A true job seeker

Ventura minister, church celebrate 50 years of serving the unemployed

By Danielle Brubaker 08/01/2013

For 50 years, the Rev. Luther McCurtis of Ventura has played two roles — preacher and philanthropist. This year, McCurtis and his family celebrate five decades of Christ-centered community service.

An anniversary party will be held this Sunday, Aug. 4, from noon to 2 p.m. at Total Life Christian Center, located at 660 N. Ventura Ave. in Ventura. There will be free food and a job fair open to the public. Donations of food and clothes are welcome.

McCurtis’ ministry began in 1963 when he moved with his wife and five kids from Flagstaff, Ariz., to California, with a dream and a vision of establishing a ministry that would seek to meet the needs of downtrodden individuals.

“People at my first church always told me that a minister’s place is in the pulpit, within the four walls of his church,” McCurtis said. “I came to realize that putting that kind of restriction on a minister is just plain ridiculous, because God calls us to not just serve our congregation, but also His people.”

After spending four years in the Air Force, McCurtis traveled all over Southern California looking for a place to set up a church. He eventually ended up in Ventura, and many people tried to convince him not to start a church here.

“They told me Ventura was a graveyard — a no-man’s land for a black, Pentecostal preacher,” McCurtis said. “As you can see, I didn’t listen to them.”

McCurtis moved with his family to the projects in Ventura, where he bought and remodeled a two-story building, turning it into what is now known as Total Life Christian Center and Employment Aptitude Placement Association (EAPA). EAPA, privately funded by donations, coordinates with local businesses to fight against poverty and assist the poor to procure jobs.

“A lot of people see the poor as being black people,” McCurtis said. “But to be honest, poverty knows no color or race. I’ve seen poor people who are black, white, Jewish, Russian, Swedish, Latinos, etc.”

He contacted prominent successful business people, most of whom were supportive. Eventually, a business in Westlake allowed him to send over people to type on computers.

“They didn’t need a college degree or even a high school degree,” McCurtis said. “All they needed was dexterity in their fingers.”

McCurtis also taught a secretarial class in his church’s fellowship hall for women who wished to go back into the workforce.

As years went by and McCurtis grew older, his family tried to dissuade him from working so much.

“I couldn’t just stop,” McCurtis said. “There was something in my blood that desperately wanted to help people. The church was my calling, but EAPA was my mission.”

Nine-year-old Paris Pearson deeply admires what her great-grandfather does.

“He feeds people who are hungry, gives shelter to those who don’t have homes, and helps people find jobs,” Pearson said.

He views the community as his family, and even at 81, McCurtis’ passion for serving that community as well as the Lord has not diminished. He continues to be a “saving grace” for many souls that need saving.

“We’re here to help anybody who has fallen through the crack or lost their way” McCurtis said. “It’s not my place to judge them; it’s just my place to help.”

To volunteer, donate or request more information, call 648-5868 or e-mail eapaventura@yahoo.com.

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