The Unsung Hero

When I think back through the history of CDF Capital, my thoughts go immediately to the “Mount Rushmore” of this ministry—Ralph Dornette, Jim Campbell, Jackie Charnell, and Al Mills.

Shoulders Upon Which We Stand

Jim Campbell was among the CDF Capital founders and then served for nearly 20 years as Chairman of the Board. Jim was an executive with Alta Dena Dairies and an elder at Lakewood First Christian Church—a dedicated follower of Jesus who wanted to make a difference in the world beyond his local church.

Ralph is often confused as the founder of CDF Capital, when in actuality he didn’t join the organization until 15 years after it began. Ralph served as CEO of CDF Capital for 26 years, building the fund from less than $1 million to about $64 million upon his retirement.

"Every organization also has the people behind the scenes who receive little of the glory yet are crucial to its success."—@BradDupray

Ralph would always say that the real architect of operations was Jackie Charnell. Jackie started as an administrator and in her 19 years ended up creating the structures of CDF Capital lending and handling investments—some of which stand to this day.

Al Mills was another businessman thoroughly dedicated to serving CDF Capital. As its longest-tenured board member, Al served for 26 years, beginning in the early 1960s. Al, like Jim Campbell, was constantly preaching the value of net assets as the strength of the organization—a foundational principle that lives with us to this day.

Behind the Scenes

Every organization has people who stand out. We think of them as the shoulders upon which we stand—and we do. But every organization also has the people behind the scenes who receive little of the glory yet are crucial to its success. When I think back through the history of CDF Capital, that thought carries me to Harold Purdom.

When I was a young minister, Harold was the Chairman of the Board of the church where I served, the Lawndale Christian Church (now Restoration Life Christian Church) in Lawndale, California. Harold was also on the Board of Directors of CDF Capital at the time, thus dedicating his life to two ministries in his off hours. He took me under his wing and mentored me in the ways of life and ministry. He was really like a second father to me.

Harold had worked his way up through the ranks to executive level at Continental Airlines, and after a 30-plus-year career with Continental he retired, thinking his working days were over. But no, they were just getting started.

"He was one of the many quiet heroes who gave his only life for the benefit of countless others."—@BradDupray

Soon after he cashed it in with Continental, he had a moment that Bob Buford would later define in his book, Halftime, as moving from success to significance. Ralph asked Harold to cast retirement aside and come work at CDF Capital—that’s when Harold found his real calling. Rebekah Lyons defines calling as “where your talents and your burdens collide.” Harold had a magnificent collision.

For over a decade Harold worked alongside Ralph to build CDF Capital into the dynamic ministry that it would become. Harold worked tireless hours, meeting with churches, and raising investments. But most importantly he had provided paternal leadership to a staff that was growing and experiencing a changing of the guard from those who built the structure to those who would reform it, shape it, and mold it for the future.

When I was that young minister, Harold would often take me to lunch to talk about life, ministry, and family. After I left the church for a brief, 2-year stint with New York Life (that’s another life story) Harold continued to take me to lunch, pouring his life into a young man who was trying to make his way, trying to find his own calling. I can remember the restaurant table I was sitting at when Harold asked if I would be interested in working at CDF Capital. It was one of the most transformational days of my life.

Laying a Foundation

I have friends who remember Harold, but most of them are in their twilight years. There are a few of my coworkers who can hearken back to things like Harold’s “change game” where he would shake the change in his pocket and if you guessed correctly within a certain range he would hand it over to you. The game of a loving father-figure.

The real change game for Harold, however, occurred when he came out of retirement and blessed a ministry with his leadership. He helped lay the foundation that would help churches grow long after he passed from this life to join his heavenly Father. He told me how he looked forward to that day.

Like the unsung heroes of the New Testament who helped lay the foundation for the future of the church (think Priscilla and Aquila, Epaphroditus, Onesimus, Nicodemus) people like Harold Purdom didn’t seek the spotlight. He was one of the many quiet heroes who gave his only life for the benefit of countless others. God bless you, Harold Purdom, and the unsung heroes all around us. You are the real shoulders upon which we stand.