. While Mr. Dalrymple was serving in the military, he felt God call him into the ministry. He would later return to Guam as the first pastor. Although the early Nazarenes in Guam were involved in other churches, they felt a burden to get the message of holiness out.
The history of the Guam Church of the Nazarene is unique in that it didn’t start with a missionary or a pastor. It started in April 1966 with the assignment of Air Force personnel Staff Sargent Bob Hornbeck to Guam. Coming from a Nazarene background but encountering no Nazarene church on island, he and his family attended the Church of God in Barrigada for several months. During this time his wife Rachel came across an article on “Showers of Blessing” radio program produced by the Nazarene Radio League in Kansas City. This program had helped start the Nazarene work in Jamaica. With assistance from family and friends in the USA, they purchased tapes of the radio program and “Showers of Blessing” aired on Guam radio station KUAM for nine months, beginning on February 5, 1967. They broadcasted 27 15-minute programs for a cost of $810, most of which they gave themselves. This was a financial commitment that was challenging to them but eventually would open up doors for ministry.
During this time Air Force Chaplain Harvey Holland, stationed at Andersen Air Force Base, heard the Showers of Blessing broadcast and suggested to Bob Hornbeck that Nazarene services be held in the base chapel up at Marbo.
Another Nazarene, Mr. Paul Anderson brought his whole crew with him, most of whom were part of a Nazarene Sunday School class at their home base in the States. This group became a seed to start the work under Bob Hornbeck. The group had challenges of frequent turnover of personnel.
In March 1967, Sargent Hornbeck was authorized by Nazarene headquarters as a lay preacher to begin worship services under the Nazarene Servicemen’s Commission. The first worship service was held on April 21, 1967 in the Air Force Base chapel. Primary and young adult Sunday School classes began on June 18, 1967. They also held cottage prayer meetings in the Hornbeck’s home. They also held Christian Service Training Courses on Friday nights. By the end of October 1967, they had an enrollment of 31 and growing each week with four classes. The group called themselves the Nazarene Fellowship. The work was supported by servicemen and their families. They had saved $2,100 to purchase property. The group was asking the General Church to send an ordained minister to help solidify the work and get it going. Guam was beginning to be developed and the group felt an urgency to purchase property before the prices went up.
In 1967, Hornbeck was called back to the States for an emergency and the work continued under Lyle Whitmeyer, a lay preacher, and with the lay leadership of Floyd McNulty.
In 1967, the General Board approved for General Superintendent Dr. George Coulter to go to Guam to check out the work. He made his visit in March 1968. He directed the group to organize a church board and look for a place to rent. He also established the requirement with the Guam fellowship to submit monthly reports. In the General Assembly of 1968, Dr. Coulter told of his visit to the island and how several military families had started a work there. Sunday school was an important part of the early work.
On April 14, 1968, the fellowship began to meet in a back room of Ben Ada’s Insurance Co in Yigo, but that lasted only two months because the company needed more storage space. The group began to meet in the home of Technical Sargent Donald McCrory. When he was transferred, the group moved to the home of Technical Sargent Robert Rogers. When he was transferred, the group met in the home of Mr. Paul Cameron who served as lay pastor for 13 months. As time went on, it became clearer that the group needed to find a permanent location.
During these early years, although the church was not formally organized, it carefully and faithfully organized all of its activities, including Sunday School, young meetings, worship services, and prayer meetings.
By December 1967 the spot where the church is now located in Dededo had been picked out. The group had the vision of purchasing the present property for $2,500 and moving a surplus Navy building onto it. They believed they could establish a church in Guam for $6,000. The Navy Seabees voluntarily bulldozed the land for free in May 1969. That first congregation (made up of military families) purchased the property July 1969 solely with their own personal money. The land was owned by Mr. Noe Saison, a Christian who worked for Pan American Airlines.
The property was valued at the time at over $10,000. The Southwest Oklahoma took up a district-wide offering to help with the construction of the first church building.
In 1969 the church called Pastor Harold Dalrymple, retired from the Air Force. The Home Missions Department and the Guam fellowship were not able to support Pastor Dalrymple or his move, but he came anyway with his family in September 26, paying his own expenses by teaching in a public school full time and pastoring the church.
In November 1969, Dr. Orville Jenkins visited the church. While he was here, the final payment was made on the property, and a groundbreaking service is held for the first church building. Money was given for the building from Nazarene headquarters which included Alabaster offering. During those years, the Hornbecks gave generously to see the work move forward. The work in Guam came under the umbrella of the Hawaii district and Rev. W. Lee Gann, district superintendent.
By 1970, plans were developed for a block building to house the church. Over the next year, a revival was held with 101 attendance and 10 local youths accepting Christ, and a Vacation Bible School with 85 participants.
In January 1971, the building permit was granted to start work on the church sanctuary. The work on the building began in February of 1971 with the help of district funds and Alabaster and mission specials. The members only had to pay $5,434 for the project. Most of the labor was volunteer from the church people.
On December 17, 1971 the first worship service was held in our church including and the official organization of the church as the Marianas Church of the Nazarene with 39 members by profession of faith. Rev. Dalrymple served as the founding pastor.
District Superintendent Rev. W. Lee Gann was the revival speaker. Starting as a church of primarily military personnel, the vision of those military families was to include the local community believing that was the way for the church to grow. Over the years many people from nations in Asia, Micronesia and the United States have made Guam their home and Church of the Nazarene their home church.
The 1970’s was a time of reaching out and sharing Jesus’ love to the children and youth in the community. Vacation Bible School (VBS) was first held August 1970. After serving three years Pastor Dalrymple and family returned to the States June 1972. Pastor Gaylord Rich and family moved from Hawaii to Guam to assume pastorate and they were here five years.
During their time the parsonage was built in 1972 with Alabaster offering and a Work & Witness team from the states. Pastor Rich’s wife Jean was a teacher and through her kindness several of her students started attending church and giving their lives to Christ. Pastor Rich started a van ministry with Volkswagen vans to pick up children in the new residential housing Liguan Terrace and villages of Dededo and Yigo. In 1972, only six local people were part of the church. Four years later, there were 108 local people associated with the church. Church activities included a lot of sports whether it was volleyball at church or inter-church basketball leagues. On April 8, 1973, the church building was dedicated by General Superintendent Dr. Eugene Stowe. All the work, including the building and furnishings, was built by volunteer labor. At the dedication service, Mr. Noe Saison sang at the service. He was the Christian Guamanian who sold the once-acre lot to the church at a price far below market value.
In 1977 Pastor Rich and family followed God’s call to serve at Ewa Beach Church in Hawaii. Pastor Keith Sears and family soon followed and pastored for three years.
The 1980’s decade was a time of visitation and invitation. After Pastor Sears the pastors that came served two years or less starting with Pastor Gene Giron (from 1981 to 1982) and Pastor Donald Bard (from 1982 to 1983). Pastor Lester Bradock came for 6 months. The 80’s congregations were mainly statesiders and military. All that changed with the Chastain’s.Pastor Joe and Mary Kay Chastain came out in 1984 and they had a heart to reach out to both military families and the islanders who called Guam home. Linda Iyar a Palauan living on Guam with her husband, Limitz, invited to church by her Yapese friend, found something special with Pastor Joe and Mary Kay. She asked her husband Limitz to come to church with her. Linda and Limitz gave their lives to Jesus Christ and began serving the Lord through Pastor Joe’s visitation and invitation lifestyle ministry. Limitz and Linda knew the Lord was calling them to Bible College and they left in 1986 to attend Nazarene Bible College in Colorado. They were the first islanders from our church to go to Bible College. The Chastain’s together with Limitz and Linda Iyar assisted in church growth by witnessing and bringing folksfrom the local community to church.
Holiday gatherings such as Thanksgiving were a whole church celebration with everyone bringing dishes to make the holiday feasts more homey and memorable. Volleyball and barbeques were held every Saturday afternoon. It was common for church members to invite family, friends, and neighbors to join them for volleyball on Saturday and church on Sunday. Pastor Joe and Mary Kay Chastain served for 89 years from 1984 to 1993. Their service was not limited to Guam they also did outreach programs in Saipan, Palau, and Chuuk.
The 1990’s was a time of growing in God’s word and promises. This was a time of people coming to the Church of the Nazarene and hearing God’s calling in their lives to serve as missionaries or go to Bible colleges. Dan and Cyndi LaPlante came to know the Lord during this time and left for Bible College. A military couple Ward and Josie Clinton while stationed here also heard God’s calling to Bible College. It was a time of people testifying the power and deliverance of God. Testimonies were not limited to a special revival service, but it was a normal part of every church service where anyone could raise their hand and say, “I have a testimony” and proclaim the Lord’s goodness and power in their lives.
After the Chastain’s, Pastor Randy and Karen Lingenfelter came and pastored for 4 years. With two teenagers the Lingenfelter home was a welcome haven for church teenagers and children. The Lingenfelters ministry to children included harvest festivals, carnivals, puppets, and bell ringing music.
In 1995, the Guam First Church of the Nazarene planted two churches. One was in the Republic of Palau with Rev. Limitz Iyar as pastor. The other was a Chuukese church on Guam pastored by Dr. Sweeter Sachuo.
Also, in 1995, Rev. Denny G. Owens was appointed Micronesia Coordinator. He was officially appointed District Superintendent at the first District Assembly by Dr. James H. Diehl. After only a few months, Rev. Owens had to resign for health reasons.
On August 9, 1996, Rev. Rex Ray and Pearlita dela Peret were assigned as Regional Missionaries to Micronesia out of the Philippines. They would later become pastors of the Guam Nazarene from March 3, 2007 until March 10, 2013.
The second District Assembly was held on March 26, 1997.
The 2000’s was a time of God enlarging our vision and believing Him for more. After years of using the original church building steps were taken to build a larger church and convert the first building to include Sunday school classes, nursery, kitchen and bathrooms.
Pastor Wayne and Connie La Force came to Guam on September 1, 1998. Their vision was for children and church growth in Guam and Micronesia. Through their leadership the new sanctuary was built.
Dr. Cobb, the regional director, told them that if a new building could be constructed, Alabaster funds could be used to help with the construction. Many people in the church said, “We have talked about a new building for years and we are no closer to it now than years ago.” A large glass water bottle was placed in the old church foyer and people were encouraged to drop in change and bills to start a building fund. The church board set a goal of raising $40,000 toward the project. Eric Canovas helped find an architect to develop plans. Once the plans were drawn and shown to the congregation, excitement began building that just maybe we could construct a new sanctuary. Bids were received from three or four construction crews with the first one being more than $400,000. Whee! It was somewhat of a setback since we were thinking we might be able to build for $150,000. God was orchestrating the project closer than we understood. Since construction projects on Guam were at a standstill because of the economy, the president of the company who had submitted the first bid was very interested in working with us and the bid was finally reduced to $190,000. He had Filipino workers whom he did not want to send back to the Philippines because of a lack of construction projects. The project was begun in 2001. Once construction began excitement was at a fever pitch. “We are going to have a new church” was a common statement among the congregation. By this time the old sanctuary was crowded out for services. Sometimes children would sit on the carpet around the altar to give seating to adults. The story is too long to tell how God put financing together for the project. Church finances had not been strong for a number of years. Pastor Wayne talked with a banker and submitted finance reports for 3 prior years. After reviewing them the banker said, “Pastor, there is no way your congregation could ever pay a mortgage on a new buildingl. Sorry.” Ha! Ha! God orchestrated that part of the project. Dr. Cobb sent $50,000 in Alabaster funds for the building. That was a shot in the arm. Enthusiasm was everywhere and people began giving toward the project. Building the new sanctuary was a miracle of God. All of our church facilities are valued at over $750,000. Praise God, we owe only $26,000.
When the project was more than half completed, typhoon Pongsongwa (Dec. 2001) devastated the island and damaged the new church building considerably. God had gone before us and prompted us to have construction insurance. That saved the day and the new sanctuary was occupied in July 2002. What a day with more than 250 people attending the dedication.
About six weeks prior to the completion of the building there was need for $40,000 in cash to complete furnishings, carpeting and air conditioning. A specific Sunday was designated as “Finish the job” Sunday in an effort to raise the additional funds that would need to be paid within a six-week period. Hallelujah! God heard our prayers and the goal was exceeded. Only eternity will reveal where all the money came from. Now 17 years later God is still using Guam First to touch lives for Jesus.
Children’s programs Caravans and Vacation Bible School flourished. Outreaches to Palau, Chuuk, and Ponapei were held which contributed to the start of the Ponapeian congregation. While on furlough the LaForce’s invited a dynamic young college couple Brian and Julie Woolery to Guam and work with the teens. The Woolery’s ministry with youth group and music was a time of growth. After 4 1/2 years the LaForce ‘s moved back to the states.
Rev. Eldon Shields served as interim pastor from July 15, 2003, until November 5, 2003. Pastor Merrill and Jan Williams moved here from Korea beginning their ministry in January 2005.
The Williams were here for 2 years and moved to the States. Though their time was short their ministry in the Guam Church was focused on the Word of the Lord and prayer. Wednesday night prayer groups grew, and prayer requests came in. A weekly Ladies Bible Study was started by Jan with the Micronesian ladies of our congregation.
After previously serving on Guam under Pastor Randy and Pastor Wayne, Rex and Pearlita Dela Peret moved to Chuuk as missionaries and started a Church of the Nazarene. After faithfully serving in Chuuk for 8 years the Lord led them back to Guam. With the Williams departure, the dela Perets pastorate began on March 3, 2007. On March 17, 2013, Rev. Larry Cornett became pastor. He and his wife Elaine served the church until November 22, 2015. From November 19, 2015, until March 6, 2016, Rev. Dale Hansen served as interim pastor. Rev. Alan Flood became pastor in January 2017 and served with his wife Marissa until February 2019. On August 4, 2019, Dr. David Ackerman moved with the Philippines with his wife Rhonda and daughter Shan to begin ministry at our church. Rhonda is also an ordained minister.
Many people, both lay and pastors, have come and gone from the Guam First Church of the Nazarene over the past 53 years. Those of us who are part of the church today build on the foundation of their sacrifice and service. We will continue to build for future generations. The challenges will continue, but so will God’s blessings.