FRESNO – “I had sensed God’s call for awhile, but my goal was to play football,” Don Hargis says.
From March 1992 to March 2013, Don Hargis served as Baptist men’s ministries specialist with the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) missions discipleship group in the areas of Disaster Relief, missions education, church recreation and men's ministries of every sort. He resigned in March, 2013 to become pastor of New Heights Church in Fresno. Don is continuing to serve as Disaster Relief coordinator and STRAM director until a new one is found.
“Playing football was all that I wanted to do,” Don continued. “Preaching did not fall into that. God did not let me know about Baylor or any other Southern Baptist school that had football programs. He knew that if I had gone there I might not have become a preacher.”
Born into a military family that included an older brother and younger sister, Don spent many childhood years in Okinawa; however, when Don was 14 years old, his father was transferred to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver.
After more than a year of attending church and seeking answers, 17-year-old Don accepted Christ as his Savior. He had a hunger to grow spiritually, and within six months he surrendered to God’s call to ministry. Following the godly example of his mentor and pastor, Carey J. Miller, Don felt led to preach. He majored in religion at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) in Shawnee.
“I always tell people that I crammed four years into seven to get my college degree,” Don joked. “During those years, I became a husband and a father to two children. I enjoyed managing the local Pizza Hut and later working as the warehouse foreman of the Shawnee Coca-Cola Bottling Company. I enjoyed making money, and I enjoyed the luxuries that gave. Plus, I was pastoring the Etowah Baptist Church in Etowah, Oklahoma. So I was going to school part-time, pastoring a church part-time, and working full-time.”
In 1992, Don left his position as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in North Edwards to assume his role as Baptist men’s ministries specialist. The managerial and administrative skills he learned at Pizza Hut and Coca-Cola helped prepare Don for his responsibilities with Baptist Men and Disaster Relief Ministries.
When Don Hargis was hired by California Southern Baptist Convention in March 1992, the Convention boasted a grand total of 100 trained Disaster Relief volunteers, and Don's supervisor reassured him, "Don't worry; Disaster Relief won't take much of your time."
Fast-forward two months: the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles. Cue the need for Disaster Relief.
Fast-forward to 2015: California Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Ministries consists of 55 units (including five for cleanup), more than 4,000 trained volunteers (including 750 chaplains), and the ability to provide 100,000 meals per day from the kitchens.
Hargis began STRAM (State Recreational Adventure Mountain) his first summer with the Convention. The camp is offered each summer. STRAM Camp is a six day, five night camp for youth grades 7-12.
"STRAM Camp specializes in team-building, stretching people by putting them in life-endangering situations, to teach them trust and faith in their own abilities and especially in God's," Hargis explained.
He has used STRAM Camp to achieve multiple goals simultaneously. For one, the camp is a venue for training Disaster Relief volunteers in mass feeding. Second, and in an effort to increase missions education (a component of his ministry), Hargis includes a camp missionary at camp.
"It was the best thing I did for STRAM Camp, and all the churches who come really enjoy having that person there," he said.
"God used me for 21 years to build a ministry for Him that He continues to blow me away with," said Hargis, who was born in Chico but moved often through his childhood as a "military brat."
He served as an interim pastor for 12 churches during his 21 years at the Convention, and for the last six years said he felt more and more impressed about returning to the pulpit.
"I just kept saying, 'God, if you want me to go back, open the doors and keep them open,' and now that's what He's done."
Don earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University and a master of divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Shirley, have three children and 10 grandchildren.
Don still loves football. He’s been a loyal Denver Broncos fan since 1968.
Don’s message to California Southern Baptists:
“I cannot do my job without volunteers. There is just no way. My job is too huge. The volunteers that partner with me through these organizations work hard and giving the Father all the glory. We believe in AGTG (All Glory to God.)
If it wasn't for them, we could not do what we do in California to affect change in people's lives. We are looking for volunteers who have a passion to serve the Father. If you want to serve, there is a place for you for as long as you are able to serve passionately."
Don’s life Bible verse:
“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5, KJV).
Don’s prayer requests:
- Pray that as government becomes more involved in disaster relief activities, they will call on us to help those in need.
- Pray that church planters can establish Bible studies and church plants after disaster relief deployments and disaster rebuild opportunities.
- Pray that the Father will continue to bless CSBDRM by continuing to lead California Southern Baptist churches to financially support His ministry to disaster survivors.
- Pray for the new Director of CSBDRM.
- I praise the Lord for my family and for His continued watch over them.
- I praise the Father for my church
- I praise the Lord for the many CSBC volunteers who have a passion to serve those in need.
- I praise the Lord for the way the disaster relief ministry has blossomed and for how we are beginning to see the effects of our work for the Father in our state.
Did you know?
Mountain STRAM is a camp for youth in grades 7-12. Daily activities include missionary moments, evening worship, white-water rafting, climbing/repelling, adventure recreation, canoeing and map and compass activities, as well as other activities.
678 E. Shaw Avenue
Fresno, CA 93710
559-229-9533, ext. 246
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