On January 9, 2013, Pastor Bill Martin went to get his reward, he finished his race after serving the Lord. Since he gave his life to God as a teenager in Texas.
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His then grandmother Rosie Martin asked God to give her a preacher. Pastor Martin was the youngest of six children and lived with his grandmother as he was growing up. She instilled the love of God in his heart by taking him to church. Pastor Martin had said he wished to become a lawyer. He told the story of how he got on a bus to travel to Chicago to enroll in a law school but while on the bus God started talking to him about what God wanted him to be. Pastor Martin then got off the bus to return to his Granny's house. He said it was late in the morning and as he entered the house Granny said, "Billy is that you?" When he responded, "yes", she said, "I have been praying for you and that started his life's calling to serve God."
Pastor Martin at the age of 19, went to Corsicana Texas to inquire about preaching in the Texas area. While there, he met his future father in-law Pastor Joe Rhea. While talking to Pastor Rhea, he heard a piano playing in the nearby church, his sweetheart as he referred to her, came outside Lenora Rhea. She become his wife. He asked God for a wife that would help him in the ministry a short time later they were married in between services at a fellowship meeting. In 1962, after hearing from God, Pastor moved to California with three children Donna, Billy and David. While in Hanford, Michael was born and then a short time later Timmy was born in Tulare. Pastor then moved to the Bakersfield area and started churches in Wasco and Shafter that began his calling as a Pastor.
In 1972, Pastor Martin was entrusted by a friend to come and help a small church in Porterville. At that time Pastor said he did not want to be a Pastor but he would help. The first Sunday there were five people. Pastor once said because there were seven Martins that morning that the church doubled over night and that started 38 years of ministry here in Porterville, California.
During that time most importantly at 175 on F and Walnut, Gospel Lighthouse Church was established. During those years many people came to appreciate his acceptance of them, regardless of color, age or background. Pastor mentored many men and women who would later become Pastor's, Preachers, Teachers, Evangelists, Apostles and many other disciples who are serving Christ today.
Pastor was a great man of faith who taught people to trust God and that God was able to do the impossible, in 1989 God spoke to Pastor Martin about building a new church debt free, that seemed impossible, "But with man it is impossible but with God all things are possible" (Mark 10:27), Pastor then passed that vision onto his congregation. The people responded to his vision and through many sacrificial offerings and pledges his vision became a reality. In August of 1996, the congregation of Gospel Lighthouse Church moved into its current location, this was truly a miracle performed by God. Through the years Pastor taught the word of God concerning God's gifts and that if they would apply God's word even their visions could come to pass.
Many people have said through his encouragement and teachings truly God has blessed them. Pastor Martin was known for his warm smile and gentle ways always approachable and for his love and acceptance of people, teaching forgiveness and compassion just as Christ showed compassion for all. During his 38 years of ministry, Pastor planted seeds of hope and faith in God truly Pastor Bill and Lenora Martin are still reaping a harvest of souls for the kingdom. Many calls of condolences have been received telling how Pastor planted a seed that changed their lives, his legacy will continue to be known in Porterville for many years to come. Pastor would say don't cry for me "For I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have remained faithful", (2 Timothy 4:7).
Pastor Martin was preceded in death by his sweetheart Lenora and many other loved ones. Pastor Martin is survived by his daughter Donna Baeza and her husband Ralph, sons Billy Martin and his wife Joanna, David Martin and his wife Grace, Michael Martin, Timmy Martin and his wife Denise, thirteen grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and many spiritual sons and daughter.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Gospel Lighthouse Church located at 605 E. Henderson on January 25, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
For more information please call Gospel Lighthouse Church at 781-1740 or Alice Escalante at 333-1117/facebook.
Published in The Porterville Recorder on Jan. 19, 2013