Gospel Story More Than Just Words

Post a Comment » Written on December 27th, 2003     
Filed under: News
WEST BOYNTON BEACH, FL (December 27, 2003)  – Parishioners at Hope Community Covenant Church took the words of a recent Sunday sermon to heart and a church family is glad they did.

Pastors Doug Oliver and Jim Black took church to the home of Damien and Maryanne Wahner – including the sermon, scripture readings, music and even the church members – and after worshiping with the woman they painted her three-bedroom house.

According to a recent story in the Ft. Lauderdale (Florida)Sun-Sentinel, the Wahners, have had more than their share of difficulties. Maryanne developed severe diabetes during pregnancy. That led to kidney damage and now she’s on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. On top of that, she has suffered two strokes since June 2002. In July of this year, doctors performed heart bypass surgery. During the operation, Wahner suffered a heart attack. And, to add insult to illness, the local homeowners association notified the family that they had to paint their house or be fined.

It seemed appropriate that the Sunday service, conducted in the front yard of the Wahner home, was centered on James 1:22: “But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Oliver gave the sermon. Black sang a song he wrote, which begins, “Let the Words of the Lord Jesus Christ Dwell in You.” And when church ended, parishioners spent more than an hour transforming a house from gray to yellow with a little paint and a lot of love.

“This isn’t rocket science,” Black told them. “All we have to do is paint the house.”

A handful of church plant updates, some individual achievements and news from mission efforts on three continents are also highlighted in this Covenant Communications compilation of newsletter articles from more than 250 Covenant congregations throughout the world. Information is presented by conference and region.


  • Dundurn, Saskatchewan: Blackstrap Covenant Church hosted a grand opening service in March and currently has an average worship attendance of 65 under pastor Steve Menshenfriend. It is a unique church plant because the town of Dundurn, located half an hour from Saskatoon, a city of 230,000, has just 500 people. The church draws from four small communities and has hosted a youth drop-in center at a local ice rink on Friday evenings (7 p.m. to 1 a.m.) that begun this summer. The ministry has moved to a local military base during hockey season and has expanded to other nights during the week – more than 20 regularly volunteer and more than 50 youth and teens are attending. On Tuesday mornings, a “Mom ‘n Me” group started by Steve’s wife, Kirsten, reaches families with small children. Menshenfriend had worked with Shoreline Covenant Church near Seattle before starting the Blackstrap church plant. He began work in the area in August 2002.

  • Chicago, Illinois: Veronica Mitina of Ravenswood Evangelical Covenant Church recently finished first in a district Metropolitan competition in St. Louis. The Met is a nationwide competition for young musical artists. Originally from Russia, Mitina will compete in a multi-state regional competition in February.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Nearwest Connection hosted a recent pizza party at a local restaurant and had a question-and-answer session with professional baseball player Joe Girardi and his wife, Kim. Nearly 70 people turned out for the special Family Celebration. Pastor Noel Castellanos led the session, which focused on issues related to the couple’s faith, marriage and family and about how they juggle family life with the rigors of professional baseball. Joe Girardi also gave out signed baseball cards. Located near downtown Chicago, Nearwest Connection began ministries in September 2002 and started preview services in January under Castellanos and Jonathan Hancock. The church worships in space located at a local hotel. A parishioner, Beverly Hancock, recently received Rush University Medical Center’s inaugural Course for Excellence award for her work in leading Rush (a Chicago hospital) to achieve Magnet recognition for Excellence in Nursing Services. More information about the church and its ministries may be found by visiting www.nearwestconnection.org.
  • Elgin, Illinois: Country Evangelical Covenant Church parishioner Lynn Landmeier planted eight acres of pumpkins on his land and donated the money from pumpkin sales to the church. The proceeds from selling 1,800 pumpkins is between $8,000 and $10,000, reported a recent Central Conference newsletter article. Fellow parishioner and longtime beekeeper Larry Dieckman, now chaplain at The Holmstad in nearby Batavia, offered his bees (400,000 of them) to pollinate the pumpkin flowers. The money from the pumpkins is being used to help pay off debt from the church’s purchase of 1.5 acres of property adjacent to the church’s current facility, said pastor Dave Trosper, who has seen worship attendance double at his church in two years.
  • Portage, Indiana: The Evangelical Covenant Church of Portage has started Café Manna West, which has been in operation since early November. The ministry served 107 plates of food to area residents in need, according to a recent newsletter report. Area businesses and churches have supplied food and volunteer help, along with the help provided by parishioners at the church.

  • Attleboro, Massachusetts: Eva MacPherson of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Attleboro, a noted supporter of Covenant Women Ministries (CWM), died on Thanksgiving Day at Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island, after serving on CWM’s national board and in her church. The 79-year-old MacPherson was born in Quincy, Massachusetts, and grew up at the Quincy Covenant Congregational Church. Known as “Mrs. Kitchen” because of her devotion to helping organize and coordinate church functions, she became a member of the Attleboro Covenant church in 1958 and sang in the church choir for almost 40 years besides her volunteer work at the church and at a local hospital. As a way to honor their mother’s memory, MacPherson’s four sons have earmarked memorial donations to CWM and Pilgrim Pines Conference Center in Swanzey, New Hampshire, in her name.

  • Bethel, Alaska: Bethel Evangelical Covenant Church is offering a Friday night ministry to post-high school young adults. Called “PIVOT,” the Covenant Youth of Alaska (CYAK) sponsored ministry hopes to offer fun options for young adults. It opened with a fall BBQ and wants to expand its ministry to include weekly Bible studies as well.
  • Eagle River, Alaska: Field director Rodney Sawyer stated in a recent ECCAK newsletter that ECCAK recently hired Chris Danielson, who is based in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, as its new Director of Resources and Development with hopes of helping ECCAK finance projects that serve to better regional ministries.
  • Soldotna, Alaska: Alaska Christian College celebrated the dedication of its new Quyana Hall in November and college president Keith Hamilton said in a recent email that construction is almost complete.  The ECCAK-sponsored school is also beginning now to seek funding for a dining hall to begin construction in the spring if funds are available.

  • Nashville, Tennessee: Designers Church hosted its final preview service at J.T. Moore Middle School on December 14 and hopes to begin weekly services on January 11. Pastor George Stull has been in youth ministry for 13 years, much of it at another church in Nashville, before beginning the new Covenant church plant. To learn more about the ministry at Designers Church visit www.designerschurch.com.

  • Norman, Oklahoma: Journey Church has attracted a number of athletes and coaches at the University of Oklahoma through an ambitious college ministry, said Midsouth Supt. Garth Bolinder. The quarterback of the 2000 national championship Division I college team, Josh Heupel, was a regular attendee at the church when it was beginning its ministry in the fall of 2001. Assistant football coach Mike Stoops (now head coach at the University of Arizona) and his wife, Nicole, became regular attendees – Nicole has served as a grade school Sunday school teacher – and some OU soccer and women’s basketball players have been regulars. The college group meeting, Lifestream, has attracted nearly 400 per week on Thursday evenings, as the OU campus is located just three miles from Journey. Special concerts have drawn 1,000 or more and Journey has a large college age contingent at its Sunday late morning service. The church is averaging more than 2,200 for its four weekly services under pastor Clark Mitchell.
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: Water’s Edge Covenant Church, under pastor Greg Coates, will host its initial preview service January 11 at Metro Christian Academy. Coates hopes to target those who have never been involved in church or who have been disillusioned with the church. Small groups will be a key element for the new congregation, which began its ministry on July 1 and has about 30 people in core group development. Nearby Redeemer Covenant Church has given support to the work of the church plant.

  • Manson, Iowa: Twin Lakes Christian Center hosted its 10th annual Swede Bend Christmas on December 6, attracting about 230 guests, said program director David Wenell. The Swede Bend church building was the site of the first Covenant congregation and was built in 1861. A Swedish Smorgasbord and a pair of concerts were among the activities held during the day.

  • Wenatchee, Washington: Columbia Grove Covenant Church, a new church plant under pastor Andrew Thompson, had 75 people attend its first preview service at Eastmont Junior High. For information on the prayer sessions and worship service locations please visit www.columbiagrove.org or call the church at 509-860-4001.

  • Dawson, Minnesota: Marvin, Kent and Gary Goplen of Dawson Covenant Church were honored as Yellow Medicine Soil and Water Conservation District’s Outstanding Conservationists of the Year. They were honored for their efforts in ridge-till operation, crop rotation/pasture, and installation of farmstead windbreaks, grassed waterways and filter strips.
  • Duluth, Minnesota: Nick Ostapenko of First Covenant Church was recently promoted to Brigadier General with the Minnesota Army National Guard to serve as Assistant Adjutant General.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: First Covenant Church has begun to tutor a group of Somali refugees in its neighborhood. A parishioner, Tom Albinson, who works with an area parachurch ministry called IT Refugee Ministries, helped organize the effort. IT Refugee Ministries works primarily with Somali refugees in the Eliot Park area of the city stated a December church newsletter article. The largest Somali community in the United States is located in Minneapolis.
  • New Brighton, Minnesota: Consultant Ed Anderson of Salem Covenant Church has recently co-produced (with Greg Mathias of GLM Studios) a 14-song CD of blues-oriented arrangement of hymns entitled Rock of Ages. Anderson’s professional work focuses on enhancing personal and interpersonal effectiveness. He is the author of three books on relationship building and was director of a nationally known career transition program and counseling center. He has also written original songs and performed at numerous venues. More about Anderson and his album can be found by emailing him at ed@edswork.com.

  • Sacramento, California: First Covenant Church’s Saturday night worship services have had a successful start as the initial effort on November 1 attracted 340 participants. The service is identical to the church’s contemporary worship that occurs twice on Sundays. First Covenant Church has averaged over 2,200 in worship attendance for its combined services, said a church staff member. Ted Smith is the senior pastor.
  • Torrance, California: Lon Murata, pastor of Generations Covenant Church, and a core group team of approximately 20 people opened their first preview worship service on Sunday, October 5, 2003. Attendance for the worship service at Torrance High School’s library exceeded expectations with approximately 80 people.

  • China: Longtime missionary Barbara Johnson and other Covenanters have provided practical assistance in the northwestern region via a training school, said Chinese coordinator David Dolan of Covenant World Mission. A group of volunteers have set up an English/Computer Training School in cooperation with the local Vocational Middle School. One couple residing in the area and several short-term volunteers are teaching to about 30 students. Johnson is teaching English, setting up a library and contributing in many other ways.
  • Paris, France: Covenant missionaries Francisco and Stephanie Ramos have returned to France to help with pastoral ministry at a local church. Francisco is teaching a Bible study in the northern part of the city and has worked with elders on a clothing ministry to the poor. He also uses his artistic talents for ministry, too. He has tried to paint art pieces on various religious themes, including a baptism of Christ, and hopes to show his artwork in local shows while connecting with the art community. Stephanie has been involved in children’s ministries and recently completed her language proficiency degree. The family wrote in a recent letter, “Although we are enjoying our responsibilities within the church, we are most thankful for the numerous relationships we are developing with people outside of the church…these relationships are our biggest joy and challenge. Pray that we can remain authentic and transparent in these relationships and that God would inspire us in the conversations we share . . .”
  • Monterrey, Mexico: Missionaries John and Letha Kerl reported in a recent update that the Family Foundation has received a boost thanks to the help of Lisandro and Patty Restrepo, who recently arrived in Mexico. They have been working with another area organization to help an impoverished community on the north side of the city, providing a weekly food distribution as well as workshops for women on nutrition, health care and domestic violence issues, among other things. They also hope to create a lending bank to help produce income for underserved families. As project missionaries, the Restrepos are expected to assist the Family Foundation in facilitator training and curriculum development while aiding the spiritual landscape of the community.
For more about Covenant churches and Covenanters throughout the world, regularly visit  www.covchurch.org. To submit information to be considered for publication in this online Covenant news report, email it to newsdesk@covchurch.org. Photographs may be attached in JPEG format – make certain to identify the photo content in the email message, identifying individuals from left to right. To speak with a news staff member, call 773-478-4676, extension 117.

Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.

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