In March of 1998, a group of believers, moved by the Spirit of God, met to establish a New Testament model church governed solely by the Word of God. In early 1997, Pastor Dan White had begun to teach through the book of Acts. Over the course of the next year, while praying and preparing for his messages, Pastor White came under deep conviction of the Holy Spirit and began to see how far fundamental church government had strayed from the biblical model of Acts. With his church board reluctant to reestablish the church government according to Scriptural principle, Pastor White felt led to resign his pastorship and prepared to leave the area. Meanwhile, many other members, also grieved and convicted, separated themselves from the unscriptural church government of their church.
Motivated by a desire to worship God in Spiritand in Truth, Joel Nelson invitedthis group of separated believers, most still with us today, to meet together for worship on Sunday, March 29, 1998. They didn’t know exactly what God was doing or where He would lead them but as they worshipped that day, God began to clarify His will for them. By the end of that service they had determined, by the grace and leading of God, to begin a church-planting ministry where Christ would be the Ruler, the Holy Spirit their Guide and the Bible their Authority. These remain our convictions and only governing principles and by the grace and protection of God, always will. That same week, the men of the newly established church asked Pastor Daniel White to consider becoming the shepherd of the flock. As he and his wife, Shelly, prayed and searched the Scriptures for direction, God used the tenth chapter of John to confirm his calling to what would become Fellowship Baptist Church.
It is our desire to testify to the grace, mercy, protection and provision of Almighty God in the nurturing of Fellowship Baptist Church that future generations might know and be encouraged in their faith by the mighty works God has done on our behalf. Although God constantly works miracles in our behalf, they often pass unnoticed and unremarked. We, however, have truly witnessed miracle after miracle — too great and dramatic to be ignored and too many to cover adequately in this short work. Perhaps His greatest miracle of all is the complete unity of spirit and purpose among the members of our fellowship. Without a doubt, God’s Grace is the only possible explanation for the way we have worked together with sweet fellowship and accord. Definitely, the naming of Fellowship Baptist Church was by the leading of God.
“Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.” Rev. 7:12
“Run and Jump Baptist Church”
Jerry Snyder, Joel Nelson’s father-in-law, gave the challenge to the believers that met that first Sunday at Sauk Valley. On our first Sunday in the new building, Jerry remembered that the scripture he used for that message was Psalm 121 which begins, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord which made heaven and earth.” From his notes on that first message Jerry read, “The devil has driven you to your knees he will regret that!” One of the hymns that day was, “Onward, Christian Soldiers.” Pastor White recalls that when the men came to call him to be their pastor they told him that whatever he decided, they were determined to stick together to form a local New Testament church and find God’s man to pastor them. As Pastor and Shelly prayed seriously over the matter, God led them to the passage in John, chapter 10, which talks about the hireling that flees when the wolf comes but the shepherd doesn’t flee because he cares for the sheep. Pastor White realized that these were the people to whom God had called him and accepted the invitation to pastor the church which, at that time, had not even a name.
The newly launched church met in homes, barns, yards, a library, a camp ground, a Seventh Day Adventist Church and at Jackson Baptist School. They met in so many places that Jerry Snyder, who had been present at the original meeting, labeled them “Run and Jump Baptist Church.” From the very start the church family had the goal of building a church facility to meet in. Before that could take place, however, the church needed a name! Everybody wanted a name that would characterize the nature of the congregation. Many suggestions were made and at a meeting in the library, Fellowship Baptist Church was chosen. Truly that was God’s leading because a close, family atmosphere and unity of spirit has always been instantly noticeable at Fellowship Baptist Church.
Fellowship Baptist Church now had a name, a pastor and a goal — to build a church home that would allow our church family to minister in the most effective way possible to a bring people to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
In fall of 1998, Fellowship Baptist Church finally found a “permanent” place to meet when they were able to rent the Clement School in Michigan Center for services. The principal of that alternative education school, Priscilla Linna, was not exactly happy that the school had decided to rent to us. She was afraid that it would be a disruption and disturbance to her and her staff and that she would be held responsible for any difficulties. Priscilla had been looking and praying for a home church and also for a character training program for her school kids but she didn’t immediately realize that God had answered her prayer by sending Fellowship Baptist to her school. It wasn’t long, however, before Priscilla began attending Fellowship and through her, the church was able to serve the school in a number of ways. For a couple of years, church members were able to minister through Character First, a character training program, with good results and reception. Pastor was able to work with AIM, a court-ordered anger management program. The ladies of the church were able to provide Thanksgiving Dinners for the school and did various activities with the kids. Priscilla recalls that there was always a different atmosphere in the school when the “church people” came. The young people always knew and recognized the “church people” and responded to the Spirit of Love they brought with them.
Pastor White and the men of the church, impressed by the admonitions of scripture against borrowing, had determined before the Lord that they would build a church building debt-free relying totally on the timing and provision of the Lord. Pastor White had long been convinced that the Lord would have them to establish a ministry somewhere in the area between US-12 and M-50, and with that in mind, Fellowship Baptist Church began to look for property on which to build. The only problem was that no property seemed to be available! Ruth Fall, a realtor and member of the church, looked and looked and had all her realtor friends look, but could find nothing. Pastor even resorted to going door to door and asking area farmers if they had land they were willing to sell but with no success. Then, in November of 1999, we heard of a land auction that would be taking place at the elementary school in Brooklyn — the Reed family farm on the corner of 127 and Reed Road was being subdivided and sold at auction. We later found out that in the 1800’s that section of land had been zoned for agriculture and for a house of worship — no coincidence, I’m sure!
On November 11, 1999, with $20,000 in hand, Pastor White and a group of church members (Joe Catanese, Ruth Fall, Mike Corser and Craig Davison) went to bid on the land, trusting the Lord to accomplish His will for the future home of Fellowship Baptist Church. Pastor White began to bid on a 4 acre parcel of land and for a long time his bid of $13,000 held. Pastor White could hardly contain his excitement (and we a l l know how he gets when he’s excited) but others began to bid and soon the bidding went over $20,000. Pastor prepared to leave but Joe Catanese told him to sit down and keep on bidding. Pastor argued a little but, Pastor says, when Joe Catanese gets that “Italian scowl” on his face you just kind of sit down and do what he says. The final bid was $26,000 and Joe Catanese wrote a check for the full amount. At God’s perfect time by prompting the heart of His servant, God had provided the future home for Fellowship Baptist Church. At an earlier men’s meeting God had used Joe to challenge the men to go forward by faith, trusting the Lord to build His work. Here was a concrete example. One Sunday in early 2000 we met on top of that hill on Reed Road, just east of 127, to plant a sign that said, “Future Home of Fellowship Baptist Church.” Later that year, Sandy and Keith Locklear bought a home east of the church on Reed Road. As they drove back and forth past the sign, Keith jokingly remarked, “Oh, look, there’s a nice church for us right down the road.” I’m sure Keith had no idea that, by the providence of God, their family would become a part of our fellowship. Pastor once asked Sandy why they had started coming to our church and she replied, “Because of the facilities, of course!”
At the time of that “ground-breaking” ceremony, the elevation of the property was approximately 12 feet higher than today. What God did to bring that property level down to where it is today is another in the string of miracles He performed in the building of our church. Hattie Davidson, a friend of the fellowship, knew a man named Tom who ran heavy equipment. We rented a bulldozer, which he and Pastor ran for a week, leveling the property. He never accepted a dime for the work he did. Tom was an unbeliever and Pastor shared the gospel with him and though he didn’t trust Christ at that time, he gladly and thankfully accepted the Bible Pastor gave him. Recently, Pastor learned from Hattie that Tom had accepted Christ! To God be the glory! When Pastor returned the bulldozer he discovered that they had done the equivalent of two weeks work in that one week time period. Although the bulldozer had a meter, the excavation company did not charge anything extra, again the Lord had provided. With the leveling of the property completed, we began to save money to begin building. We had a building concept that Mike Corser had drawn up and we had some construction ideas from Jim Hitt and Loren Armstrong. Now we needed an architect to design and do the drawings for the building.
Woodville Community Center
In June of 2001, God led us to a more spacious meeting facility at Woodville Community Center, where we would remain until we moved into our new church. Although our ability to minister was limited, our people began to have a vision for what God was doing in Fellowship Baptist Church. Our unity of spirit continued and we waited with anticipation for each new miracle God would perform.
Jim Hitt and Loren Armstrong had come up with the idea of stacking trusses to economically construct the building we had envisioned. Steve Duncan did some drawings on AutoCad, Sandra Hitt drew up a building idea and someone was able to obtain some drawings from a place in Texas. In a striking confirmation of the Lord’s direction, all the drawings were very similar. With our building concept formed, we needed an architect to design and do the drawings for the building. We received bids of $10,000 and $12,000 from architectural firms to do the drawings but as we sought the Lord, God raised up Randy Hogan, through Loren Armstrong, to do the drawings. Randy worked with our desire to have a very economical building and implemented Jim and Loren’s design in which the tallest wall would be 8 feet with trusses stacked on top to enable us to have a 16 foot side wall and 26 foot ceilings. Randy did an excellent job on the design and drawings and charged us only $3,000 — a huge savings! After the drawings were completed, there was a final meeting at Craig Davison’s house to view the plans and make any changes that were needed. That night Pastor Nono challenged us to look to the Lord to supply all our needs.
We next went to the township which required us to have a site plan drawn up. Again, the Lord raised up a man to come to our aid — Lee Shinaberry, a surveyor who did all the surveying work, saving us a tremendous amount of money. The site plan, done by Novak Engineering, due to a series of revisions, ended up costing what was, to us, a staggering amount — $20,000. Nonetheless, all the time the Lord continued to provide and the money continued to come in, many times just as it was required. God’s timing is always perfect!
By January, 2002, we obtained a complete bill of materials from the architects and Nicky Armstrong used it to call eight different lumber yards to obtain a price on each item. We took that list to Lowe’s which, as they advertise, beat each price by 10%. We then took the list to Menard’s which beat Lowe’s price by 11% — as they advertise. We were able to purchase everything on the list, with the exception of one item, below Menard’s cost. All the materials to completely rough in the building cost only $34,000 and Menard’s even agreed to store the materials until we needed them. Shortly after those materials were purchased, The war in Iraq caused the prices of building materials to skyrocket. Once again, the Lord had displayed His perfect timing and direction. In February, 2002, Pastor learned that the 2.8 acre parcel of property next to the church property was for sale for $32,000. Strongly convinced that God wanted us to purchase the additional land to use as a future site for ball fields and mission homes, Pastor White brought it before the men of the church. The men were apprehensive at first it would require all the money we had left in the building fund — but they soon agreed it was the Lord’s will and we purchased the property on February 18, 2002 for $30,000. We are also praying the sometime in the future, God will provide the 24 acres directly behind our property for ministry expansion.
Ground was broken on the building site and in October, 2002 we prepared to pour the footings. Jeff and Dan Patrick, the owners of Hard Rock Drilling & Excavating did all the excavating for us at a very good price. Earlier, Jeff Patrick had used contacts he had in the drain commissioner’s office to help resolve difficulties with our site plan saving additional engineering fees. Later on, Jeff and Dan would excavate the footings for the garage, truck load after load of crushed concrete for the parking lot and spend nearly two weeks doing the bulldozer work on the back slope, free of charge. Jeff also donated parking bumpers his company had pulled out of Jackson Crossing. We are so grateful to God and to these men for their willingness to contribute to the work. Jeff Burnham headed up the work crew for the footings, “And I didn’t know anything about it, either!” , Jeff says. God knew that and brought a man from outside our church, Fred Pyne, to help. Fred probably didn’t know what a big job he’d taken on but he shared his expertise freely. Although, Fred wouldn’t accept payment, we were able to take a couple of love offerings for him later. Jeff remembers that they had a lot of help as they poured the outer footings and then right away had to pour the inner footings. When they did the inner footings the only volunteers were Fred, Ben Nelson, , Phil Westheimer, Buddy Westheimer and Jeff — to handle nine truckloads of cement! Jeff says it was a miracle and answer to prayer that the footings were poured and were usable. Miraculously, God had moved a concrete company, Consumers Concrete, to provide the cement for our building at $50 a yard at a time when cement was going for $70 or more per yard. Another company told us they would be losing money to sell us cement at that price! Consumers held that price throughout the entire project — a great reduction in our costs.
Through a contact of Jeff Patrick’s we were able to work out an arrangement with Jackson Community College’s Building Trades Department where two students at a time would work and train with Jim Hitt as he and his crew constructed the wall sections. Finally, on December 17, 2003, we were ready to raise the exterior walls. On that blustery, bitterly cold day, volunteers from Fellowship and 60 to 80 faculty and students from JCC worked together to raise the walls of the church. When Jim Hitt gave the signal, the walls went up! What a wonderful sight! In about 45 minutes the skeleton was visible. The members of Fellowship Baptist Church were witnessing a long-awaited miracle. The vision was becoming a reality — an immense encouragement and motivation to our congregation!
Work continued throughout the very cold winter. As the framing-in neared completion, we began wondering what to do about roofing the building. One day, a man stopped by asked if we were going to need a roofer. He offered to roof the entire building for $2,000 and the next Sunday the Lord prompted someone to contribute the exact amount necessary. The Lord’s timing and provision, once again, was perfect.
Vic Face, owner of Arrows and Antlers Excavating, a cement contractor, volunteered his expertise and tools for pouring the floor. The floor was done in two huge pours. Ethan Vincent remembers that the teen boys had a party at Pastor’s house the night before the first pour and didn’t get to bed until 3 am. They were doing the cement at 7 am which meant that they would have to get up at 6 am. Ethan believes that the Lord gave them strength because they had more energy that day than they did during subsequent work days when they had more sleep. (Which proves that the Lord will sometimes bless us in spite of our foolishness!) Dale Vincent recalls the wonderful spirit of unity and cooperation that blessed all their efforts as the floor was poured. In retrospect, God’s hand of blessing on that huge project was manifest. With two 27 yard pours and a fifty yard pour, all moved and leveled in the same day with just a couple minor cracks, it was truly miraculous. Through all of this, Vic, because of his desire to serve the Lord and His people, volunteered many hours and much equipment without any remuneration other than a couple of love offerings given in appreciation by Fellowship Baptist. In November of 2002, shortly after the footings were poured, Pastor remembers being at the property and sharing with Joe Peterson his wish that the woodlot west of the church property would be removed, as it blocked the view of the church from 127. The very next week, a bulldozer came in and knocked those trees down leaving the view unobstructed! This is just one more example of the Lord providing a solution “above anything we could ask or think.” Today, if you mention the church location to people they always remember seeing the church while driving on 127.
In another cement-related incident, Pastor showed that even he could lose his composure under the right circumstances. The day the sidewalk was poured, there were only a few workers available and Pastor was the only one who had ever done concrete before. Pastor and a couple of his younger sons, John and Rick Bourgoin , and a couple of the Hitt boys worked as hard and as fast as they could. Everything possible was going wrong. The concrete was hardening as they trowelled, Pastor frantically barking out orders and directions, and then the second cement truck arrived without them calling for it! God sent Frank and Judy Tracey just in time to run to Menard’s to replace the trowel Pastor broke working the stiff concrete. Obviously, it is only the goodness of the Lord that allows us to walk on those sidewalks today. God continued to supply over and over. Guardian Industries of Albion sold us insulation for the building at the cost of their raw materials — an incredible price of $1,800. Due to a miscalculation, Pastor later had to go back for quite a bit more insulation which Guardian provided free of charge. Barb Lupton gave testimony to the Lord’s protection as the building was constructed. Despite many youthful and often inexperienced workers, there were no serious injuries or accidents during the construction. An amusing incident occurred when, Barb says, Buddy Westheimer dropped his utility knife into the hopper that contained the insulation being blown into the ceiling. When the pieces could be heard clattering around, Buddy, with his usual grin, turned off the blower and began to search for the pieces. Buddy, with his head down in the hopper and his feet up in the air was a comical sight, as you can imagine. At one point in the proceedings someone actually had their hand on the switch to turn the blower on but the Lord’s hand of protection prevented the accident. Phil Westheimer, working above the ceiling, even managed to stay there without falling through, another example of the Lord working overtime in the protection department. Pastor Dave Pabis, also a licensed electrician, oversaw the electrical work which was a huge job of primary importance. We could not have completed the project without his expertise. Once again, God raised up the right man for the right time. We greatly appreciate all the time and effort Pastor Pabis put into our project at the prompting of the Lord even though he was unwell much of the time. We were able to give Brother Pabis a love offering from the church and it was a joy to hear this precious man of God preach on several occasions, including our tent revival in 2005. Over and over again during the building process, God turned what appeared to be problems into blessings. The circumstances surrounding the drywall installation is just one of those instances. As the time to do the drywall approached, estimates were obtained and we finally contracted with Keith Locklear’s brother in North Carolina to do all the drywall except the ceilings for $11,000. He and his crew did half of the drywall and then returned to North Carolina intending to return and finish the rest. However, one thing or another came up and as time went on it became apparent that it would be very difficult for him to get back up to Michigan. This seemed like a very big problem as nothing else could be done until the drywall was in but God had already been preparing a blessing. As the delay went on, another drywall contractor had an unexpected opening and was able to finish the remaining drywall, including the ceilings, and primed it all, as well. As an additional blessing , the price was lower! God was always faithful to provide a solution at the perfect time and in a way that would glorify Himself.
In the meantime, Sandra Hitt’s brother had some parking lot lights stored behind his barn that he offered us free of charge. The lights would have cost about $4,500 with installation. After the lights had been installed and the parking lot put in we had an issue with a new electrical inspector that would have required digging up the buried cable and would have been time-consuming and costly. Again, we took this to the Lord and the issue was resolved. Things were moving along at a steady pace. Each week things were being accomplished and the Lord supplied whenever the need arose. In the spring of 2005, Pastor brought the cost of a steeple before the congregation and when the offering was received we had funds for the steeple! By August 14th the steeple was up. The following week the drywall was to be completed and Mike Corser would begin painting the walls. The next week, Menard’s had a 10% discount sale and $2,500 of building supplies were purchased. The offering taken that Sunday again supplied that need.
Although, as a church, we are tax-exempt, we had been paying the small property tax assessment for the church property as a testimony to the community since the state constitution creates a certain amount of tax ambiguity in regard to church ownership as opposed to church occupation of the property. In August, 2005 we received a summer tax assessment from Columbia Township of $9,300, reflecting the value of our uncompleted building. This was a huge blow. Where were we to get the money for a tax bill of that size from our small fellowship of believers? Certainly, if the Lord desired us to pay those taxes He would supply but was there a better way?
As we held our tent revival meetings at the church property at the end of August, the tax bill was a major item of prayer. Pastor Pabis, who had been such a help to us with the electrical work gave the first message. As we listened to messages of inspiration and challenge from Pastor Pabis and then Pastor Kruchkow from Manitou Road Baptist and Pastor Sam Duncan our vision began to ignite. Pastor Duncan gave his entire love offering for the tent revival toward the purchase of tile for the church. Another family added the additional $1,000 needed and we were able to buy and start installing the tile the week after the tent revival. We ended those meetings with a tangible spirit of optimism, excitement and anticipation at seeing what the Lord would do. It seemed like an impossible task but is not our God a God of the impossible? Had he not been doing the impossible all along?
As Pastor continued to talk with township officials concerning the tax assessment, the work continued and we began to be hopeful that with willing workers and finances we would be able to be in the building by the first of the year 2006. On Sunday, September 18, 2005, Pastor White told the fellowship that if we were occupying the building before December 31st the township would rescind the $9,300 tax assessment. He estimated that $30,000 would complete the building to move-in point. That did not include any furnishings. When we took the offering that day, the building fund offering was $28,391.92. It was as if the Lord said to us, “…prove me now herewith, …if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10 As we wept and shouted the Lord received the glory and honor and praise that He and He alone deserves. Pastor was so moved he was unable to preach so we had a time of singing, rejoicing and testimony. It seemed as if the Lord had just been waiting for us to step out by faith and truly trust Him to supply all our needs. Later that day an additional $20,000 was donated for the pulpit, communion table and chairs. When the chairs were promised to arrive by Thanksgiving, we determined to be in the building by November 27th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
From that point on as a need was expressed, God supplied over and over and over. Truly we were living in the middle of a miracle. We heard that the Oldham Little Church Foundation would give grants to small churches finishing building projects. They gave us a grant of $6,000 — enough to purchase the air conditioners, which would have steeply increased in price if we had purchased them later. The air conditioners would cost $4,600 leaving about $l,400 we could use toward the purchase of new hymnals. The cost for new hymnals would be $1,950, a $550 difference. Inexplicably, only $200 came in for the hymnals. After the service a young person asked Pastor how much we still needed for the hymnals. When they were told the amount was $350 they turned away, shocked. Later this young person came back and told Pastor they would put $350 in the offering the next week. What a blessing to see the Lord stretch the faith of a young person to give everything they had , most likely, at His prompting. One little girl received $20 as a birthday gift and put it in the building fund. On November 20th we needed $1327 to cover a deficit in the building fund. The offering was $1,300. Pastor jokingly asked, “All right — who didn’t put their $27 in the offering?” Later , a young man who had come late gave Pastor $27 he had earned that week working extra jobs to put money in the building fund offering! It would have been easy for the young people of our church to let their parents do the giving but such was not the case. Whenever building fund offerings were taken it was a blessing to see the majority of our young people eager to give each time. Establishing an attitude of cheerful giving in our young people may prove to be one of the greatest blessings God has bestowed on us through this building project.
With the deadline of November 27th for our first service, work on the building continued at a brisk pace. Pastor worked all day, every day and many others spent most of their available hours there, also. God was still providing and guiding each step of the way. For example, Pastor agonized over the staggering cost of the bathroom dividers and as he prayed one night at the church property the Lord gave him a solution. The next day, Keith Locklear called to tell him that the doors we had purchased the week before were on sale and maybe we would be able to get a price adjustment. When Pastor checked on that he was able to get a refund of over $600 — enough to buy materials to do the dividers in the way the Lord had directed, saving thousands of dollars. Not only did the dividers turn out to be inexpensive they are also beautiful. Over and over God furnished materials just when we needed and supplied the funds to purchase them, as well. As November 27th approached, thousands of feet of trim was varnished and nailed in place. Light fixtures, doors, ductwork, cabinets and counters were installed. By November 16th the carpeting was in place and we were preparing for the final inspections. Craig and Scott Castle, who had helped us lay out the duct work and started the men of the church on the installation, came two days before the final inspection and finished hooking up the furnaces and fired up the furnaces to make sure everything was running properly. Then, another problem occurred. When the furnaces were turned on there were gas leaks. The leaks proved to be very hard to track down but as we sought the Lord, He revealed where each of them were.
On Wednesday, November 23rd, Pastor White announced that the final inspections had been passed and we would be meeting in the new church on Sunday. As we walked through those doors that Sunday after Thanksgiving, the feeling was indescribable. Fellowship Baptist Church finally had a home. That morning, we sang, praised God, testified to His goodness and remembered all the mighty works that He had done. We also took an offering for the grand piano and the Lord miraculously supplied the entire $15,000 to purchase the piano!
Afterward, we celebrated with our first fellowship supper in the church. Truly God is good. When the final accounting was completed we had spent a total of $372,085 on the building project. This figure included everything — property, furnishings, etc. The building itself was constructed for under $300,000, to the glory of God.
The following Sunday, December 4, 2005 we opened our services to the community. We had an attendance of 200 with many visitors including Jerry Snyder, who had preached at the initial service of the fellowship. That day, Bill and Dorothy Duncan, the parents of Steve Duncan, one of the original members of the fellowship, expressed their desire to become the first new members accepted in the new facility.
We rejoiced when Tanner Hetke was the first soul saved in the new church. Among all the miracles of God, the salvation of a soul is the greatest!
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1
One Saturday, as the men were working on the church, a man who lived up the road stopped to talk to Pastor White. He expressed surprise that there were so many men working without any bickering or arguments. He then asked how much we were borrowing for the building. When Pastor told him that he could not recall even one argument and that we were building debt-free the man exclaimed, “I want to come to your church!” As we asked for recollections and testimonies concerning the church history, people gave thanks and praise repeatedly for the unity of spirit God has given our people. As we dreamed and planned and built God knit our hearts together in love and agreement and we all worked together toward a common goal. Literally everybody contributed to the effort. Our men — young and old — worked long hours, diligently and without complaint. Outsiders who came alongside us and helped with the work always commented on the hard work and faithfulness of our young men. The women — young and old — worked just as diligently cleaning, varnishing and helping in any way they were able. People spent long hours on the telephone and in businesses locating the best prices and materials. Joel Nelson supplied windows at the best possible price and donated exterior doors and the cathedral windows at the front of the church. Becky Nelson did a beautiful job decorating throughout the church and the Noah’s Ark mural in the nursery will delight many generations. John Bourgoin hauled literally tons of trash. Mike Corser spent countless hours working at the church and the faithfulness, diligence and example of our Pastor was an inspiration and encouragement to us all. The group of four ladies who met faithfully throughout this project to pray and seek the Lord, prayed specifically for the needs of the building, that God would keep us unified, and that we would never depart from the fundamentals of the faith. They took as their promise, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” We saw God answer prayers one after another — God honored His Promise. The unity of our fellowship is a testimony to the world of the love we have for Jesus Christ. As John 13:35 says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” For this reason we must always remember to jealously guard that unity. Those of you who were there that first Sunday at Sauk Valley remember vividly the price of allowing discord to creep into a fellowship. It is very likely that God has given the grace necessary to maintain our unity because our Pastor forbade any lashing out against the brothers and sisters at Napoleon Baptist. Sandy Raby mentioned that as she prayed for them, God slowly but surely gave her a new love for them and removed the bitterness and grief from her own heart, as well. Surely, that is the key — to continually lift each other up in prayer. Love, we know from Scripture, is an action. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” So, we also must remember to give ourselves for each other: to refuse to take offense and to seek the good of others rather than ourselves — to die to self. May we never forget the dire consequences of allowing “wolves” to creep into our fellowship from within or without.
“Remember that thou magnify his work, which men behold.” Job 36:24
The book of Joshua tells the story of a progression in the history of the nation of Israel. God had miraculously delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt and they had finally entered the promised land. “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. … And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” This is the danger that Fellowship Baptist Church faces — that some day we may forget. Phil and Pansy Westheimer and their family have been so faithful all these years to prepare our various meeting places for church each Sunday. Phil says that he remembers that when this all started a little Italian gentleman (Joe Catanese) quoted Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”
“That was the impetus that got us going and then the property was purchased and the Lord miraculously supplied everything. We will often look back to this moment in our life when God did a miraculous thing. We will remember how He supplied time and time again. When we had that miraculous offering (over $48,000 in day) we would have thought that there was no way there was that kind of money in our little group. We were thinking God would have to bring money from outside for that to ever happen but God did it with this small group just as He did with Gideon and look at what He has been able to accomplish. Our young people will be able to say that God did something great.” It is important that we share with each generation following the miracle we witnessed with our own eyes. Already, we have seen the impact God’s miraculous provision has made on our own faith and the faith of our children. We have seen how God has used the testimony of our church to strengthen the faith of other congregations and give them the encouragement they needed to step out by faith as well. It is our prayer that this booklet would be a record for future generations of Fellowship Baptist Church of the mighty works that God has done on our behalf. To Him be honor and glory, forever.
May we never forget.