FORT ASHBY - A soaking rain didn't dampen the spirits of members and friends of Berean Independent Baptist Church Sunday, Oct. 29, as they gathered to dedicate their new church building.
For the News Tribune
FORT ASHBY - A soaking rain didn’t dampen the spirits of members and friends of Berean Independent Baptist Church Sunday, Oct. 29, as they gathered to dedicate their new church building.
An early morning fire Wednesday, March 16, 2016, completely destroyed the church located on Dan’s Run Road, including all the musical instruments, hymnals and the pastor’s 20-year collection of pastoral books.
The 4,000-square-foot building, erected in 1978, was a total loss with an estimated value of over a half-million dollars.
As many members gathered at the site of the fire, including Richard “Rick” Riley, pastor of the church, tears were shed, hugs were given, and words of encouragement abounded.
“While I don’t understand it, I am trusting in Romans 8:28,” Riley said. “I have to trust God and I do, and our people will persevere through this.”
And persevere they did. That very night, the regularly scheduled Bible study and prayer time took place in the fellowship hall which was not affected by the fire. it would be the meeting place for all worship services until a new church could be built.
After much searching for the right group to do the rebuilding, the pastor, deacon board and congregation unanimously voted to get Continental Baptist Missions, headquartered in Rockford, Michigan, to take the project. CBM, whose aim is “building churches to the glory of God,” was composed of five families who came to Fort Ashby from New York, Michigan and Iowa.
By early October 2016, the property took on the appearance of an RV park, thanks to the availability of space, water, sewer and electricity hookups.
Many meetings with the builders, outside contractors and a building committee of the church took place, resulting in plans and a final blueprint.
The first step was to dismantle and remove the former church, as well as digging up and taking away the foundation. The building site was moved to a different location, making it possible for the new church to be connected to the fellowship hall.
By Thanksgiving, the foundation had been poured and a month later, the trusses were up.
CBM welcomed volunteer help, not only from Berean members, but also from two youth groups who donated time and energy to the project. A group from Kokomo, Indiana, traveling in two vans, spent five days on the premises helping with drywall, removing mud from the floors, and helping to expand a drainage ditch.
A group form Rural Grove, New York, helped insulate the educational units and installed the sheetrock in the auditorium.
Many hours of volunteer help came from church members, particularly those who serve as deacons or retired persons. Seven bricklayers from D&D Masonry in Pennsylvania worked many weeks doing what they do best.
Committees were named, with church members helping to choose paint colors and all items needed to decorate and furnish the educational units.
Finally, on Sunday, Oct. 29 - 18 months from the date of the fire - the new and beautiful Berean Independent Baptist Church was dedicated to the Lord and his work. Approximately 180 members, friends and guests attended the service that included special music, a slide presentation, a message from Pastor Rick (“Giving thanks for the church”), and testimonies by several members of the deacon board.
The dedication prayer was offered by Mike Carr, one of the CBM team.
The youth group from New York was able to return for the occasion, as well.
CBM remains on the church property as they perform some additional work on the fellowship hall, which they hope to have completed by mid-December.
“God has been ever present with us. It is to him and his glory that we dedicate this building to the continuing of the preaching and teaching of his word,” Riley said.
“Through God’s leading in all aspects of our building program, we now have a bigger and more beautiful place to gather for our worship and fellowship.
“Only God could bring such beauty and blessing from the ashes. And all God’s people said, ‘Amen.’”