The Last Time I Was In L.A. Part Three

30 Dec

The Last Time I Was In L.A. Part Three

By Bob Gersztyn

All Photography Copyright Bob Gersztyn

 

15 Family shots151

 

Four of my seven children were born in Los Angeles, beginning in April 1974. Children really didn’t change my life that much, because when we become Jesus Freaks we discontinued any behavior that was considered sinful, immoral or even questionable. Previous years of partying, drinking, getting stoned and sexual immorality were all replaced with marriage, temperance, church attendance, Bible study, prayer and fasting.

 

16 Worship Two (4)

 

Jesus invited us to follow him and that’s what we were doing. Jesus loved children and so did we. Pretty soon there was so much to do between the family, church, school, work and daily responsibilities that there was no time left for sin. Life became an intense experience that was lived to the max, milking every moment for all that it was worth, because God made everyone a steward of their talents. . By the late 1970’s I was an associate pastor of an inner city church and involved in every aspect of it.

17 Dismantling Meacham's Garage

When the mechanic who owned the automotive garage next door to the church retired he sold the property to the church. We purchased it to turn it into a parking lot, but first the brick buildings on it had to be demolished. Rather than pay to have the lot cleared, members of the church met on a regular basis and dismantled the two buildings, brick by brick. Then the bricks were all individually cleaned with wire brushes and sold to help pay for the new parking lot.

18 Dismantling Meacham's Garage 1979

Members of HPNC were brothers and sisters like family who did everything together and worked for one common cause, to preach the gospel in the Highland Park Barrio. What is the gospel? It is the good news, that Jesus Christ died for our sins to give us forgiveness, so we can make a new start and begin our lives anew from that day onward with a clean slate, realizing our full potential and using it to be light and salt to the world around us.

 

19 Worship Two (5)

 

God is good and gives us gifts. The three Wise men brought their gifts to the Christ child and Christmas is the celebration of the birth of God’s gift. After Mark Ballard became pastor of HPNC we began to enter a float in the Highland Park Christmas parade every year. We did it because we wanted to make a statement to the community that we were here and that Jesus Christ was Lord. We won the first place award every year that we entered and were always the only religious float.

20 Christmas Float 1978

When Kathy and I left HPNC and Los Angeles in May 1980 to go to Toledo, Oregon it was with great anticipation and excitement. I turned 33 a little over a month after we arrived in Oregon and felt that it was somehow symbolic of my ministry. I was invincible because I was on a mission from God. What I didn’t compute at the time was that Jesus’ ministry ended when he was 33 and I was following in his footsteps. My ministry, as far as being paid to be a minister was over. I refused to believe it and continued to pursue it until I finally accepted reality in 1984. However, before that, a lot of other things occurred.

21 Associate Pastor Bob Gersztyn in his office at the Highland

 

I mentioned before that I was supposed to become the pastor of a pioneer work in Philomath, Oregon, which is one of the reasons why we moved to Oregon. At the same time my wife, Kathy, was studying to be a mid-wife and had discovered that Oregon had the most favorable laws concerning mid-wives and home births. So with the help of both HPNC and the church in Oregon that the Foursquare divisional supervisor, Greg Romine was pastor of, we moved into a house in Toledo, Oregon, Seven miles from Newport on the Central Oregon Coast.

22 Newport & Toledo216

The change from Los Angeles was phenomenal. After living in the 2nd biggest city in the U.S. with a population of eleven million and sunshine three-hundred-fifty days a year, we were in a logging town in the middle of a rain forest, with a population of a little over three thousand and rain over two hundred days a year. Kathy was pregnant with our fourth child and the pioneer work in Philomath ran into some snags, so Pastor Romine suggested that I get a job and wait six months, while I adjusted to Oregon.

B Worship Two (35)

Pastor Romine’s church was New Life Center, in Newport, Oregon which he pioneered from 2 families and built to an attendance of 400, in a town of 7,000, and it was mainly comprised of young couples and singles. After I told them that photography was part of my ministry, I began to work with the church’s youth pastor and photographed services and ocean water baptisms. I put together a multi-media presentation using my Oregon images along with all my L.A. slides, with a soundtrack using Larry Norman, Daniel Amos, Mustard Seed Faith and others. At the same time I got a job and supported my family, as an assistant cook in a gourmet seafood restaurant along with being a free-lance photographer. I got photography jobs on my own, through a local studio and taught photography at Linn-Benton Community College.

23 Newport & Toledo219

 

However, by the beginning of November, just before Thanksgiving we sold our car for cash and moved to El Paso, Texas. The decision to do that was based on our mutual disillusionment with Oregon, because of work, the ministry and the rain. A friend that I made who was from El Paso invited us to move there to get out of the rain and try to work in the ministry there. After the two thousand mile trip we arrived with enough money to rent a house and stayed at my friend Chris and Cindy’s house until we found our own and unloaded all our furniture from the truck. By Christmas, John Lennon had been assassinated and it was obvious that our move to Texas was a mistake, since ministry was free and work for pay started at low wages, until you worked your way up to the Federal minimum wage.

24 El Paso and LA220

So the day after Christmas 1980 I had my next door neighbor drop me off on the Westbound side of Interstate 10, just over the Texas border in New Mexico, a little after 7:00 A.M.. I was holding a cardboard sign that had an ICHTHUS fish with the letters L.A. inside it and on the other side I had El Paso written, just in case I changed my mind. I was depressed and disillusioned as I stared off into the barren distance waiting for a ride. Around 11:00 A.M. a car stopped and a Christian salesman picked me up and drove me to Tucson, Arizona. On the way I shared my story with him and he bought me lunch and gave me $20.00 that he said the Lord told him to do. Next a pot smoking air force serviceman going home on leave to L.A. picked me up and dropped me off at my friend Alex Robert’s house, in the Eagle Rock district of Los Angeles, around fifteen miles East of Hollywood, at Midnight.

25 El Paso and LA221

To Be Continued

 

 

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