The History of SonLight




September, 1977
Page 8

Sonlight Christian Center
Getting the Impossible Mission Done

By Rob Martin

Original Article Picture

"Good morning, Mr. Magliato.

"The Orange Playhouse Theater is in danger of becoming an X-rated movie house.

"Your mission – should you choose to accept it – will encompass taking righteousness and establishing it where lust would prevail.

"You and your Impossible Mission Force, drawn from the remnants of a defunct Santa Ana church will have eight weeks to establish this new work.

"Should you, or any members of your...” 

Pastor Joe Magliato didn't exactly get the message on a self-destructing tape recorder hidden in some seedy gas station restroom. 

But as he looks back on events of 18 months ago, he remembers getting a Mission Impossible feeling about the whole idea of establishing a new church. 

As the assistant pastor of the Amazing Prophecy Center, Santa Ana, Pastor "Joe" was overseeing the dismantling of a church which was both losing its pastor and its home. 

Convinced God wanted him to stick it out and form a new church, Joe, with the support of a few friends and the bulk of Amazing Prophecy congregation, formed the Sonlight Christian Center and temporarily located it in the Upper Room of Anaheim's Jolly Roger Inn. 

For two months Joe pastored to overflowing crowds on Sunday while spending a good part of the rest of the week pursuing old warehouses and abandoned markets in search of a permanent home. 

Finally he got a look at the old 900 seat Orange Theater. "It was in escrow at the time and plans were being laid to convert the old landmark into a porno theater - but there was something about the place..." Joe recalls. "Somehow we knew we could make a go of it, even though we had no reasonable chance... 

At the time only two weeks remained before escrow would close turning the old gilt-edged landmark into one of the world's largest adult movie theaters. 

"I felt this was the place - and I had to do something. 

"Five or six times a day, sometimes even more, I would drive by the theater, slow my car down, stick my hand out of the window and say, 'I claim you in the name of Jesus.' 

"In fact, I made the nearby public library in Orange my office. I just set up and did my studying there. I would even make my telephone calls from the pay booth. 

"But each day I'd drive by the theater ... and pray... 'Devil, I don't care what you're doing here, in the name of Jesus, get out of town. This building is our building and God's going to give it to us, I don't care what the owner says. The building is not the owner's; this is God's building and I claim it in the name of Jesus.' 

"I talked to the building like it was real. And, on Sunday I was announcing it to our people and they were driving by, parking in the parking lot, putting their hands on the building." 

After the two week escrow period passed and a two week extension was granted, Joe admits he felt a little desperate. "You've got to realize we were under a pressure cooker at the Jolly Roger, we only had the place for 14 weeks and we're already into our 12th week. 

"I said to myself for sure the building is going to be purchased because the owner's got the feeling that he needs just a little more time for his buyers to put their finances together. So I was really discouraged." 

Joe recalls, "I went to see the attorney and I sat down in his office and I said I don't know whether or not we're going to get this one. He said a couple things that kind of just lifted me up. You got to realize I must have really been desperate if these simple words just picked me up," Joe said with a smile "But our attorney said, 'Joe, if God wants us to get that building, we’re going to get it.  And if God don’t want us to get that building.  We ain’t going to get it. We'll get something else." 

"Well, he said it in such a way and I guess I was in such a frame of mind, that those simple words made sense to me. I walked out feeling God's in control, I'm not the one that's pulling the strings here. God's the one who brought us this far. He's got to see us the rest of the way, somehow and if it's not this building, it's another one. It relieved me. After that I would just drive by this place, park, get out of my car, come up to the building, and pray, Joe recounts with a twinkle in his eye. For the purpose of retelling the story of his church lies in the foundation of prayer and God's ability to answer, he points out. 

Two weeks later the original deal on the building fell through and three weeks after that, Pastor Joe and his flock were in their new home complete with a remodeling job and paid-up down payment. 

"If I would have known the hurdles that we had to get over in order to form Sonlight Christian Center, I probably would have never agreed to begin. 

Because when you realize how hard it is to land a place and then confront the problem of getting financing f6r a 10-week old church, that's enough to say, hey, I'll go find another church that already has a building where people are just worshipping the Lord and all I've got to do is keep the machinery going, because I know how to do that. I think God kind of blinded me just so that I wouldn't be discouraged from continuing. 

"You see everything fell into place just when we needed it. It was there and open and we just walked through blind. 

"We didn't know what was really going on except God was doing something. We can see this now as we look back a lot better than we could then as we were going through it. Now we can just look back and see what an amazing, amazing accomplishment it was." We had opening day, March28, 1976. We had reserved 14 weeks with Jolly Roger, but we only had to stay there 13 weeks. Because on that 14th week, we opened here. "It was... a miracle,” Joe concludes.


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