In the summer of 1986, Irvine First Chinese Baptist Church (IFCBC) had just moved into the newly constructed Irvine Worship Center, after sharing facilities with two American Baptist Churches in two cities over the preceding decade. Immediately afterwards, Pastor Arthur Lum, who served as youth ministry director at IFCBC, co-founded Grave Haven (GH) ministries, although not formally named as such until years later, based on the vision of reaching English speaking Asian students attending the nearby University of California, Irvine (UCI). It was during the 1980’s that a high influx of Asian immigrants began to settle in Irvine, and attend the nearby schools. Coming from a very strong campus ministry background, Pastor Art identified the nearby UCI campus as a fertile ministry field, knowing that many Asian students would benefit from a ministry within a mile of campus.
The early years of GH’s efforts involved frequent campus visitations and small group ministries with students, so as to build up a core group of believers and reach the unsaved. Through successful small groups, and with time, we were able to build up a core group of believers that became committed to GH. Also, we were able to harvest a crop of new Christians from the fertile fields of UCI. Many of these brothers and sisters stayed on and furthered their commitment to Christ; some became GH leaders while others full time ministers of the Gospel with worldwide ministries, such as Campus Crusade for Christ International. We constantly praise God for the highly focused building years and the precious relationships in Christ that we developed.
As we were developing our college ministry, God blessed us with a growing second generation, consisting mainly of youthful English-speaking children of IFCBC members. With equal emphasis and efforts, Grace Haven served, trained, and equipped them. Our youth ministries include children’s worship, Sunday school classes, vacation bible school, and youth fellowships. It is a blessing to witness how many of yesterday’s youths have become today’s faithful Christians and committed leaders.
By the 1990’s, we had grown into a vibrant ministry serving a young congregation of Christians from a highly diverse ethnic background. In essence, Grace Haven was no longer a typical Chinese immigrant church, but instead had grown into a community church, serving the Irvine community. Since the stability of any church requires the support of a strong family base, we began to pray for the addition of married couples and families. God answered our prayers and married couples, some with young children, began to visit GH. To better serve these young families, we started various activity groups focusing on meeting their wide range of needs. As time progressed, God blessed us with a core group of young families that became committed to GH. They took on various planning and church growth responsibilities. Tom Mizera, our pastor at the time, recognized how rapid growth could bring about isolation of various groups from each other as a result of their own focused plans. Therefore, he emphasized the importance of church unity, and organized church community relationship building activities. Pastor Tom championed a tight-knit congregation, that is, various fellowships maintaining strong family ties to each other, and aligning their plans with GH’s overall vision. We enjoyed a period of successful Christ-centered relationship building and harmony among fellowships.
Also, it was during this period that our music ministry began to take on its present form. God brought talented brothers and sisters to our midst; their hard work has made our music worship a blessing to our members and visitors alike. The new millennium brought changes to GH. God blessed us with a new children's minister, a new associate pastor, and Pastor Francis Burgula who became our lead pastor in 2005. Thus far, we have experienced greater growth in our children, youth, and college ministries. We developed various children and youth focused ministries, such as nursery care, children’s worship, Sunday school classes, and youth fellowship to build up the next generation. Also, God added many newborns to our young families and brought forth a renaissance to our family ministry. We thank God for the current successes and pray for a unified vision as we continue to follow His lead.