These words are from the 1992 nomination of Elder Hattie Bostic — founder and pastor of the Mt. Olive Apostolic Original Holy Church of God in Menlo Park — to the San Mateo County Women's Hall of Fame in 1992.
Since 1963, when she founded a tiny church in her Belle Haven living room with five others, Elder Bostic has been a force both in the church and the community. And two doctor's degrees later — one, a doctorate of divinity and the other in theology — she is now known as Dr. H.L. Bostic.
Under Dr. Bostic's leadership, the Mt. Olive church grew in size and reach. From a storefront on Newbridge Avenue, it expanded to a new church on Hamilton Avenue, built by members. A still bigger church and community center in the same location was completed in 1992, with Dr. Bostic serving as cheerleader, chief fundraiser, contractor and bricklayer.
Over the same period, Dr. Bostic and her flock of about 200 have tried to improve life in Belle Haven by tackling pervasive challenges of crime, education, affordable housing, homelessness, and substance abuse.
"I just can't say too much about her," says Matt Henry, president of the Belle Haven Homeowners Association and a former city planning commissioner. "With all the problems we have in the community, a lot of people will go to Mt. Olive to see if Elder Bostic can help.
"She helps," Mr. Henry continues. "She always does."
The Mt. Olive AOH Church of God has also become mother to some 24 other churches around the U.S. and even one in Kenya. Dr. Bostic increasingly travels around the country as a missionary to churches and fellowships in New York, Alabama, Florida and elsewhere.
"I'm not here a lot," says Dr. Bostic during an interview in her large office in the church — the day before taking off for another week at a convention in Mobile, Alabama.
This week, the church's 15th annual Pentecost National Convention will bring several hundred people to Menlo Park from Friday, July 7, through Sunday, July 16. They will seek fellowship, fun, and inspiration at workshops, seminars, study groups, and twice-daily services at the Mt. Olive Church.
A special Founder's Day program honoring Dr. Bostic will kick off "Pentecost 2006," with a 7 p.m. service at the church.
Faith and determination
Growing up in Mobile, Alabama, Hattie lived with many of the problems she helps fight now, including homelessness.
One of eight children in a broken home, raised by a sick and abused mother, Hattie went to work when she was 9. She chopped wood in a wood yard to support her family. "I'd go to school when I could, and chop wood when I could," she says. "I made $2 a week. At that time, $2 would almost buy groceries."
Part of the time, she says, she was homeless. "That's one of the reasons I've started so many programs to help the homeless."
As a rough and lonely teenager, Hattie meditated on how to get out of poverty, and began reading her Bible. Someone invited her to a revival at a local church. "The rest is history," she says.
Hattie journeyed to California twice as a teenager to join a couple of traveling evangelists. In 1958, she married their son, Leon Bostic, and settled in Menlo Park. "I started pastoring in 1960," Dr. Bostic recalls.
They raised five sons; now she has 12 grandchildren, mostly in California.
Mission in Menlo
In person, Dr. Bostic is warm, dignified, accessible; on the pulpit, her fiery sermons with pulsing rhetoric draw troubled souls toward salvation.
Her two sides have combined to build a passionate church that has become a powerful force improving the Belle Haven neighborhood and reaching out to charities around the Peninsula.
At the time of the Los Angeles riots of 1968, she founded the Crime Prevention Narcotics and Drug Education Center. For years the center hosted a parade during Crime Prevention Week, which ends the first Saturday in May. "I got involved to try and calm down the community," Dr. Bostic recalls. "We built rapport with the police department."
This year, Crime Prevention Week culminated in a carnival. "We gave out a lot of bicycles and televisions," Dr. Bostic says. "Young people come all the way from Richmond. We have job fairs."
Over the years, Dr. Bostic has had her ups and downs with the city of Menlo Park. She relishes the time — almost 40 years ago — she designed a storm drain system that was adopted by the city.
"I prayed about it. I asked God to get a plan; I stayed up until 2 a.m.," Dr. Bostic recalls. The next morning she presented the plan to city officials over breakfast. "We walked the area. I showed them where to put catch basins and how to do the storm drain."
By 1976, Dr. Bostic was so involved with the city she ran, unsuccessfully, for city council.
During the 1980s, Elder Bostic came to the rescue of the Draeger family, which had to relocate an eight-unit apartment in order to get city permission to expand their market.
After several false starts, the Draegers gave the apartment to the church, and had the building trundled across Bayshore to a new location beside the church.
There, Mt. Olive Arms, lovingly refurbished by the congregation, still provides reasonable-priced housing. It has also served women recovering from substance abuse. Along with the church, the apartment house sports a new coat of white paint for the upcoming celebration. Dr. Bostic herself painted the wrought iron fences a festive maroon and gold.
Over her career, Dr. Bostic has garnered many honors beside the Women's Hall of Fame. In 1970, she received a special commendation from the FBI for pioneering work in crime prevention — including what may have been the first "Neighborhood Watch" program in the country. She received a Beautification Award from Menlo Park for the new church.
Dr. Bostic still plans for the future, however challenging. "We're looking for a building in the area where we can expand education and crime prevention — a building where we can have a church environment and not be exposed to the street," she says.
Looking back over her 43 years as pastor of the Mt. Olive AOH Church of God, Dr. Bostic reflects, "I've done some seemingly impossible things over the years."
More information on Mt. Olive
The Mt. Olive Apostolic Original Holy Church of God welcomes all comers to its services at 605 Hamilton Ave. in Menlo Park.
The church also seeks participants, volunteers and funds for its charity and outreach programs for youth, education, the homeless, and crime prevention.
Its future plans include acquiring a new building in Menlo Park for crime and education programs, and developing programs and facilities on about 20 acres of church property near Oroville.
People interested in the church may also tune in to its radio program which has been running for more than 30 years on Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m. on KFAX (1100 on the AM dial); or a televison program, "Time of Enlightenment," which airs on some local channels.
For information on the programs for "Pentecost 2006," or other church activities, call 853-0355; or go to mountolive.org.