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The story of Harbor Christian Center begins in the 1930s. God spoke to Helen Carl, and her husband Norman, about a place called Wilmington. He wanted them to build a church there. 

Originally called “Ye Old Time Gospel Mission,” Pastor Helen and a small congregation first met in an old grocery store building located in East Wilmington. Drunks, street people, and dockworkers often came in to hear the Gospel message. The crowds continued to grow until there was standing room only in the church. The presence of God was so strong that unsaved people ran up to the altar even before the sermon was preached. 

In 1937 during a Sunday morning service, a telegram arrived informing the church that their building was scheduled to be torn down. A new four lane highway, now known as Pacific Coast Highway, was being built and the church was right in its path! After much prayer and a series of miraculous events, Pastor Helen and the congregation were able to rebuild the church on the side of the new highway. It was truly a labor of love as dozens of church members volunteered their time and resources. 

Ye Old Time Gospel Mission was a vibrant church, filled with the power of God. Not even World War II could dampen the move of the Holy Spirit. Because of Wilmington’s close proximity to the naval base, the area came under the “blackout” rules: When air raid sirens sounded, lights had to be dimmed. In order to hold church services, windows had to be covered and only one candle was allowed inside. Even under these precarious conditions, the church continued to thrive. 

The Gospel Mission also demonstrated an innovativeness not found in many churches. For instance, a loudspeaker was installed outside of the church, which allowed people to listen to the worship and the teaching while seated in their cars. Many lives were impacted for Jesus through this unconventional method. 

After 10 years of pastoring, Helen and Norman resigned to go into evangelistic work. Pastor Joe Watkins led the congregation for two years. Then, in 1947, Pastor Herbert Ezell, along with his wife Edna, and their two young sons, Herold and Don, moved to Wilmington. Pastor Herbert became the new shepherd of the church. This transition would mark the start of a new chapter in the church's story.

The growing congregation and its new pastor saw the need for land and a building that would allow for future growth, so property was purchased along Wilmington Boulevard in 1948. With the new location came a new name: “Boulevard Assembly of God.” There were frequent prayer meetings and revival services often lasting into the early morning hours. The worship and preaching were always lively and Spirit-filled. 

While Pastor Herbert taught the uncompromising Word of God, he also understood the difference between Biblical principles and manmade religious traditions. Through his ministry, the old ways of thinking began to change, but the gospel message maintained its integrity.

Pastor Herbert also understood that the youth of the church needed fun and fellowship along with spiritual instruction. He and Alline Grim worked to provide a variety of activities for the next generation. 

In 1961, Pastor Herbert took a sabbatical and Pastor Leonard Nipper led the church until 1970 when Pastor Herbert returned, filled with the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. A dynamic new era in the life of the church started and it was confirmed with mighty miracles, signs, and wonders. 

In 1973, the name of the church was officially changed to Harbor Christian Center. God used Pastor Herbert to create a space where people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages felt welcomed and accepted. 

The 70’s at Harbor Christian Center were characterized by life-changing teaching from guest speakers such as Derrick Prince, Kenneth Copeland, and Kenneth Hagan. 

In 1974, Pastor Herbert accepted an invitation to teach about the Holy Spirit in Los Mochis, Mexico. During this time of ministry Father Lomeli, a Roman Catholic priest, was baptized in the Holy Spirit. With financial support from the congregation, the church became the owner of a six-passenger airplane that flew monthly mission trips to Mexico. Even after surviving a plane crash, the team continued to minister in Mexico, following the purchase of a new airplane.


Pastor Herbert always saw the importance of investing in the next generation. In 1978, his vision for a Christian school was realized when Happy Harbor Preschool opened its doors with eight students. It soon grew into Pacific Harbor Christian School, including grades K-12.

Pastor Herbert died unexpectedly on September 9, 1986. A few weeks later, his son and daughter-in-law, Don and Linda Ezell, became the new pastors of the church. 

Under Pastor Don and Linda’s leadership, Harbor Christian Center continued to be a beacon of hope for many. Through the years, the church stayed true to its Pentecostal roots and maintained a strong community involvement. 

Even after two fires, one in 2007 and the other 2008, destroyed most of the church building, the mission of the church was undaunted. In fact, Harbor Christian Center flourished and experienced great growth. Services were held in a tent for nine months as the sanctuary and classrooms were being repaired. In 2009, the church family rejoiced as they opened the doors to the newly remodeled building. God had brought beauty from the ashes. 

Harbor Christian Center has not only impacted the South Bay region, but has also had international influence. Through missionaries and a live Internet broadcast, the church has reached all 50 states and over 40 different countries.

But the mission has only just begun.

We have decided that we don't want to just hear stories of God's goodness. We want to be the ones telling them. 

We have decided that we don't want to just read about revival. We want to experience it. 

We have decided that we don't want to just go to church. We want to be the church. 

We have decided that the 9.14 square miles of Wilmington is an epicenter for Heaven to touch earth. 

Written January 2017