Pastor returns to fire up the grill for 25th year

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments

PASTOR RALPH GIPSON will be preaching and grilling at Hope Lutheran Church on Sun., July 8.

Ralph Gipson, who was raised a Baptist, hadn’t seen the inside of a church in 20 years. “It was all fire and brimstone… I was a young black militant back then,” he explains.

He returned to the fold, however, after he happened upon Hope Lutheran Church ay 6720 Melrose Ave. Gipson and his fiancĂ© were looking to get married, and Hope’s pastor Mark Rashbach agreed to perform the ceremony.

The following Sunday, Gipson attended services at Hope, and for the first time “I heard God being preached.”

There was something about the church that gave him confidence. “I was going through some financial rough spots. We lost our house, and I was sleeping in my car while my wife and kids stayed with relatives,” he recalled. In the meantime, Pastor Mark, who’d become friends with Gipson, helped him out.

Before long, Gipson landed a job selling cemetery plots, and his family was together again under one roof.

“I was thinking about all that Mark and the church had done for me, and I thought I could do a barbecue to say thanks.”

Twenty people showed up at the first event, held in Pan Pacific Park.

In the meantime, Gipson, who served on the church council at Hope and led several committees, graduated from seminary school, became a minister, and moved to Texas, where he led a congregation of 500 at a Lutheran church in Dallas before leaving that post recently to start a new church in Houston.

But he’ll return to Hope, as he has every year since 1987, to pay homage “because that’s where I found the Lord.

“That’s why I go back every year,” adds Gipson, who loads his car up with pots and pans for the two-day drive. “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do. They supported me and my children, they saw my kids through school. I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore.”

Community members are invited to the 25th annual Pastor Ralph’s Famous Texas Barbecue on Sun., July 8 at Hope Lutheran.

The meal, including ribs, beef brisket, chicken, smoked sausage and all the fixings, follows the 10:30 a.m. worship service, at which Gipson will preach.

Tickets are $25; kids 12 and under are free. Proceeds benefit Hope’s ministry.

Call 323-938-9135.

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