He was once the Chief of Police at the Placentia Police Department, in Southern California
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
YORBA LINDA, CA (ANS – October 4, 2016) – Former California Police Chief, Hal Fischer, who along with his wife, Sharon, helped to recruit Chuck Smith as the pastor of the then recently-formed Calvary Chapel, died today (Tuesday, October 4, 2016) at around 10 AM.
Chief Fischer passed away at his home in Yorba Linda, California, with Sharon and other family members and friends at his side, after suffering from a lot of pain for some time.
Dave Rolph, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Pacific Hills, California, paid tribute to his friend on Facebook, saying, “Hal Fischer was one of the best men I’ve ever known in my life. He went to heaven this morning. Hal was an important part of my life for most of my adult life. He always believed in me and prayed for me, even when no one else did.
“Hal was on the church board at Calvary Chapel when they first hired Pastor Chuck, and he was a faithful friend to Chuck ever since. Hal will be sorely missed but he wanted to go to heaven in the worst way and I’m happy for him, but heartbroken for us.
“Every Sunday morning, he would text me after my first service after he listened to it on the radio. He was such an encouragement to me and Sunday’s will never be the same. I love you Hal!”
Barbara Romine, a family friend, said, “He [Hal] was quite a guy! A tower of strength right to the very end.”
The birth of the first Calvary Chapel, now known as Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, which has grown into worldwide movement of around 1,600 churches, began more than 50 years ago in a humble way when Hal and Sharon Fischer, along with a few friends, gathered for the first time in a humble trailer park recreation room on Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa, California.
“We stood on the threshold — the enormity of what was before us we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams. ‘The Lord was in this place, and we didn’t know it’–– this could have been said of the ten or twelve people who gathered that first Sunday on a spring morning in 1961,” wrote Sharon Fischer in her book, “I Remember… The Birth of Calvary Chapel.” (https://www.amazon.com/I-Remember-Birth-Calvary-Chapel/dp/B01HVGVS92).
They later moved to another facility in Costa Mesa, and in a moving tribute to “Pastor Chuck” for ANS, following his death on October 3, 2013, Sharon Fisher gave more information on those early days.
She first talked about “This man, whose beautiful smile my husband Hal, and I, first encountered…appeared before a small congregation in a little church on Church Street, Costa Mesa, California, called Calvary Chapel. There were only about 50 of us, and during a time of dissention when things were not going well for us, the board of trustees arranged for interim pastors to take the pulpit. After several men, some of them professors from what is now Vanguard University, filled the pulpit, we heard about a man whom we were encouraged to invite to speak.
“Chuck arrived, and we heard the Bible taught in such a simple yet profound way that we were in awe of how God’s love was being revealed to us. It was a new way — different from anything we had heard for most of our lives, having been raised in denominational churches. Chuck Smith’s teaching was what we had been yearning for but hadn’t been able to describe. We knew that what we had just heard was exactly what we’d been longing for.
“The board was convinced that this was a man sent from God, so the next step was to take it to the congregation for a vote. In November of 1965, Pastor Chuck Smith was unanimously voted in as our pastor. He moved his family from Corona — his wife, Kay, their sons, Chuck Jr., and Jeff, and their daughters Janette and Cheryl. He held his first service on Sunday, December 5, 1965. We soon learned that we would be studying the Bible from cover to cover, beginning in Genesis and reading 10 chapters a week for our homework. The Sunday morning topic was taken from these 10 chapters, and the evening service was an in-depth study, verse by verse. We all began to bring our Bibles to church, and we entered the New Year with much anticipation and excitement. We had never heard the Bible taught like this before!
“The church began to grow exponentially and soon thousands from every walk of life would be joining us, taking notes and underlining scripture verses. The body of Christ was being armed spiritually, and the many thousands to follow would tell others what they had learned. The news of the Gospel was being spread across our nation by this first generation of Calvary Chapel believers because they had been well taught by this pastor/teacher.”
She went on to say, “Chuck Smith was not one to take life easy. Besides the five weekly church services, he also held home Bible studies. In those early days, he was the first to come to the aid of anyone in the congregation who needed help. He would roll up his sleeves and get under the hood to fix a car for someone who couldn’t afford a mechanic. He helped to pour a patio and to replace a water heater in one couple’s home, and he helped to rewire another home. He was always ready-pushing a broom or using a pick and shovel to help renovate the newly purchased conference centers. On a napkin in a restaurant he drew out the plans to remodel the platform of the little chapel on Church Street. The year progressed with Pastor Chuck calling for special workdays to keep our church in good repair.
“As we look back at the phenomenal growth of Calvary Chapel, I still remember the first hippie kids who flooded through the doors. They had finally found a church that would accept them and love them and a pastor and his wife who had a heart for this lost generation. They filled the churches that we outgrew and then the tent to overflowing as they sat, mesmerized, being taught by this balding guy in his early 40s, who explained God’s Word like a loving father. In fact, for many he became the father they had never known, and it wasn’t long before he was referred to as ‘Papa Chuck.’
“I just spoke to Jack Hibbs, pastor of a 10,000-member congregation from Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills. He told me that Chuck was the only father he had ever known. Many other young pastors say that Chuck was their mentor, whom they also looked up to as a loving dad.”
She went on to write, “I am listening to KWVE (www.kwve.com) in the background as I write, and I’m hearing Pastor Chuck singing, “The Love of God,” — his rich baritone voice belting out the words that I remember him singing so long ago before a Sunday morning service. My mind and heart are filled with memories of the times we spent together after Sunday services, going out to lunch with anyone who wanted to come. After lunch, Chuck would take our twins and the other children down to See’s Candies and buy them suckers.
“In the coming years, our children and grandchildren were baptized along with many hundreds down at little Corona by their friend, Pastor Chuck, as he stood in the water, baptizing one after another for hours on end. Our son, Lonnie, just posted on Facebook his memories of knowing Chuck all of his life — he was only 10 months old when Chuck came and was 10 years old when Chuck baptized him. Lonnie said, ‘I can hear Pastor Chuck saying to me now, with that big smile and that chuckle that he gave me every time he would see me, ‘Ha ha, Lon. ALL Right…I’M GOING TO HANG OUT IN HEAVEN, MAN!’
“For my family, Hal, Terri Ann, Lynnette, and Lonnie, I can say, “Hey, Chuck, soon and very soon, we will be hanging out in heaven with you and with Jesus, whom you taught us to love.”
Many are now wondering what Hal Fischer’s first words will be when he meets up with Pastor Chuck in heaven. They will sure have a lot of reminiscing to do.
Besides his untiring work for many years as a board member of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Hal Fischer had a distinguished career in law enforcement. It included: Chief of Police, Placentia Police Department, Placentia, CA 9 years; Chief of Police, Marysville Police Department, Marysville, CA 3 years, and a Lieutenant of Police, Costa Mesa Police Department, Costa Mesa, CA 20 years.
Hal and Sharon Fischer were regular guests on my radio and TV shows, and I was always impressed with their humility and love for the Lord. If you like to post a message for Sharon Fischer at this time of loss, her Facebook page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/sharon.fischer.750.
And finally, right up until the end, Hal would post a beautiful daily illustrated scripture verse, and Sharon has announced that their son, Lonnie, will continue his father’s labor-of-love. You can get more details on Sharon’s Facebook page. Don’t miss out on this is a wonderful way to start your day.
Photo captions: 1) Hal and Sharon Fischer with President George H.W. Bush. 2) A more recent picture of Hal and Sharon Fischer. 3) Hal and Sharon with Pastor Chuck Smith. 4) Sharon Fischer with a copy of her book about the early days of Calvary Chapel. 5) Dan Wooding interviewing Hal and Sharon Fischer on the His Channel Live television show.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and also for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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