By Tori Benavente
Post-Record staff writer
The Pacific Northwest rain was falling madly as Juanita Hochhalter and her husband, Ben Hocchalter, arrived with their four children — including a newborn baby — and the family’s two truckloads’ worth of belongings at their new Camas home in December of 1960.
Juanita, 89, recalls the moment she saw a car filled with young men from the Camas Church of the Nazarene pull up to her family’s home and offer to help them with the moving.
“They hauled that piano in like it was toothpicks, and just did everything,” Juanita said. “It was amazing.”
Juanita and Ben may have been new to their home in 1960, but they had ties to the Nazarene Church going back to their teen years in the 1940s.
In fact, years of attending church picnics at Lacamas Lake and retreats to Rockaway, Oregon not only brought the couple together, but also helped connect them to their community.
The Camas Church of the Nazarene is known for bringing people together to help each other during times of need, Juanita says.
Now, the church is celebrating a century of ministry in the Camas area. A special event to commemorate the church’s 100-year anniversary will take place on Sunday, Aug. 20. The morning will begin with a historical photo viewing at 9:30 a.m., a worship service at 10:45 a.m. and a lunch following worship services.
Melissa Anderson, the church board’s hospitality steward, is spearheading the event. Anderson has attended the Camas church consistently since 1993, and has been saved, married and had her children dedicated and baptized within the church.
“When I became saved, the love I felt within the church made it feel like home,” Anderson said. “If I’m not home, then I’m here, and it’s another home — it’s a family, which causes my desire to serve to grow.”
Anderson said the church has allowed her to develop patience and get along with others with grace and a smile on her face.
“Sometimes that’s hard to do, but that’s probably been my biggest growth in doing that,” she said.
Anderson said that since Joe Crosby began as the lead pastor of the church, the Nazarene community has been more involved with the overall Camas community by participating in school donation drives and harvest parties.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do, we’re supposed to get outside the walls,” Anderson said of the church community. “The Nazarene Church is huge on missions, but a lot of time we focus on missions that are in other countries. We’re trying to focus on the mission of Camas-Washougal and what we can do in our own area.”
Pastor Crosby began at the Camas church in April of 2016, after spending five years as the lead pastor at Connection Point Church of the Nazarene in Hawaii.
The pastor said that there’s a sweet and interesting history of dedication within the Camas Church of the Nazarene.
“I’ve never lived in a place where people have so many roots (such as Camas),” he said. “This area has a lot of families that are all connected, and I’ve learned that people who have lived in a place for a while really value the things that are there — the traditions, the memories.”
The church aims to accomplish a mission of loving all, learning together and living in Christ.
Pastor Crosby strives to fulfill this mission by being there for his neighbors within and outside of the church.
He teaches classes at the church, but also attends them.
“As we spend time with people, we learn from one another, which is different than someone trying to convince another of something, it’s more of a discussion,” he said.
“To live in Christ is more central to the church, but as an individual, I aim to live like Jesus lived, by loving others and trying to set a good example and trying to be kind to those who need it, and teach others to love one another, too.”
Pastor Crosby said that the church is optimistic about the future, in that they would like to be more active in events or efforts to help the Camas-Washougal community. The church would like to offer a place for people to gather, connect and build relationships with one another.
The church also has a focus on building relationships with younger generations by being more involved with the schools or community events where younger community members can get involved.
“If anybody out there is looking for a place where they can connect and build friendships with others, and wants to make a real difference in genuinely loving their neighbor, we’d love to work with them,” Pastor Crosby said.
The pastor said the now 100-year-old church hopes to continue to grow, influence and do good things for the Camas-Washougal community.