LIMA — The Rev. Anthony Rudolph originally came to Lima in the 1990s to sell drugs. He recently returned to share something else with the community: the Gospel.
He will lead Anchored Hope Baptist Church at 4185 Bellefontaine Road, east of Lima near Perry Chapel Road.
Rudolph’s childhood was not idyllic. His mother had her first child at 15 and Rudolph came along soon after.
“As a little kid, my life was super dysfunctional. My dad was not there, and my mom was more interested in having fun than raising kids,” said Rudolph. “My great-grandma raised me, and I spent a lot of time with my great-aunt and my cousins.”
While his mother became a more stable presence in his life by the time he was in kindergarten, Rudolph said it was under his great-grandmother’s influence that he became interested in the Bible and became a believer at a young age. During his youth, Rudolph read the Bible 30 times.
Not only did Rudolph have a keen interest in the Bible, but he was also a reader, athlete and good student. However, even with a football scholarship and the promise of college ahead, eventually, Rudolph succumbed to the temptation of instant gratification that selling drugs brought.
“You know, you are around these guys and they have the money and the stuff,” said Rudolph, “and you are going around with holes in your clothes — eventually, I gave in.”
When he gave in, Rudolph also led a group of friends into the lifestyle. He brought those men to Lima and started selling drugs. In 1996, Rudolph was arrested.
“When they put the handcuffs on me,” Rudolph said, “I gave a sigh of relief. I knew what I was doing was wrong.”
Rudolph had a daughter born three weeks after he was arrested. “When her mom got pregnant,” he said, “reality set in. I was selling drugs and living a stupid lifestyle I knew I wasn’t supposed to. God gave me a second chance by sending me to jail.”
While in jail, Rudolph used the time to study the Bible, to develop his relationship with God and to get clarity on what would and would not work once he had served his sentence.
While he did attend various services, Rudolph began to pray for men who would just teach the Bible.
“Soon after that, God sent four men from Hope Baptist Church in Toledo,” said Rudolph. “They all said the same thing. ‘Don’t believe me; believe the Book.’”
Rudolph also began to pray for a mentor and God answered that prayer as well, sending a man named Ken Lease who came two or three times a week for 20 weeks to disciple Rudolph.
When Rudolph got out of prison in 2001, he attended Hope Institute of the Scriptures, a Bible college attached to Hope Baptist Church, both in Toledo. Rudolph graduated in five years while working 12-hour days in a glass factory.
Rudolph’s great-grandmother, who had been such a big influence in his life, lived just long enough to see him graduate. “She died three weeks after I graduated,” he said.
A few years after getting out of prison, Rudolph married Shelby Rocker, a pastor’s daughter. While he waited for God’s direction, Rudolph felt God confirming to him over and over that he was supposed to return to Lima.
In January 2014, he got a job first at Ada Technologies Inc. and then later at Ford Motor Co. Lima Engine Plant with the help of Bob Peace. “He said he had been praying for me for a long time,” said Rudolph.
He stayed in Peace’s house for eight months and then brought his wife and five children down to Lima. He has spent the past 19 months attending churches and researching the area. After deciding to open Anchored Hope Baptist Church, he also worked on raising funds and finding a building. Through the donations of a few individuals, numerous churches in Ohio, plus a church in Idaho and one in Florida, Rudolph was able to pay the $40,000 for his church building in full.
On Sunday, there will be an open house service at Anchored Hope Baptist Church where attendees can meet Rudolph and his family. There will also be Thursday night Bible studies starting that following week with the first official service on Father’s Day, June 21.
Rudolph stated that his church’s focus will be on what the Bible says.
“The Bible says our hope is anchored on His word, which is why the church is named Anchored Hope Baptist Church,” he said. “As a pastor, my job is to build up the believers with the Word and then send them out. This will be a place where the Bible is taught. Our motto is, “real church; real worship; real people.”
For Rudolph, the church is about equipping believers to go out and live out the Gospel in the surrounding community. In some ways, he feels he is coming full circle.
“I led my neighborhood out in the streets and brought them to Lima,” he said. “Now I’m back, but to tear them up with the Gospel and solid Bible teaching.”