Valley Evangelical Free Church began in the summer of 1991 as a Bible study led by Dr. Wally Norling, Superintendent of the Southwest Evangelical Free Churches. Starting with only two couples, we soon expanded to twelve people after an advertisement was put in the local paper about an Evangelical Free Church Bible study meeting in the San Jacinto Valley. Wally declared that we were ready to begin looking for a facility in November.
On January 19, 1992, we held our first worship service at the Virgin Mortuary (presently the Hemet Valley Mortuary). It was an exciting time, as we trusted our God to meet the needs a church has at its inception. A trailer was provided to haul our portable church each Sunday, and we scoured garage sales to furnish office equipment, greenery, etc. Each week we would change the soft pink light bulbs in the slumber rooms to bright 100 watt bulbs for our children’s church.
We elected qualified men to serve as elders and have continued that polity since the beginning. Within the first six months, the board drafted a constitution, and the congregation voted in favor of it. In March of 1992, we were inducted into the Southwest Conference of the Evangelical Free Churches of America. By September of 1992, we outgrew the mortuary and moved to the fellowship hall of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Hemet. While there, we called our first pastor, Jeffrey Clark, who preached his initial sermon on Easter Sunday of 1993.
During the summer of 1994, we sent a team of ten members to Russia for a two-week mission trip. We began Adult Bible Fellowships on Sunday morning. Home fellowships during the week were a hallmark of our church. We had gifted volunteers leading worship and directing our children’s and youth programs.
In June of 1996, we received a phone call that the “roof was falling” at the SDA church, and we would have to find a new place to worship. So…after three weeks of enjoying the great outdoors in the SDA parking lot for our worship service, we secured the all purpose room at Fruitvale Elementary School. The church continued to grow numerically and spiritually, and it was evident that we needed to begin praying about our own facility.
In June of 1998 we purchased the property at Lake and Lincoln. Prior to the ground-breaking in October 2000, we had the opportunity to move to the all-purpose room at Bautista Creek Elementary School adjacent to the property we were purchasing. Our first service in our new church facility was September 29, 2002! Celebrating 10 years of nomadic existence, we were ready and thankful to begin this new chapter with a permanent building from which to worship and serve God in this community.
Within a year, we realized that an extension of the “wings” would be in order. A building project resulted in our being able to build one wing with the hope that someday we would be able to extend the other side of the building, too. A full time staff person was hired in January 2004 with ministry emphasis in youth, children, and discipleship arenas. The position was vacated a year later and we have hired part-time staff since then. Those individuals presently serve as administrative director, youth director, children’s director and worship director. Jeffrey Clark invested over 16 years of outstanding ministry with us as Pastor-Teacher and accepted a call to another church in August of 2009. He left our church body and leadership in good health and spirit.
God supplied several wonderful interims during our time of transition. Pastor Bill Gillis began service as our pastor in October 2010.