Believers sweat to build own Baptist Church

April 9th, 2010

The following article was published in the Aug. 20, 2009 Leelanau Enterprise. It is posted with permission.

Believers sweat to build own Baptist Church

By John Tune

Of The Enterprise staff

How does a church in need of a new location for its congregation find an answer to its search?

You might call it divine intervention.

Or, in the case of Barb Plamondon of Lake Leelanau, it was simply keeping her eye on the road. Or at least the countryside as she was driving on Bugai Road while crossing Hoxie Road one day about five years ago.

“I was just driving by when I saw a For Sale sign,” Plamondon recalled. “God worked it all out for us to be there.”

Plamondon, her husband, Keith, and family have been longtime members of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, which had struggled in its search to purchase affordable property to build a new meeting place. After spotting the 10-acre parcel, she immediately called other church members to report her discovery. Some three years later, on Sept. 23, 2007, Faith Missionary Baptist held its first Sunday service in its new location.

The effort involved to open one of Leelanau County’s newest church buildings personally involved the congregation, which offered its own muscle to help build the nearly 3,200-square-foot meeting place. It also culminated a long process that first saw Faith Missionary Baptist meet in Traverse City for many years, and then Frankfort, before settling into its new location in Elmwood Township. Plamondon said church members’ patience paid off.

“We couldn’t have asked for it to have gone any better,” she said. “I love the people there, and though it’s a small church, it’s like family. It was totally worth it, and I’d do it all over again.”

Faith Missionary Baptist pastor Randy L. Graber is fairly new to the congregation, having taking over last October after longtime pastor J.R. Bourn retired. But he’s well versed on both the Bible, and the church’s history.

He said the church started meeting in a Garfield Township building in Grand Traverse County in the late 1960s, and was formally established in 1968 when it began to meet in a historic building on Webster Street in Traverse City.

“Brother Bourn said there were two problems with the Webster Street building, though,” Graber said. “It didn’t have a designated parking lot, and it didn’t have a ground-level entrance, yet we needed to provide handicap accessibility.”

Members decided against an expensive renovation, and instead sold the building and relocated to the Baptist church building across from Frankfort High School in May 2004. Faith Missionary Baptist remained in Frankfort for just over three years. A groundbreaking service for the new Bugai Road location was held July 30, 2006. The church used money it received from the sale of the Webster Street site to fund the parcel and help pay construction costs for its new building.

“It was the right location and the right price. We simply felt led of the Lord to move forward at that time,” Graber said.

Though a contractor was hired for the building project, church members helped keep costs to a minimum. During the 14-month construction process, Graber said members pitched in on projects such as drywalling, carpeting and painting. Graber also credited others with helping in the project.

“We had church members of like faith from elsewhere in Michigan and Ohio come in and volunteer, and we subbed (sub-contracted) a few things out,” he said. “The church felt a good unity to move forward and everyone worked together well. They knew when to help, and when to move out of the way” when the professionals were working on projects like the mechanicals and framing.

The finished product included an auditorium for church services that seats about 75 people on the south end of the building, and a fellowship hall on the north end where meals are served and Sunday school is held in areas sectioned off by partitions.

“Our future plans are to expand north someday to create true-blue Sunday school rooms,” he said.

Graber said the church isn’t large, but is very open to new members.

“We would love the Lord to add more,” he said, “but the Lord adds to the church as he sees fit.”

He followed by quoting from 1 Corinthians 12:18:

“God has set the members, every one of them, in the body, as it hath pleased Him.”

He also thinks small churches like Faith Missionary Baptist are an important component of faith in small-town America.

“We’d like to see these lighthouses of truth in every little community,” he said.

Graber said new members are welcome to hear the story of the building project, and the church’s mission. A scrapbook in the fellowship hall proudly displays pictures of members, their children and other volunteers that note progress in the building project.

Plamondon also cited another benefit – at least from the standpoint of her family – after having spent years making the drive to church from Lake Leelanau to either Traverse City or Frankfort.

“It’s nice and close, and we’re really excited about that,” she said.

Faith Missionary Baptist holds Sunday worship services at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., and Sunday school at 9:45 a.m. A Wednesday night Bible study and prayer gathering is held weekly at 7 p.m.

For more information, call Pastor Randy Graber at (231) 970-1841 or email him at RandyJenGraber@gmail.com.