As a former Oregonian, Rev. Donald Annas was familiar with the name “Church Extension Plan.” So in 1952, when his own church in Manteca, California, needed a loan to expand, Don packed his bags and prepared for a road trip up the coast.
He soaked in the scenery as he drove. The bustling streets of Sacramento. A snow-capped Mount Shasta. And all the while, he wondered. Would Church Extension Plan fund a loan outside of Oregon? Back then, CEP worked with local churches exclusively. But Don — fueled by a call to ministry and a love for First Assembly of God in Manteca — didn’t let distance stand in his way and hoped CEP would do the same.
As a direct result of Don’s request for a loan in California, CEP incorporated later that year and went on to serve thousands of churches and organizations across America. But Don did more than spark the movement — he led the charge. “The first loan we made outside of Oregon was for Don’s church, and he personally sold the certificates for that loan,” says Rev. Patrick Clements, former CEP president. Through the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, Don worked as a consultant for CEP, meeting with pastors and selling certificates all over the Northern California and Nevada District. In fact, by the time Don retired in 2008, he had successfully raised more than $1 million in loan funds for Assemblies of God ministries.
But from the beginning, sales were never Don’s motive. Instead, he roamed the district in search of stories. Beyond providing pastors and their churches with a financial service, Don modeled partnership. He offered understanding and respect and made countless trips to CEP on behalf of ministries like his own. “Someone on the outside could say Don was our first salesperson,” says CEP’s president, Rev. Peter Clements. “In reality, Don was the original ministry consultant.”
The Story of a Church
As Don traveled for CEP, he encouraged weary leaders and reflected Christ’s love for all. “When I first met Don, I was a youth pastor, and he always had time for me,” says Rev. Bret Allen, superintendent of the Northern California and Nevada District. “He just loved people, and I was a direct recipient of that.” Like Supt. Allen, Pat Clements also benefited from Don’s compassionate heart. “When I was ordained, Don Annas was the minister who laid hands on me,” he says. “He was always a great friend and a big part of my ministry.” Don’s son, Chris, had the opportunity to watch his dad interact with hundreds of leaders, always offering a sincere invitation into relationship. “It didn’t matter if you were a church in the middle of the mountains or a megachurch,” he says. “My dad just loved everybody.”
Through the years, Don became well-known and well-loved in return. He was chosen to serve as a presbyter, executive presbyter, secretary treasurer, and finally superintendent of the Northern California and Nevada District. But in every new role, Don continued to bring stories to CEP — each one armed with his genuine support. “CEP operates from a place of need in the local church,” says Peter Clements. “We bring our experience and solution-oriented approach after we’ve heard the story. And that’s what led Don to CEP. The story of a church.”
“Oh, Your Dad…”
First Assembly of God in Manteca, California, was the first of many stories — all because one man chose to be bold in his pursuit of the Kingdom. As we reflect on Don’s life, our aim is to not only remember him, but to resemble him. With this in mind, the leadership of CEP created “The Rev. Donald E. Annas Memorial Conference Room,” branded with a plaque that reads, “to honor and recognize the dedication and commitment of Don Annas for over 40 years of service.” “Don helped set a blueprint for what it means to be a partner in ministry,” says Peter Clements. “What he embodied in the past, we want to embody in the future.”
As we move forward, CEP’s ministry consultants continue to seek out new stories, echoing Don’s example and honoring his legacy. “I always told my dad I was going to put the quote ‘Oh, your dad…’ on his tombstone,” Chris laughs. “Everybody would say, ‘Oh, your dad…’ and then share their story. ‘Our church was in dire financial problems, and he helped us through CEP’ or ‘there was a time I was ready to toss in the towel, but your dad gave me words of encouragement, and I’m still in ministry today because of him.’” Chris can’t help but grin. “The stories go on and on and on.”
Thanks to Don, CEP can say the same. The stories go on and on and on.