by Nori Nicholas
Boca Raton was very much a retirement community back in the 60’s and 70’s, yet Spanish River Church was bursting with young people. There were basically three reasons for that: Rev’s, Ernie’s and Koinonia.
Because David loved sports, as soon as we were settled in town he started attending the sporting events at Boca Raton High School. He would wander out on the field after the games and meet the players. He became such an enthusiastic supporter of the Boca High Bobcats that he was asked to be the chaplain for the football team.
There was a big Christian youth concert in Fort Lauderdale, and David invited many of the football players to attend. He filled our car and drove them down. The young men had a great time together, and in the car on the way home they peppered David with questions about God, religion, faith, etc. At the end of the evening they asked if they could meet with him on a regular basis to talk about God. That was the beginning of “Rev’s”
“Rev’s” became a regular event at our little apartment. It seemed like the walls would burst with so many crammed inside! Many of the athletes and their dates would show up on Sunday evenings. It was a very simple format – one of the guys was a fairly good guitarist so he would perch on one of our kitchen stools and strum away as we sang the “Praise Songs” of that era. Then David would take the stool, and he would start with a Biblical theme and pretty soon he would be sidetracked by questions from the guys and gals.
The high school kids seemed to really enjoy having David’s personal attention, the camaraderie of the group and the freedom to ask any question. Many came to faith in Jesus during these fabulous fun-filled evenings.
I think back on those evenings with mixed feelings as so many of those young men ended up being slaughtered on the fields of Vietnam.
An important part of Boca Raton’s history came about when IBM opened a Research and Development plant on Yamato Road. It was all very secretive and despite the thousands of people who were working there, no outsider really knew what was going on inside. Come to find out, they were developing and creating the Personal Computer.
Among those who IBM brought to Boca was a tall, lanky redhead named Ernie Tomforde. He was an engineer/salesman who had a passion for Jesus and the Gospel. Ernie had worked in youth ministry before going to work at IBM.
Ernie and his wife Lena opened their home to share Jesus with students from FAU. Ernie was especially impressed by one of the students who came to his home, Donn Londeree. Ernie came to David one day with the suggestion that they join forces to reach FAU with the Gospel. He suggested that Spanish River Church support Donn Londeree as an on-site missionary to FAU.
The elders at Spanish River Church agreed to support Donn and Kay Londeree. The plan was that Donn would slowly, one course per semester, get his Masters degree in Finance. In the process he would use his status as a student to hold meetings on campus and share Jesus with students on campus. “Ernie’s” became the off-site meeting place for these FAU students, and many came to faith in Christ through this ministry.
Koinonia was the third reason why Spanish River was bursting with young people. There had been a drug recovery organization in Boca named the Elysium. It was a secular organization, but their chief counselor was a Christian lady named Paula Carlen.
When Elysium was about to close because of financial difficulties, Paula came to David with a request for funding. The Elders at Spanish River Church met with her, and they agreed to pick up the funding on the condition that the organization become Christ-centered and that it come under the authority of the church. The Elysium team agreed to the terms, and in recognition of this new status they abandoned their old name and renamed themselves Koinonia, a New Testament word that means “fellowship.”
Koinonia was an intense program for people who were truly committed to getting clean of their drug habit. In order to do this, they had to make themselves accountable to the leadership. Most of these young people had no home in the area so many duplexes in town were rented and used to house them. The church purchased an off-site building downtown (it is now owned by the Salvation Army), andKoinonia used this building for its counseling, small groups and coffee-house outreach.
Saturday night was outreach time! There were many fantastic musicians in the group, and they formed great bands that put on free concerts every Saturday night. An interesting fact about these outreach nights was the use of the “grid offense.” The main room was divided into an imaginary grid, and each segment of that grid became the “territory” of one or two mature believers. It was their task to reach out and befriend any stranger who wandered into their territory. The whole point was to make each person feel comfortable, accepted and welcomed.
Coming Up Next Week
New Location, Denomination And Ministry Opportunities