"Proverbs 16:9 – In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps."
Pastor David Higa
I’m always amazed at how well the Scriptures describe a man. At this point in my life I really shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I’ve been pastoring for a little while now, and I’ve served in many ministries prior. Yet as I write this bio for our new website, Proverbs 16:9 comes to the forefront of my mind, and yes, I am amazed.
You see, I have the privilege of teaching the Word of God in the very place that I grew up. Until last year I was even living in the very house that I grew up in. I also have been given a wonderful opportunity to coach basketball with my brother at my old high school. God certainly has “determined my steps,” even though the course I sought years ago was very different. When I left the Echo Park area in the early 80’s I would have never imagined returning. The logic back then [at least in my mind] was to get out and get away. Success, it seemed to me, was not in Echo Park.
So after graduating from Belmont High School, I went to Engineering school at U.C. Santa Barbara. I graduated in 1985 and worked in Santa Barbara for the next several years. But it was during my senior year at U.C.S.B that I received Jesus as my personal Lord. It was a process for me. I can look back now and know that something happened that night in my Isla Vista apartment when I knelt down and said “Jesus, if you are real, I need help.” Can you imagine that, coming to know the Lord in Isla Vista, the party capital of California! “Can God spread a table in the desert?” He’s convinced me!
From my vantage point now I know that what we Christians refer to as “Born Again” was what happened to me that night. At the time, though, I knew very little about that stuff. But what I did know was that I needed help. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” As each year goes by I am more and more grateful to that wonderful truth.
I met my wife, Marcy, at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara. That was, and continues to be, the highlight of my life. I received so many blessings at Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara. I was privy to some of the best Bible teachers around.
Marcy and I had the privilege to serve our Lord through missions work in Eastern Europe from 1993-1997 [a little over three years]. We worked and lived in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. It was a challenging place, but we learned some valuable lessons along the way. Firstly, we learned to trust the Lord [for literally everything]. And secondly, we learned to trust each other. I know this sounds crazy but I think the greatest lessons on marriage are out in the mission’s field, away from family and friends, and away from the comforts of home. Trust is so vital in a relationship, and when you’re far from home you learn to trust the Lord and your spouse; your two greatest partners in this life of faith.
So after we literally went through all our savings in the Czech Republic, we came back to the states and settled back in the L.A. area. After a brief stay with my parents we moved to Burbank and during that time helped to plant a Calvary Chapel in Burbank.
In 2004 my dad passed away so Marcy and I moved back into the Echo Park area with my mom in my original family home. And the rest, as they say, is history. Within a few months we began a Saturday evening Bible Study, and then a Sunday morning service six months later. Calvary Chapel Echo Park was born in February 2005.
It truly is amazing for me to see how the Lord has brought me back full circle to the neighborhood of my youth. What is even more amazing is to see the neighborhood through eyes of faith. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d be pastoring, and especially in the very place that I grew up. When I left the Echo Park area over 30 years ago I had some very different plans. But in hindsight I can truly see the Lord’s hand, and that He had been determining my steps all along the way.
At this point in my life, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love pastoring; I love preaching and teaching the Word of God; and I have a passion for worship. The Lord has also blessed me with a wonderful congregation. The folks here are just the best! They are faithful, kind, and very loving. If you are ever in the Echo Park area, please come by and see for yourself.
I was raised in a loving Christian home in the central coast town of Santa Maria by parents with a strong work ethic and zest for life. As an only child, we did everything as a family, both work and play, and it was all good. From my earliest memory, I knew God loved me and heard my prayers. My grandparents told me they prayed for all of their children and grandchildren every day of their lives. A deep respect for the Bible was instilled in me from an early age, and as I began to understand more, my love for God’s Word deepened. I moved to Santa Barbara for a job and began attending Calvary Chapel, which at that time met in the YMCA gym – setting up folding chairs for church and unpacking portable bins for children’s ministry. Little did I know how handy that would come in Echo Park.
When Pastor Ricky Ryan came to SB and asked me to come on staff as his assistant, a whole new adventure began. As we led missions trips and watched the Lord multiply, a love for other cultures and passion for ministry developed. From holding babies in the nursery to ladies ministry to serving pastors – as a single woman with lots of energy, I loved it all.
I remember a conversation in the parking lot where an engineer friend who served with the youth mentioned he had been offered a job overseas. He was thinking about the possibility of working over there and planting churches. And I remember thinking “wow, Lord, when are you going to let me do something like that?” Little did I know that many letters and long distance phone calls later, I would marry this man and join him.
A favorite memory of our time in Eastern Europe was at the Calvary Chapel Bible School, then in Austria, when students from every surrounding country were in a room for worship. The songs were ones we all knew, but everyone sang in their own language, and I was overwhelmed thinking this was a taste of what heaven would be like, worshiping together with every nation, tribe, tongue and people. The mixing of cultures with the common ground of our faith in Jesus Christ and His love is something that dropped deep into my heart. Little did I know how that would prepare me for the Lord’s plan in Echo Park.
By the time our jobs brought us back to the States, we were hooked on serving the Lord together and our hearts were wide open, looking for ministry opportunities. After a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the family home in Echo Park, David and I took a long walk through the neighborhood. As we walked down the streets he knew so well from his youth – Bonnie Brae, Sunset, Temple – the Lord began to stir our hearts for the area. We even told his dad we were thinking about moving back and starting a Bible Study. Little did we know that year would be our last with him, and his passing would move us back into the family home.
The book of Ruth has always been a favorite, and was the first book that we went through in the budding Calvary Chapel Echo Park Ladies Ministry. As the Lord knit hearts together from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages during that study, I knew that the Lord took this small town girl around the world and back to the inner city of Los Angeles to get another glimpse of heaven. It just doesn’t get any better than that. “For wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.”
Calvary Chapel Echo Park