Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series profiling the religious leaders in Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop.
On the day Dave Bliss was born he was put up for adoption by his 17-year-old mother.
It was a hard but necessary decision for the young teenage girl to make as she truly wanted what was best for her son. Adopted four months later by Phil and Margarette Bliss, Dave along with his sister Lori, grew up in a loving, nurturing, caring Christian home.
Due to his father’s position as a Chaplain in the Army, the family moved around a lot, being stationed in places such as Kentucky, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, Silver Springs Maryland and Augsburg Germany, before his father received a more permanent station at Sharps Army Depot in Lathrop in 1978.
Settling into the community during his “tween years”, Dave was enrolled in New Haven elementary and eventually went on to East Union High School. Unfortunately, like so many high schoolers, the “troubled teen thing” hit Dave and it hit hard.
“Growing up in a chaplain’s home, I did the typical pastors kid thing and rebelled. In high school I became heavily involved in drugs and alcohol,” he said.
What started as a little rebellion and a little dabbling quickly turned into a full-blown addiction which he later carried in to his marriage. His life was spiraling completely out of control with no hope in sight until one Sunday morning, in 1992, while paying a visit to Manteca First Assembly of God, Dave heard Pastor Rev. Richard Brown preach and something in his words struck a chord. Dave knew he had reached a point of life or death and needed a change and so he committed his life to Christ and in that very moment, something miraculous happened.
“I turned to Christ because of my addiction. I was making a mess of my life, my marriage, my children, my career, everything was crumbling around me. At my lowest point I cried out to the God of my parents, the Jesus I had heard about growing up. I had a radical encounter with Jesus, and I was completely delivered from my addiction. And I mean instantly changed, I had never experienced anything like that before. I met Jesus Christ for myself, no longer was He the God of my Parents, or was it some religion, I met God that Sunday morning and from that day, I have never touched those drugs, or alcohol again.”
Prior to the radical encounter, Dave’s philosophy was all about sex, drugs and rock and roll; but now he was being given a second chance at life. With his new found faith Dave realized for the first time that God had a destiny and plan specifically for him.
“Not long after I was saved, I began going out on the streets and ministering to the homeless, and addicts in and around Manteca, and South Stockton. I quickly recognized that I had been running from a call to the ministry my entire life. I was only a Christian for 2 or 3 years when Pastor Brown gave me an opportunity to preach on a Sunday night. At that moment (my calling) was evident to everyone in the room” he recalls.
Enrolling in Bible school not long after, Dave began his studies and eventually become an ordained minister. He has spent the last two decades ministering to others and teaching the lost, confused and hopeless, how valuable the truly are and how God has a specific destiny for every person and a purpose for every life. While he is the first to admit that life as a follower of Christ doesn’t eliminate bad or guarantee an easy road, he also recognizes firsthand the faithfulness of God.
Being completely delivered from drugs and alcohol instantaneously was the most important turning point in Dave’s life however that was only the beginning.
“Being adopted always seemed to be an issue for me growing up. I didn’t understand then, but I believe my rebellion, drug use, premarital sex, all of it stemmed from feelings of rejection, and low self-esteem. I realize all this now as a mature almost 50-year-old adult but I didn’t get it then. So with the blessing of my parents, and the help of my wife in July of 2002, I began looking for the woman who gave me life. The search began by visiting websites and researching to find my mother’s name. During the preliminary stages of this search I talked with people who had been looking for years for their roots, and biological parents.
I found my mother in only three days and when I met her for the first time, face to face, healing and restoration of self-worth flooded my soul. Today we have an amazing relationship and a special bond. I was so grateful that both my mothers were able to meet, and became great friends. My biological mother was such a support to me when I said goodbye to my mother Margarette at her bedside when she passed in 2014. This was such an amazing gift from the Lord, more than I could have ever imagined.”
Experiencing God’s undeniable healing presence in is life in so many different ways and sharing that experience with others, has given Pastor Dave Bliss a relatable voice to members of the community and to the members of Refuge Church where he is now the senior pastor.
Consumed by God’s love, Pastor Dave desires to share the message of love, hope, healing and reconciliation to others. With the word of God as his sword, he looks to cut down emotional, mental and spiritual chains that can keep people bound, just as he once was. He longs to teach hurting souls about their freedom in Christ and help them understand that despite the many mistakes we all make, “God is not mad at you; He’s mad about you.”