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New Auburn church gives hope to adverse group

Pastor strives to rebuild broken lives
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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When it comes to the Life of Christ Ministry’s new church in Auburn, the nave is perhaps as unassuming as the pastor.

Renting the Tahoe Building at the fairgrounds for its Sunday service since December, a Christmas Tree in the corner is about the lone decoration, standing out among the gray walls, an abundance of natural light shining in through the windows lining the back of the room.

Pastor Rodney Waldrop would like to spruce it up some, maybe get a bigger cross, or even a bridge for the congregation to walk over. He’s a visual teacher, and it’d be sending a message he’s leading his parishioners from one life to the other, he said.

Many of them have a checkered past, some with criminal records, others have struggled with substance abuse, but, as Waldrop says, “love the sinner, not the sin.”

Waldrop’s personable sensibilities are what keep Auburn’s Karen Rubidoux, 56, coming back every Sunday. Rubidoux said she never really felt she belonged at any other of the area churches she tried in years past – feeling the pastors talked down to her.

“He is the kind of pastor that actually speaks to you as a human being, and not just trying to read to you from the bible and what the bible says,” she said.

The Pentecostal Life of Christ Ministry began in 1984 and has several locations – Waldrop was the former pastor for its Yuba City congregation – and it has a heartbeat for reaching people in prisons, rescue missions, jails as well as the community as a whole.

It is not an intimidating environment, Rubidoux said.

“I know people think of the prison system and it is not that way,” she said. “Yes, you’re going to see folks with tattoos and you’re going to see real, plain folks and simple folks. That’s what I think most of us are – country folks.

“We wear our Levis to church, and someday, maybe God willing, we’ll wear some (dress) clothes and have a bigger church and get out there to people.”

Waldrop said he didn’t necessarily set out to cater to a certain crowd and people from all walks of life are welcome; once word spread about his ministry, people with troubled pasts began seeking solace there. The first Sunday, on Dec. 2, 35 people came to the service; on Dec. 30, 15 attended, he said.

Waldrop said it fills a niche that is “very important.”

“If we are struggling with something, then they have to have a place they can feel safe and have hope and be accepted,” Waldrop said. “So, you’re walking out with a strike or as a parolee … they’ve already got that reputation, or label.

“We just see the person and help the person realize their full potential.”

Rubidoux had to rebuild her life after the death of her husband, niece and biological father all around 1993 sent her spiraling into drugs, becoming addicted to crystal methamphetamine and painkillers, eventually leading to a five-month jail term for using and distributing drugs, she said.

Rubidoux said she has been sober since 1997, the year she was released from jail, and while she was able to get off drugs through the help of a 10-month program, it took her longer to get over her anger with God.

After her husband died of liver cancer, she turned her back on religion, she said.

“I was filled with so much rage and anger. How could God take away a man that loved his wife and took care of his wife and took care of his children?” Rubidoux said.

It took her 10 years to let religion back into her life, but it took her about as long after that before she went back to church, as Life of Christ Ministry in Auburn is her first since then, she said.

It was her son, who happens to be Waldrop’s neighbor, who suggested she give it a try.

“I said I would be willing to come one time, and we’ll see how it goes after that. And I just really love the church,” Rubidoux said. “Because Pastor Rodney and everybody that’s here is like a family.”

Unlike other churches she’s tried in the area, she said she doesn’t feel an expectation of dressing a certain way – women don’t need to wear dresses, men don’t need to wear suits.

“We’re not the kind of people that have a lot of money,” Rubidoux said. “I drive a ’93 car. I don’t have a lot of money, and Pastor Rodney, he didn’t care about any of that. All he cares about is teaching us.”

Integration back into society for people released on parole or probation from jail comes with numerous challenges, including the basics of life skills and housing, said David McManus, Placer County assistant chief probation officer.

In September, the Placer County Probation Department teamed with county health and human services, law enforcement and community providers to begin a monthly program that connects people to resources for reintegration, McManus said. It has had 115 participants, he said.

“We do see those challenges for that population, and that’s why we began our program,” McManus said. “Obviously, we have a stake in making sure they reintegrate as smoothly as possible for community safety purposes.”

Rodney said people should be given a chance to make things right.

“Maybe they’re not there yet, but in my eyes, they’re going to get there, and it’s my job to lift them up and not tear them down,” he said. “Do I think it’s silly, some of the choices they make? Yeah we all make stupid choices. But we’ve got to help them so when the times get tough they don’t make those choices.”

 

Jon Schultz can be reached at jons@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews