Took AIDS patient for a cigarette

Hell sounds like a nasty word

Darrell Dunlap: We want to help people to love God with their whole heart.
  • Darrell Dunlap: We want to help people to love God with their whole heart.

Christ Community Church

9535 Kearny Villa Road, Mira Mesa

Membership: 200

Pastor: Darrell M. Dunlap 

Age: 49

Born: Clifton, NJ

Formation: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Chicago; Azusa Pacific University, Azusa

Years Ordained: 18

San Diego Reader: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

Pastor Darrell Dunlap: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). What challenge can be too big if you’re friends with God? In our world today, so many people feel alone; and even when they’re with people and connected through their electronic devices, they often feel alone when they have to face life’s hurdles and difficulties.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PD: To help people love God and one other more. We want to help people to love God with their whole heart in a world that is so much about hate and tearing each other down; we want to be a shining light calling people to love one another, whether they’re friends or enemies. As part of this mission, for example, this past year we partnered with a local school, Walker Elementary School. We provided backpacks filled with school supplies for needy kids throughout Mira Mesa. We contacted all the area elementary-school principals and made sure we got backpacks for all the kids that needed them.

SDR: Where’s the strangest place you found God?

PD: I was at an AIDS hospice where everyone was basically dying, had no family members visiting, and no one to take care of them. I remember it was one of the saddest places I’ve ever been to in my life. I sat down with some patients and played checkers and visited with them. In the midst of their pain, their medicine, and rejection by society — in many ways, AIDS is the leprosy of our generation — these people still had a piece of joy in them. That was interesting to see. One of the fellows in a wheelchair asked me to take him out for a cigarette. He said he was going to die anyway, so what’s the big deal? So I took him outside and we were talking. In the midst of our conversation, he asked me whether God really loves him. In that moment I was able to sit there and talk to him about God’s love. It was one of those moments that God showed up in a big way. When we went back inside, that gentleman put his heart in Jesus’s hands and asked Jesus into his life. He told everyone that God loves them, and they’re not alone. It was the darkness in the place that changed; there was a light that started to shine. It brought so much hope to me. As Mother Teresa used to say — even in the darkest places, God is there. He hasn’t forsaken anyone.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PD: When we die, every human has an eternal soul and they go to either heaven or hell. Hell sounds like a nasty word but basically it is a place where God isn’t — it’s the absence of God. Where we go after we take our last breath in this life depends on whether we’ve placed our faith and hope and trust in Jesus Christ; and if we do, we go to heaven to be with God and if we don’t, we spend eternity apart from God and his goodness.

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