David Penn, pastor of Hesperia Church of the Nazarene, was born in Yuba City. His parents took him to Southern Africa a year later where they would serve as missionaries in the Church of the Nazarene.
The family first lived in Swaziland then the Eastern Transvaal. Later assignments took them to a rural area near Johannesburg, then Cape Town, South Africa. They stood on street corners to preach, met in homes and rented halls. Cape Town was his favorite places to live.
The family came back to the United States for one year during this 15-year period. A favorite childhood game was using a slingshot to shoot birds. His African friends would build a fire and roast the bird should we be so fortunate to actually shoot one.
"Toys were simple things like taking clay from the bank of a wet area and making things like animals," he said. "It didn't take much to amuse us."
The South African schools were run on the British system. Discipline was swift with a cane or any other object that was at hand. There was no such thing as child abuse — only discipline. Afrikaans was a required subject, and he also learned to speak Zulu, the predominant language of South African Bantu people.
"Learning to live in a cross culture world was an education I received without knowing it," Penn said. "As an American I was always the foreigner. We were not Zulu, Afrikaans, Colored, or English, we were told that we were American, there was a difference. This has stood me in good stead as we have moved around the country, and even in the cross cultural ministry that our church leads today."
In 1961 the family returned to the U.S. were Penn completed high school and then attended Pasadena College, now know as Point Loma Nazarene University. Then he headed off to Nazarene Theological Seminary where he received a Masters in Divinity (MDiv) in 1971. While in seminary he pastored Jacoby Chapel Presbyterian Church.
"Living in Southern Africa as missionaries we had an extended family of fellow Nazarene Missionaries and their children," Penn said. "In 1968, Ruth and I were married. She was also a missionary kid. Her parents were on the same ship with my parents in 1945 when we went to Africa."
The couple has three children: Lisa, Cristy and David ll. Each child is now married.
During his career as a pastor, Penn has served in Kansas City, Kan., Jacksonville Ill, Kingwood W. Va, and Racine, Wisc., and for the past 21 years, Hesperia Church of the Nazarene.
Q: Describe a special memory you have of Hesperia.
A: Thanksgiving is a family time for us. We would have as many as 26 members of our family gather in our home for the celebration. Following the meal, we would take everyone for a desert walk. This was one of the highlights of the day. We would walk in the desert. Family from all over Southern California still talk about our desert walks. We live on the edge of the desert.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: Some of my hobbies include collecting and repairing old fountain pens. I love to tinker in my hobby shop repairing old cars. My friend Dwight and I rebuilt a 1974 MGB. Reading and hiking are also some of my hobbies.
Q: Tell us one thing that most people don't know about you.
A: I write with a fountain pen everyday and ride a motorcycle when time allows.
Q: What is your passion?
A: The passion of my life is to glorify God with my life. He allows me to engage in all kind of things to his honor and glory. Honoring him gives me more freedom in all of life. Sharing God's Good News with people is the great joy of my life.
Q: What person, living or from history, would you most like to have dinner with and why?
A: John the beloved disciple, and author of Revelation. He was known as disciple Jesus loved. He was the one to whom Jesus entrusted his mother while hanging on the cross. He was the one shown the vision of things to come. He was the one who most clearly preached the love of Christ. Tradition has it that at a ripe old age he was carried to church on a stretcher. When asked to give a word of exhortation. He would say "Little children love one another." After repeating this week after week he was asked why he never said anything else. His response was, "If someone did love those around them they had done what Christ had called for."
Q: Where do you get your values from?
A: Values have been passed on from my parents. These are values that come from following Christ. Who Christ is has done more to shape me than any other one thing. The community of faith has helped me to see how this is lived out. Christ continues to transform my life. Christ is my life, without him I have no life.
Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: My pastor in college Rev. Earl Lee a former missionary to India. Ruben Welch was one of my New Testament professors at Pasadena College, now PLNU. Both had a great impact on my life. Earl made the gospel so simple, that even I could understand the breath of God's love and grace. Ruben helped me see and hear God's call on my life in a new light, it is not who I am that makes the difference. With God in the lead he can accomplish anything if we will let him. My hang up was that I thought that I had to be a pastor in my own strength. His spirit leading and working in my life has made all the difference.
Q: What is your favorite quotation?
A: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all the people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Gal. 6:9-10. NIV.
Q: Tell us about your faith.
A: Mother introduced me to Christ at an early age. Growing up there was a deep sense of awareness that God was real and leading in our lives. College gave me the opportunity to make this faith personal. What seemed to be a call as a child to live my life for God and share his love, the love of Christ, was to be my life's work, this became more real and personal.
Q: What is your secret to living a happy, satisfying life?
A: Living in Christ gives me great peace. He redeems my life. This means that whatever happens to me, God has a new day and a new opportunity. Christ's resurrected life is my life. In Christ death is not the last note, life is. My mother passed away July 24th, someone commented that this with would be her perpetual new birthday in Christ. Trusting God with all the details of my life gives me a deep peace and contentment. Loving God results in loving my neighbor. When you see the people around you as brothers and sisters in Christ people all take on a new relationship to you. Life moves into a satisfaction that comes from knowing what your purpose is on this earth.
Q: What words of advice do you have for the next generation?
A: Be responsible. Don't look to others to take care of you. When you take charge of your life and work hard you will find great doors of opportunity. If you think that society owes you a life you will always be disappointed with the results. Don't make excuses for failure, but step up to the plate and do something to help change the situation. Help others and you will end up helping yourself. This is what we used to do when we didn't have government hand outs or people to pay our way. Take charge of your life, no one else will.
Q: Tell us about the charities that are close to your heart and why.
A: The missions of the Church of the Nazarene reach around the world. They are one of the best managed and administered funds in the world. Ruth and I give generously to this mission work each year. We have also taken mission trips to South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, and Antigua and Mexico. The Salvation Army is also a favorite.
Q: What's your favorite sports team and why?
A: The Green Bay Packers have very little of the resources of some of the other teams but they have incredible spirit. When we lived in Wisconsin I would jog around their humble stadium when we traveled in the area. It was so unpretentious that I never would have guessed it would house a world famous team.
Q: What is something you are particularly proud of?
A: The word satisfaction would be a better word. What God has accomplished amazes me. I have had the privilege of leading county wide crusades in West Virginia. These were similar to a Billy Graham crusade, but on a much smaller scale. Fifteen percent of the county attended. Helping young churches that were just getting started to grow and embrace new ministry has been my pattern of ministry. Acting as the architect general contractor for several church building projects still amazes me. We built for half of the projected budget cost. What we build involved a great deal of volunteer labor by highly skilled people. It was all God working through willing participants. This included helping to develop a 20-acre campus in Racine, and design and build two personal homes. One of which we now live in here in Hesperia. Adapting to a multi-congregational church with Korean, Hispanic, contemporary and classic worship services has been a real challenge. The "Walking with God" radio ministry continues on through the CDs available at our Church's web site. They are offered in MP 3 format.
Q: What's your favorite movie and why?
A: I seldom watch a movie. The "Jesus Film," by Campus Crusade has had the greatest impact on our world for good of any film ever produced. Millions of people in the most remote parts of the world have had the privilege of meeting Christ through this film. On a separate note, "Schindler's List" is a favorite because he risked his life for others. He was willing to put his own life on the line to save others. It reminds me of the second commandment, "to love our neighbor as our self."
Q: Tell us about your favorite thing about Hesperia.
A: Ruth loves Hesperia. I love Ruth! I love Hesperia! She loves the blue skies. Racine, Wisc. was overcast 260 days a year. She hated the fact she could not see the sun. Friends have asked her why she likes Hesperia so much. Her response is, "I'll trade green grass for blue skies any day of the year." I love Hesperia because Ruth does. Besides that, there are wonderful people who live here. For me, people make the place more than anything else.
Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: I have the privilege of doing what I love to do. Sharing who God is with people is a great joy. Being a part of people's, lives whether in joy or in sorrow is a great privilege. Sharing the Good News of God's love and grace is a great joy. I can't think of a better job. Being a coworker with God gives great fulfillment. He has called me to be a part of what he is doing. Of course everyone gets to share in this same work to some degree or other if they will accept the invitation. You don't have to be a pastor to share the gospel on a daily bases.
Q: What book had a significant impact on you?
A: Besides the Bible, a book on the faith side of life is, "Love Acceptance and Forgiveness" by Jerry Cook. It speaks of the simplicity of the gospel. It gives some practical ways that we can share God's love, through giving acceptance and forgiveness to those around us. A leadership book is, "Leaders" By Bennis & Nanus. They share the essence of what is necessary to be a leader. First one needs the right vision for their organization, then the capacity to communicate that vision to those on the team, next they need the ability to challenge the team to do whatever is necessary to accomplish the vision. The final step is to continue to grow embracing new visions for the future growth needed for the organization.
Q: Tell us about a special vacation.
A: This past October, Ruth and I went to Haiti on a mission trip. Our objective was to stand in support of the Haitian people. We went to say that we shared their pain and had come to stand beside them. We were part of a Nazarene group of 26 volunteers. The program is called, "Work & Witness." We work and witness to the love of Christ that causes us to pay our own way so we can do physical work to help others. It was my privilege to be one of the designated drivers. The key element to driving in Haiti is a good loud horn and nerves of steel. We drove for five hours south of Port U Prince over two mountain ranges across a couple of rivers, with no bridges, and up some dirt trails to a place where some of the children had never seen a white person. We helped to finish a church building. We built the roof, painted it and built the pews. The church would also serve as a hurricane shelter, a school and a community building. This was some of the hardest physical work we have ever done. The joy was in seeing what it meant to the Haitian people. Their thanks was our reward. Not your typical vacation, but we were able to put faith to action in loving a needy, hurting people. There is a reward that comes from helping others that surpasses being on the best beaches of the world.
Q: What makes you tick?
A: The love of God has such a grip of my life, that my life is not my own, but his. I have the privilege of serving him. As I go along he leads into all kind of interesting and challenging ways to new places I would not have thought to go. There is something greater at work in those of us who are followers of Christ that this world can possibly understand. There is no physical explanation for it apart from Christ. The apostle Paul said "For Christ's love compels us (me) ...." ll Cor. 5:14.
Q: What are five things you can't live without?
A: I can really live on very little. Ruth would be the first addition to life. Her love has blessed me more than anything except for the love of God. Family and friends are a great treasure. My freedom to be creative in any and all circumstances gives me great freedom to be who God created me to be, the home we built in 2005 makes it easy to entertain family and friends. The continuing ability to help others and share the love of God as a pastor is a cherished blessing.
Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: It has been my dream to build a church that will never know completion till Jesus comes. To do this we need people who are willing to be disciples who are committed to help make disciples, who will help others to be disciples and yet others to be disciples of Christ. This is an ongoing chain till Jesus comes.
Q: What's your favorite place to eat in the High Desert?
A: My standard response, when it comes to where we should eat is you pick. There are many great restaurants in the High Desert. One of my favorite is La Casita in Hesperia. This was the first restaurant we ate at when we came to town.
Q: If you had three wishes, what would they be?
A: That all Christians live in the power of Christ, not their own. That the whole world would know the joy that comes in surrender to Christ. That everyone would see themselves as Christ sees them, a person of infinite value, called to share God's love in our world. Our work is best summed up in, loving God with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength. Then loving our neighbor as God has loved them (Mark 13:29-31). This would do more to transform our world than all the politics and policies that we could ever dream up.
Q: What's your favorite guilty pleasure?
A: Driving has always been fun, whether on a motorcycle or in a sports car. Sports cars are fun to drive. A car that is properly equipped is a joy to drive. Driving with authority is one way of saying I have fun behind the wheel, given the opportunity.
Q: Tell us about a happy memory in your first car.
A: It was a 1953 Oldsmobile 98. I lived in Santa Cruz for the summer. My work was in the kitchen as a cook's helper. Each day I would have off from 1 to 3 p.m. This was my time to go to the beach. My Oldsmobile made all this possible. No one else had a car at the time. We had fun at the beach.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: Sharing the love of God in Christ is my life. I see myself continuing to do this as a pastor or retired. Living for Christ is my life and that cannot be taken away from me. I intend to live it to the full.
Q: Is there anything else you'd like to say, anything you'd like to get off your chest?
A: The greatest need in our country today is not economic. We need a life transformation in God's people to make us all that he has called us to be. We think that God only wishes to impute his righteousness into our lives. He does that but a lot more; he has given us his Holy Spirit to empower us to be his unique people, by his power and grace. We are suffering from a power failure in the church; not because of an inadequate source but an unwillingness to avail ourselves of what God in Christ has done for us. The Holy Spirit enables us to do and be all that God has called us to be in this world. We must be the Church Christ has called us to be.
Q: How can readers reach you?
A: (760) 831-0779, PennsPens@aol.com or our web site is WWW.HesperiaNazarene.Org.