New Interim Pastor now serving First Baptist Church

New Interim Pastor now serving First Baptist ChurchBy LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

A few years after Interim Pastor Paul Mondragon of the First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest converted to Christianity, he was given the opportunity to present the closing benediction at a Pastor Appreciation Dinner. “It was supposed to be a few minutes and it turned into 20 minutes,” he remembers, slightly embarrassed. “But everybody was really patient with me, at least they appeared to be.” He explains, “I kind of expanded Romans 15:30-32 where Paul talks about praying for him. And that was the point; it was one thing to cook a meal for our pastor but it is another to pray for him on a regular basis.”

This when he realized that the years of pursuing his studies of the Bible were for this purpose. “That was my first time to teach from the Word and I remember immediately after that thinking to myself that I had just committed occupational suicide, meaning I just wanted to preach.”

His Bachelor’s of Science in Secondary Education and his Masters of Science in Mathematics provided a career in teaching high school math and now he loves his job on the base as a Mathematician doing modeling, simulation, analysis and supporting documentation. Yet his heart is in preaching.

“Hearing from people that they got something out of it was confirmation that it wasn’t just me trying to make something that is not really there. I want to be helpful and fruitful to the people of God.”

Mondragon and his wife, Yolanda, moved to Ridgecrest in June 2003. He says, “We quickly got involved with a group that eventually formed Cornerstone Bible Church. We were there for about ten years.” He started as a Deacon helping with the administration and the running of the church. Then he became an Elder, “I would help with the leading of the church. An Elder in that church is the same thing as a Pastor. I had opportunities to preach. Our Co-Elder at the time did the majority of preaching but we collaborated pretty well.”

Mondragon continues, “About 2013 we left there and ended up at the base chapel without an official role. We had a great opportunity to be involved in church life. Yolanda really likes to do things like fellowship – social gatherings of the body after a service. After leaving the chapel we started coming here to First Baptist Church. I was selected as a Deacon, then this April our Pastor joined the Navy to serve as a Chaplain, so I am an interim pastor at this point as we work out if we are going to have a full-time pastor.”

Pastor Paul and Yolanda are a good team in service to First Baptist Church. Pastor Paul is more of an introvert who loves to study and share the Word. Yolanda provides balance, he tells us, “Yolanda is much more social and better at engaging with people. That helps a lot. She works a lot with planning things like baby showers and potluck meals and all of that stuff that is an important part of the church life because those things are a common thread to each of us. We all like to get together and spend time together.”

Mondragon wants to share how he sees the mission of the Church, by which he means all believers, “Our desire, our goal, our mission as a Church is to glorify Christ and by showing forth the love and grace is Christ is one aspect of how we do that and another important aspect is in preaching and teaching of His Word.”

The First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest was established in the early 1950’s and started with a little chapel that is still on the church property which now includes a Sanctuary, classrooms, an office and a separate Fellowship Hall with a commercially certified kitchen. Mondragon tells us, “We have Adult Sunday School beginning at 9am until about 10am, currently we are going through a video series that is an overview of the Bible. Then at 1030 to about noon we have our morning Worship Service. Wednesday and Thursday we have Bible Studies from 6 – 7pm. I lead the Wednesday Bible Study where we are currently going through the Gospel of Matthew. On Thursday Lou Donally leads a Women’s Bible study.”

Laura Austin Photo: Interim Pastor Paul Mondragon of the First Baptist Church of Ridgecrest.

Story First Published: 2021-08-20