History of Calvary Chapel El Centro

Calvary Chapel El Centro

Our roots can be traced back to a man by the name of Pastor Chuck Smith. Pastor Chuck was in a denomination that wanted their pastors to do ministry by the leading of the denomination headquarters. Pastor Chuck respected them, but wanted to lean more on the leading of the Holy Spirit than what the denomination wanted. As a result he felt lead to move out of that denomination and moved to California to become the pastor of a church of about 200 people. This church had a board of elders who wanted to run the church and have him be a hireling. He was not comfortable with that, and after much prayer, accepted an offer of a church that had 25 people, called Calvary Chapel.

Pastor Chuck decided to teach that church for one year and see what the Lord would do after that. He purposed that his new flock would be the best fed flock he had ever pastured, so he taught them verse by verse out of the Bible for that next year. At the end of that year there were still only 25 people there. He told them that he would be more than happy to stay and continue to teach them the Word of God. They put it to a vote, and 12 said “Let’s keep going” and 12 said “Let’s stop”. The one person that was left wanted to say stop, but he felt that the Lord was saying keep going. So they did.

Shortly after that a miracle started taking place. Pastor Chuck’s wife Kay had a burden for the hippies and they would go down to the beach, sit on a bench and pray for them. Kay and Chuck knew the things that these hippies were searching for could only be found in Jesus. They told all their friends, “If you ever run into a real live hippie, please bring them over to our house. We want to talk to one.” One night the door bell rang and there, standing at the door, was a friend and a hippie. He came in and they begin to talk. Before long they were able to lead this hippie to Jesus. He went out the next day and brought more hippies over. Before they knew it, their house was full of saved hippies. Because of this, the Hippie Movement of the late 60’s was born.

One of the people who accepted the Lord and grew in ministry was a man by the name of Mike MacIntosh. He started a bible study in San Diego and it grew into a Church. On May 12, 1975 Pete Mallinger accepted the Lord as his personal Savior and Lord there at Pastor MacIntosh’s church. Pastor Pete then started teaching a Bible study in 1976 here in El Centro and it began to grow to the point where the people wanted to start a church. On the first Sunday of January 1977, Pastor Pete started teaching Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. He would drive back to San Diego and go to work on Monday. As time went by, the church was growing and the need for a pastor living in the area was very clear. So in June of 1977 Pastor Pete moved down to the Valley and has lived here ever since.

When Pastor Pete started teaching the Bible Study in 1976, Calvary Chapel El Centro (CCEC) met at the Fairgrounds in Imperial in a small room. When CCEC started to do Sunday mornings, it moved out to Imperial Valley College in the cafeteria. Knowing that the church could not meet there long, we started looking for a different location.

One of the ladies in the group was living at Gio's Trailer Park in El Centro and was willing to have us meet over there in the recreation room. Pastor Pete would load up his van in San Diego with a sound system he bought for $200, and 25 chairs, and head down to El Centro to do Sunday mornings and evenings.

Not too long after that the woman at Gio’s was going to have to move, so we began looking for a new place to meet.

In the local union building there was an upstairs meeting room. We were able to rent that room and two of the offices for the kids. Everything was going well until an earthquake hit and the local union had to condemn the building.

In a circumstance where we had no building, we began meeting at Bucklin Park. The first Sunday after the earthquake, as Pastor Pete was finishing up, he saw the Methodist Pastor walking up. Pastor Pete’s wife Marci had met this Pastor’s daughter and ministered to her, and he was so grateful for what Marci had done. The Pastor offered to us the use of their Fellowship Hall and some Sunday school classes.
Pastor Pete had felt the Lord told him that CCEC’s home would be on Main Street, but nothing had opened up there yet, so he accepted the Pastor’s offer. Pastor Pete learned a wonderful lesson from this: the Lord did want CCEC on Main street, but He didn't tell Pastor Pete when it would be. A wonderful lesson was learned about how there are times we need to wait on the Lord before we speak.

CCEC stayed at the Methodist Church for about a year, but the Lord did open the door for us to lease a building on Main street. We were at 757 Main St for about 18 years.

During this time a brother said “Let’s start a building fund.” Pastor Pete agreed that was a good idea, and as the building fund grew we began to look for property.

It was a long story, but one day Pastor Pete received a call about 10 acres on Austin Rd. CCEC was able to pay cash for this land and started to make improvements on it.

During this time the building we were in on Main Street began to have some major problems. Every time it rained, water would flood into certain parts of the building. Pastor Pete didn’t mind his office being soaked…and even some mold in it, but one day as he walked into the nursery, he saw some mold. After having it treated, we made arrangements to move out and use Sunflower School in El Centro.

We thought we would only be at Sunflower for 2 years as we built, but it ended up being over 8 years. As we were getting close to completion of our building, we had to move out of Sunflower to a smaller school, and even the Sunday before the dedication of our new church we had to move one more time to Ryerson's Hall.

With no Sunday School classes for our kids, Pastor Pete had everyone meet in the hall and after worship he called all the kids up and sat down with them and taught them a study out of Romans 8:28 "And we know, that all things work together for the good ....".

The following Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006 we were able to have our first service in our new building.

It has been an amazing journey, and I look forward to what our Father in heaven has planned for us in the future.

We have had wonderful history and have been blessed every step of the way. If you would like to hear more about it please click here to listen to the Dedication Ceremony on our first Sunday.

If you have any questions about our Church family, please feel free to give us a call at (760) 352-0336