The idea of starting a new church in Diamond Bar was the dream of a man named Wally Norling. He was the District Superintendent of the Evangelical Free Church in Southern California. He loved to plant new churches in new communities that were popping up all over Southern California 50 years ago. Wally personally approached a few families and individuals and challenged them to start a church in Diamond Bar. Two families already lived in Diamond Bar, another family lived in Rowland Hiehgts and another in La Habra Heights. They did not have the backing or support of any other church. They were on their own. This small group of people accepted the challenge and set out to start a new Evangelical Free Church in Diamond Bar. In my previous article I shared about how this small group grew during the following decade under the leadership of several pastors including Pastor Scott Owsley and Pastor Steve Campbell. They met in a number of different locations until they were given the property on Diamond Bar Blvd by a generous contractor in 1980. The first building was completed in 1983.
Pastor Steve Campbell continued to lead the church until 1987. Steve and his wife Peggy faithfully served at the church for over 10 years. In 1988, the church invited my wife and I to come from Arizona to serve as the next Pastor of Diamond Bar Efree Church. It was a new adventure to leave our roots in Arizona and move with our four kids to Diamond Bar, California. As the church continued to grow, we lacked adequate classroom space for the children of young families. One solution was to rent the Peppertree Preschool around the corner on Brea Canyon Road to help meet this pressing need. We also launched a new building campaign to construct an education building on our property. Instead of borrowing money, we decided to build “pay-as-you-go”. We were amazed at the generosity of people in our church and the many unexpected gifts that enabled us to complete this project debt free in 1991.
Not only did the new two-story education building provide additional classroom space, it also enabled us to open a Preschool. Mrs. Jean Thornton agreed to serve as the first preschool director and opened the school in 1991 with about 15 students. The preschool eventually grew to three classes and over 50 children meeting five days a week from 8:30 AM – noon.
During the 1990’s, our church began to send out short-term mission teams to serve alongside missionaries around the world. Our first two-week team went to Guatemala to help construct a school building in 1992. In the following years, we also sent teams across the border to help build homes in Mexico. Other teams went to Russia, Romania, Kenya, Korea and other countries to serve in various kinds of ministries. As our church continued to grow in the 90’s, we realized we needed more classroom space. The Hughes Aircraft Comapny was closing a plant in Fullerton and offered some of their portable modular units to non-profit groups for one dollar each. However, we did have to pay to have these units moved and for the clean up of the old site and for set up on our property. We remodeled these large modular buildings into four large classrooms on our property.
Near the end of the 90’s we knew we needed a larger worship center and more classrooms. In 1998, we broke ground on the largest building on our site – the Familiy Worship Center. During the next eighteen months, the campus looked like a war zone. The building site was surrounded by fences and piles of dirt and mud. Equipment and building material covered our property. We had record rain fall in 1999 which slowed the work and delayed completion. But, on Easter Sunday, 2000, the new worship center was finished and ready for use. It was a day to remember! Did I mention that underneath the worship center there is a lower level with eight large classrooms and additional restrooms. (This allowed us to donate the modular units to a church in Rowland Heights). The Worship Center also has a large elevator that provides access to all the levels of the Worship Center and the Education building.
There are more stories to tell about the life of our church. I hope to share more of our history in my next article. Let me again invite you to come to our 50th birthday party on Saturday, October 21st. There will free food and a variety of activities on our campus starting at 1:00 PM and the main event will be from 4:30 – 6:00 PM in the Worship Center. We hope you will come!
Pastor Mark Hopper
Efree Church of Diamond Bar
3255 South Diamond Bar Blvd
Sunday Services: 9:00 & 10:45 AM