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Below is an excerpt from this month's feature story, "California's Boondoggle Express," about Gov. Jerry Brown's decades long obsession with bringing high-speed rail to the Golden State.
Tucked between E. California Avenue and Edison Highway in a dusty corner of Bakersfield, California, sits the First Free Will Baptist Church and Bethel Christian School. Since 1949, the church and, subsequently, the school, have served the community of East Bakersfield in a mission of Christian outreach and quality, affordable education.
While Bakersfield oil fields have helped the city escape much of the chronic unemployment that afflicts most of the San Joaquin Valley, the eastern portion of the town has long been less than affluent. Most of the surrounding residents are among low-income and lower-middle- income households, and the streets are lined with modest homes and small, family-owned businesses.
“In 1964 the membership of the church elected my grandfather, C.E. Hames, as the pastor,” Michael Kennedy, principal of Bethel Christian School, tells Townhall. “Under his leadership the church purchased some 22 lots and built five new buildings, including the existing educational facility. With the goal of training Christian youth to go into all walks of life, he then established Bethel Christian School in 1980, and he served as the first school principal.”
Leaders and stakeholders of the church/school facility see their ministry as a beacon of hope in an otherwise rough part of town. While other private schools in the greater Bakers- field area cost anywhere between $4,000—$12,000 per year in tuition, Bethel Christian School strives to meet the needs of the most vulnerable youth—providing an accredited Christian education at half the cost.
Yet, the continued success of the congregation’s ministry is currently in jeopardy.
The facility is situated between the two proposed routes of California’s High Speed Rail project, set to cut through the city of Bakersfield to connect California’s Northern regions of San Francisco and Sacramento to its Southern metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego.
“The loss of this ministry facility would be unfortunate,” says Kennedy, a fourth-generation church member. “But, as we have noted in correspondence with the High Speed Rail Authority, all we desire is full mitigation or compensation, so this ministry can continue to help the local community.”
You can read the rest of Amanda Munoz's article in Townhall Magazine's June issue.