BRADENTON -- “20 years ... amazing.”
Pastor Steven Cydrus pondered the number after he spoke, sitting in his cramped office.
Two decades is how long the 54-year-old Springfield, Ohio, native has been pastor of the House of Prayer, 2420 33rd Ave. Dr. E.
The milestone is being celebrated 11 a.m. Sunday.
It hasn’t hit him yet.
“I’ve done everything there is to do in the church -- taught Sunday school, been youth leader, music director, choir director, worked on every vehicle we’ve ever owned, cleaned the church, been chief cook and bottle washer, done everything there is,” Cydrus said. “It just seemed like a natural progression to become pastor at some point in time.”
Even if being a preacher, much less a pastor, seemed like the furthest thing from his mind when he was a youth.
“I was in a gang, got into trouble and drugs started to be a part of my life,” Cydrus said. “One night, I had one of those grab-your-heart and scare-you-half-to-death episodes. I’m like -- I want nothing more to do with this.”
Cydrus told God he’d start going to church if he saved him.
“A friend told me don’t make a promise to God you can’t keep,” he said. “I woke up next day, I wasn’t dying, I said I’d go to church, and I did. I was 16.”
Cydrus’s father, Ronald, became a lay preacher, then a pastor in 1971, and brought the family here in 1981 and joined the House of Prayer, associated with the Pentecostal Church of God, Joplin, Mo.
The father eventually moved on, pastoring around Florida for the next 20 years.
The son stayed.
“Since my dad was a preacher, I didn’t want to,” Cydrus said. “But I asked God, ‘What do you want me to do?’ and he said he wanted me to preach.”
While his father’s ministry was fixing broken churches, moving from one congregation to the next, the son’s commitment was with House of Prayer.
“We felt we had something to offer,” Cydrus said. “We had youth, the zeal of the Lord and we just felt like we could make a difference in people’s lives. We had a vision that we could help people who were hurting, who were wounded, and we wanted to reach out to those people and bring them back into fellowship with God.”
The House of Prayer has had several different locations and been at its present spot for the past 15 years.
Cydrus’s followers admire him for his enduring devotion.
“It says something for him,” said events coordinator Valentina Friddle. “He’s been through the good times and bad times with us.”
Like when Friddle’s daughter died at 18.
“Misty was his daughter’s friend and he knew her from a very young age,” she said. “It was tough on him, too.”
Cydrus has also been a source of comfort to Buck Hodges, whose mother, Peggy, a longtime congregant, is ailing.
“He was my youth pastor and has always been there for me and for my family,” Hodges said. “When dad passed away, he was a comfort there. Now my mother is very ill and he’s been up at the hospital, visiting her faithfully.
“He’s a good man, a good friend.”
A pastor unafraid of challenges, too.
House of Prayer has but 30 to 35 congregants.
It was 99 at one time.
“Like all churches we’ve had some issues, but we’re making it,” Cydrus said. “I’ve seen a lot of pastors, as soon as they’re confronted with a little bit of trouble, they would just pack up their families and move to another church.
“We’ve had our problems here, but I’ve decided I’m not going to run from those problems. We’ll face it together, work it out and build a church.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.