Homegrown kid elevated to full- blown pastor

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Kasey Crawford knows what it’s like to be a kid growing up in Canyon Lake – and a teenager. And a father raising kids. And someone who cares about other people’s kids.

Kasey Crawford, pastor of Elevation Church, and his dad, Ken Crawford, are pictured in front of the Elevation booth at Fiesta Day, where they served up Ken's famous "Bingo's BBQ Glory" ribs. Photo by Sharon Rice

Kasey Crawford, pastor of Elevation Church, and his dad, Ken Crawford, are pictured in front of the Elevation booth at Fiesta Day, where they served up Ken’s famous “Bingo’s BBQ Glory” ribs. Photo by Sharon Rice

He has enjoyed the gamut of all Canyon Lake has to offer children – from water skiing and community theater to baseball at Gault Field with Canyon Lake Little League and camping at Happy Camp with Cub Scouts.

Many times he was a grateful participant in the Kids Fishing Derbies and and Junior Golf Clinics; and for several summers, he attended a day camp at the Lodge run by CLPOA staff. The latter he remembers with special fondness, calling it a “staple of our summers.” The day camp drew 50 to 60 kids and included swimming, crafts, games and field trips.

Life was good for a kid growing up in Canyon Lake. But as Kasey hit his teen years, he recognized all was not well with some of his peers and their family relationships. He also noticed a prevalence of teen partying, drinking and drugs, and fewer community activities geared toward older youth. Coming from a strong, faith-based family, Kasey says he remembers thinking the teen party scene seemed “pointless.” He loved his family and was involved in youth group at Canyon Lake Community Church. Attending Linfield School in Temecula, he began turning more of his attention toward school, where he was involved in football, basketball, baseball, theater and student government.

A young Kasey stands on the deck of his childhood home on Chaparral Dr.

A young Kasey stands on the deck of his childhood home on Chaparral Dr.

Eventually he moved away from Canyon Lake to attend college, meet the love of his life and get married. Now he’s back with his own family: wife Dawn and sons KJ, 12, Daniel, 8, and Paxton, 3, and is the pastor of Elevation Church.

Life has come full circle since Kasey moved to Canyon Lake in 1980 at the age of 18 months with his parents Ken and Tina Crawford, and sister Mariah.

His dad and other family members built their first house in Canyon Lake at the top of Chaparral Dr., at a time when there seemed to be at least as many vacant lots as there were houses.

Now Ken and Tina live on Gray Fox Dr. and continue to play a key role in their son’s life – not the least of which is creating a barbecue sauce remembered by everyone who had ribs at the Fiesta Day food court! (Ken has perfected “Bingo’s BBQ Glory,” which he is in the process of turning into a marketable product.)

More important than the barbecue sauce, though, is the senior Crawfords’ home, where Canyon Lake youth in 6th through 12th grade are welcomed each Wednesday evening for a time of fun, fellowship, prayer and conversation with adult leaders from Elevation Church.

Kasey is very positive about Canyon Lake but says that, since becoming a pastor, he has become much more aware of the “underbelly” of the community. He has seen the effects of alcohol, drugs and infidelity on families.

Recently, while listening to a middle school child ask for prayer for his drug-addicted mom, he was struck by the fact that, once upon a time, it was mothers who sought prayer for their children.

Weekly, kids arrive at the senior Crawfords’ home by bicycles, scooters and skateboards. Kasey says about half of them are from families in the church; the other half are from the community and simply want a place to belong where they can talk to adults who care.

But churched or unchurched, Kasey would say that isn’t what’s most important. As solid and secure as his own family life was, and as good as the training and encouragement were in his youth group at Canyon Lake Community Church, Kasey says he wasn’t always the “good kid” that he appeared to be on the outside.

He embraced his parents’ faith when he was young; but like many kids who leave home for college, there was a time when he questioned whether or not the foundation upon which he had built his life could be trusted. Graduating from Linfield in 1997, he headed off to UCSD to major in Communication.

While in his sophomore year, he experienced what he calls “a catalyst for a major life change.” A mentor from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship asked him whether Psalm 34:8 was true in his life: “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Kasey says he couldn’t honestly say it was.

“Then it hit me,” he says. “God wants the answer to be ‘yes’ and for him to be real and powerful in my life; not far away, but close and real enough to say He is indeed good.”

That set Kasey on a course to pursue “the knowledge of the Holy,” as one of his favorite authors, A.W. Tozer would describe it.

Kasey is happy to share with anyone what this pursuit entailed and how this newly rekindled faith led to a deep friendship with a fellow seeker named Dawn and a very important date: April 1, 1999 (a story too long to tell here).

Just before graduating from UCSD, both with a degree in Religion, Kasey and Dawn were married on April 1, 2001. Kasey went on to obtain two master’s degrees in Divinity and Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, while Dawn audited classes and had their first child.

In Summer 2007, Pastor Pete Van Dyke, with whom Kasey has always had a close relationship, invited him to become teaching pastor of a new contemporary service, “Threshold,” at Canyon Lake Community Church. Kasey says God continued to shape his heart and vision as he taught at CLCC almost four years, while he and Dawn began raising a family of their own in Canyon Lake.

Then, remembering that his college calling was to share a ministry with Dawn, Kasey sought the blessing of CLCC as he and Dawn began a new church, Elevation, in April 2011, with 30 adults. It first met at Paloma Valley High School; then moved to its current location in Sun City.

He then chose 10 leading adults from his congregation and began preparing them to help with what he hoped would be the beginning of a youth ministry at Elevation. Expecting the nine to 10 kids who already were church attenders, Kasey says he was amazed when 35 kids showed up to their first meeting at his parents’ home on Gray Fox Dr.

It caused him to become acutely aware of the need, saying, “Kids are hungry for something meaningful and authentic – for love and acceptance and a connection with God.” He invites all Canyon Lake youths, 6th through 12th grade, to the weekly summer meetings at his parents’ home, 23240 Gray Fox Dr.

He also invites them to a free concert by “Dare to be Dreamers” at the church facility, 28250 Bradley Rd. in Sun City, on Wednesday, July 22, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Dare to be Dreamers is an electro/rap hip-hop group that brings in laser lights, glow-in-the-dark beach balls, confetti blasters and more. “But most of all,” says Kasey, “they carry the awesome, positive message about who you are in God’s eyes. Come have fun and be inspired to walk closer with God.” The group’s music video can be seen at https://youtu.be/xYm2aENEN48.

Elevation calls itself “a family of followers of Jesus doing life together to see the Kingdom of Heaven transform earth.” Learn more at Facebook.com/weareelevation or call 951-230-8764.

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Sharon Rice