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Calvary Chapel Dohuk will be the first Calvary Chapel in Northern Iraq

Dave Gonzales, senior of pastor of Calvary Chapel Cerritos, California, has just made the move of his life — despite serious ill health issues.

Andrew, Dave and Jenny Gonzales at KWVE 107.9 FM
in Southern California after an interview with Dan
Wooding for his Front Page Radio progra

Along with his wife, Jenny, and son Andrew, he has moved to Kurdistan, also known as “The Other Iraq” because of its safety record amid the violence in the rest of the country, to start a Calvary Chapel in the city of Dohuk.

However, the move was nearly hijacked when Gonzales discovered that he had a serious kidney illness.

Before he left, the pastor explained it in this way: “I had some dye injected into my veins five years ago for a stent placement in my heart, and it caused my kidney function to drop from 100% to a 54% function. As each year passed the % of function would drop slightly. It continued slowly to drop yearly until recently when I had my most recent blood test.

“My kidney function has now dropped to 12%. Unfortunately, that is the level they normally begin dialysis. The symptoms of kidney failure is fatigue, weakness, leg pain and cramps, difficulty breathing at times and if left untreated, sudden death!

“I told the kidney specialist my ‘plans’ to move to Iraq and plant the church there. He is a good friend. I told him that my fear was NOT dying in serving God, but my ONE fear was becoming so ill and debilitated that I would not be able to get around adequately, from being so sick and bed ridden, that I couldn’t serve, teach and minister to the Body there.”

Andrew and Karlen, on their
wedding day

But now, Gonzales has said that he is “trusting God to keep him well,” and is also thrilled to announce that his son, Andrew, has got married to Karlen, a worship leader in Kurdistan. He even conducted the ceremony.

He told ANS, “I am feeling good but still have the symptoms of the kidney failure, but doing much better physically than when I was in USA!”

In a message from his new apartment in Dohuk, Gonzales said, “It’s Saturday here and is one of a three-day holiday for the Kurdish New Year! The town is closed up except for a few places. Jenny is busy rearranging the apartment furniture in preparation for the arrival of Andrew and Karlen and her whole family.

“They will be here sometime next Saturday and will spend the night here and we’ll return with them [to Erbil] as we need to take care of our next step of the immigration process which we are hoping will grant us six months on our passport to stay.”

He explained that Andrew, his newly-married son, “is on his way to being an Iraqi ‘citizen’ since he married Karlen, and is now planning to try and get a job teaching English at a local university.

Speaking about the wedding, he said, “Andrew was married on March 11th in Ainkawa, the Christian suburb of Erbil. Great wedding customs! Andrew is here for the long haul and has adapted amazingly well.

Dave Gonzales pictured outside his favorite store in Dohuk

“He will need to get established with his own support base from the United States to continue the work I start here,” said the pastor. “We’re hoping that he and Karlen will find an apartment that is only half what Jenny and I we pay here. There are supposed to be occasional rentals here for $300 to $350 per month, for an unfurnished place. Please pray that one of those opens up for Andrew when Jenny and I move back to our church family at Cerritos in July.”

Gonzales then said that Noha, a friend from Kurdistan, had helped them get the apartment in Dohuk, and added, “She has gotten so much done for us! She even took us to the bazaar on our first day here to buy towels, a set of bed sheets and a comforter. This past week she went with us to two banks and finally to Western Union to get our financial support channel open for us.

“She also helped us buy groceries, water, propane for the stove, and then took us for pizza and salad, all the while, leaving her job as a very busy civil engineer.

“Please pray for our dear little sister Noha. Besides being a bold witness at her workplace, she continues to translate Pastor Chuck Smith’s Through the Bible Studies into Arabic for worldwide distribution. Please pray for her as she is a prime target of the devil.”

Dave Gonzales preaching in Dohuk

He then said, “It is raining here right now. Cold and gray out today. It’s about 2 p.m. as I write this. This week sometime Jenny and I will greet Raghad, a precious little sister who will be returning to Dohuk after a two year stay in Beirut, Lebanon, to gain her Master’s Degree.

“Her brother Mohanad recently was married to Heather Mercer, the American missionary taken captive in Afghanistan by the Taliban following 9/11. I met Raghad and her family at our first Bible Conference here in October 2008.

“She will arrive with Heather this Tuesday and we’re invited to be part of the celebration both for her graduation and Heather’s wedding.

“Dolma and Beriyani, and all other sorts of food, will be there. The amazing thing is that her Mom and Dad live in the next building from ours and it is just a short walk over there! She’s a sweet girl and is also very beautiful.”

Dave Gonzales went on to say, “This week I will be having at least two young men over to the apartment to share the Gospel with them and prayerfully and hopefully begin a weekly time to meet with them. I have asked them to bring friends. There is risk in this but that’s our heritage.”

He concluded by saying, “I miss my family at Cerritos and look forward to both seeing what God will start here and what he will do after I have left Iraq. The opportunities are boundless for Christ. But there is much opposition. Pray for us.”

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