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Lonnie Lee Rolen, age 96, finally got his wish on Sunday morning, December 12, 2021, when he got the privilege of leaving this mortal world and go to Heaven! He went to sleep in Clovis, CA and woke up in his Heavenly Father’s Home. Lonnie was born on July 11, 1925 to Jess and Reth Rolen, in Dibble, Oklahoma. He shared his parents with 5 sisters. His parents had a strong faith in Jesus Christ, he remembered and often spoke of the times he would hear his mother praying down by the creek bank and call his name, trusting God for his future and his salvation.
Lonnie took great pride in his hometown and was thrilled to tell people he was educated at Dibble U. The truth is his education was interrupted by his family moving to California and WWII. He was drafted by the US Army in 1944 and after completing Boot Camp was sent to Germany. He was involved in the Battle of Remagen and was severely injured after volunteering to assist in a rescue attempt of others in his Company who were pinned down. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. His injuries were of such nature that he was told that he probably wouldn’t live to reach a hospital. When he reached a hospital he was told he would probably never walk again. But obviously God had others plans for Lonnie and He had heard a mother’s prayer by a creek bank. When Lonnie recovered, though he would carry shrapnel in his spine for the rest of his life, he was honorably discharged and joined his family in Kerman, California.
While Lonnie was engaged in WWII, his family was engaged in helping George McLain start a Free Will Baptist Church in Kerman. George McLain had a daughter, June, who had stayed in Oklahoma to graduate high school. After her graduation in 1945, she joined her parents in Kerman. It was not long after her arrival in Kerman, that a wounded, but grateful, Lonnie Rolen crossed paths with Clara June McLain. After a brief romance, they were one of 3 couples who exchanged their vows between Sunday School and a morning worship service. Time was precious during the harvesting/ginning season in the area. God blessed them with a daughter, Janice, and a son, Tim.
While Lonnie was being a husband, Dad and provider he went back to Adult School and received his GED and later attended California Christian College and received a degree in Biblical Studies. Lonnie sensed the call of God on his life to become a Pastor. A lot of people pastor so they can preach, Lonnie preached so he could Pastor. He was ordained in 1954. In partnership with his wife, the couple planted and pastored churches in Firebaugh (1953), Blythe (1954-1955), Calwa (1956-1959), Clovis (1959-1964), and Memorial Free Will Baptist in Fresno (1965-1992), which merged with New Hope Community Church in 1992, where he served both the congregation and community as Pastor Emeritus.
The churches Lonnie pastored were strong in Mission support and very active in Denominational endeavors. He served on various committees, Mission Board and as a Board Trustee for California Christian College. Lonnie loved caring for people and for the last 30+ years he enjoyed being called Pops! It was a title his grandsons gave him and the New Hope church family adopted it as a sign of affection, love and honor. Lonnie was bi-vocational during many years of his ministry, supplementing his ministry income by working seasonally at Kerman Co-op Gin as a gin operator.
Lonnie was preceded in his journey to heaven by his: Wife - June; Parents - Jess & Reth; Sister - Florene Sharp and her husband, Delmar Sister - Lydeen York and her husband, Connell; Sister - Yvonne Stiggins and her husband Otis; Brother-in-laws - Lonnie McAlister, Roy Stevens & Al Cisneros. Lonnie is survived by two sisters: Fern McAlister; Rethida Cisneros; Lonnie is survived by his two children: Daughter, Janice Little and her husband Eric; Son, Tim McLain Rolen and his wife Shelly; three grandsons: Brant Rolen; Chad Rolen and his wife, Kaitlin, and the boys’ mother Lori; Andrew Little and his wife Koleena; one granddaughter - Ashlee Reid; and two Great Grandsons: Bo & Brooks. Pops also leaves behind many other family members, friends, and strangers who witnessed the love of Christ through his caring and giving words and actions.