LIMA — Last Sunday, New Life Assembly not only celebrated its six-year anniversary, but it also had the grand opening of its new church building.
“Our open date was May 19,” said the Rev. Bob Wardle, head pastor. “It’s not just the church’s sixth year anniversary, but it’s also Pentecost Sunday. I think that’s very fitting.”
The grand opening was a huge success. According to Wardle, about 200 people attended the service.
“We didn’t get a head count,” he said, “but we had between 160 and 200 people there.”
Although the congregation normally is about 50 members, Wardle was very pleased to see that many of the new faces in attendance came from the neighborhood surrounding the church.
“We had a lot of new families in attendance,” he said. “Our goal is to minister to them so they come back.”
The sermon that morning focused on the Old Testament Bible passage about the dedication of the Jewish temple, which Wardle felt was particularly relevant as his church dedicated the building to God’s service in a new community.
Afterward, the congregation continued the celebration with a luncheon which allowed members and visitors to get to know each other.
Previously located at 1637 Reservoir Road, the congregation made the decision to move to 1003 E. Kibby St. a little over a year ago.
The main reason for the move was that the church had outgrown their previous church building.
“We couldn’t grow anymore unless we expanded,” Wardle said.
The congregation decided to purchase the Kibby Street property last year when they learned it was available.
“The building had actually been scheduled for demolition,” Wardle said. “They were going to tear it down on June 2 of last year, so we were able to get the property for a good price.”
The church the New Life Assembly congregation bought was originally built in 1950. Although it has been a church since that time, it has changed hands numerous times. Unfortunately, while the building was affordable, it also needed a lot of work.
“I couldn’t even imagine what we ended up doing with the building,” Wardle said. “I thought we’d just go in and fix it up a bit, but we had a group of men in our church say we have enough guys with contracting, so let’s believe.”
The church did not just receive cosmetic fixes but was completely renovated. “We basically gutted the church,” explained Wardle. “We redid it from the foundations up. There are new floor joists and drywall. We rebuilt the walls and reinsulated the place. Everything looks new. It took us almost one year to the day.”
Wardle said the church made faith pledges and also took out a loan with Union Bank for $75,000.
“We were able to purchase the property and make all the renovations with that loan,” he said. “It was almost like the Jesus feeding the 5,000. We kept putting our hand in, and the money kept coming out for the project.”
Of course, part of the reason they were able to do so much for so little was because of all the hours put in by various church members.
“I can’t begin to name everyone who contributed to major areas,” he said, “because I might forget someone.”
Although Wardle does not know the total number of hours volunteered, he did say that he and other volunteers worked two to three days a week and all day Saturdays. “We started at 6 a.m. on Saturdays,” he said, “and we’d work until 6, 7, 8 o’clock at night.”
Despite many churches leaving the downtown area over the years, Wardle is excited to move into the city limits. “It’s an opportunity to reach out to the area,” he said. “It’s an area with a lot of crime, poverty and addition – according to some of the police reports there is violent crime. We were already preaching a sermon to the area though while we were building there.”
Although Wardle said they have not decided what that reaching out will look like specifically, he and the congregation are looking forward to demonstrating God’s love to the surrounding community. The church has already connected with area churches, though.
“The other week, the Lima men’s prayer walk started at our church,” Wardle said. “We had close to 100 men involved in that.”
Wardle said area residents are also excited about the church opening its doors, citing the convenience of being able to walk to church.
For Wardle, the grand opening last Sunday is just that — a beginning. “We knew it (Sunday) was a good success,” he said. “Now it’s time to get ready to minister to those around us. It’s time for our little church to step up its game because we have some big challenges to meet.”
New Life Assembly
Adult Bible study: 9:30 a.m.
Worship service: 10:30 a.m.
Youth service: 6 p.m.
Bible study: 7 p.m.
For details, visit www.newlifeassemblylima.org