by Chris White, Village Missionary serving in Rich Valley, AB
In 2015, our small church decided to start on a very ambitious building project. Our family had lived in the church basement since arriving at Rich Valley in 2006. Our family had grown to eight people during that time, so our District Representative urged the church to build a parsonage. When I describe this as ambitious, I don’t mean we planned to build a grand house. Rather, it was ambitious because our church only numbered about 25 people, and most were senior citizens living on fixed incomes. But as one elder reminded us, the church had about 25 people when they constructed the church building in two months. We moved forward with much trepidation and confident trust in God.
Over the next five years, we organized various fundraising events, from traditional fundraiser banquets to more creative events like a Medieval Banquet, Fun Run (5 km run), Community Garage Sale, a Quilt Raffle, and a Chili Cook-off. Many of these events did more than raise money for our building fund; they created community outreach opportunities. Some have turned into annual events. The Chili Cook-off is now a much-anticipated event in our community.
Enough to Lock Up the Parsonage
Eventually, we raised about $95,000. Murray Graham – who was building homes for a living at that time – donated a set of blueprints. Contractors gave us a quote of $400,000, but Murray suggested we could build the house for around $200,000 if we ‘did it ourselves.’ He believed we had enough to complete the exterior of the parsonage. We decided to move forward, trusting God to provide the remainder in his time.
This was an incredible time of excitement and back-breaking labour as we tried to do as much as possible. We hired two amazing Christian men to do the framing who worked very hard. We got the exterior completed within two months.
A Time for Rejoicing and a Time for Mourning
As they put the last shingles on the roof, I headed to Barrhead (a town 25 kilometers north) to get their final paycheque because they were headed home that night. I was “over the moon,” very excited and joyful about what God had done!
As I drove over the crest of a small hill about five kilometers north of Rich Valley, I saw a car accident ahead. As a volunteer firefighter, I stopped to help and give our crews an ‘on-scene’ report as they were dispatched. As I ran to the scene, I saw our Deputy Chief coming up his driveway. I reached the car and realized the passenger was already dead (killed on impact by a drunk driver). Then my Deputy Chief said, “It’s Josh.” Josh was a firefighter and one of the Deputy’s best friends.
What began as a thrilling day with the first major stage of our building project completed, turned into one of the most challenging days of my ministry. Over the next few weeks, the building project took a back seat while I ministered to the family and grieving firefighters.
Progress and Continual Provision
That summer, work continued on the parsonage. When we were ready to pour the cement floor for the basement, the contractor broke his foot just before the concrete trucks arrived. However, we persevered and finished the floors with help from the contractor’s friend.
We had started with $95,000, expecting that to get us through the first phase. We completed the exterior under $75,000, and funds kept coming in. God’s people (many of you) were very generous. God also led some Christian friends who were tradesmen or handy with tools to donate their time. One of them was Bob, a retired plumber. I recalled the Exodus when God’s people came together and contributed to the building of the Tabernacle.
Every time we reached the end of our funds or a large expense was coming up, we received a cheque in the mail. We never had to stop building because of lack of funds. God always provided through His people at just the right time. As the winter of 2019 drew to a close, we were making great progress and amazed by all that God had done.
God Provided and Protected in 2020
Of course, we all know what 2020 brought. The COVID pandemic caused prices to soar but also helped us build faster. The primary reason was that our Executive Director Murray Graham and District Representative Gordon Rowland could not do all their regular traveling. With some additional time in their schedules, they drove the two hours north to Rich Valley and worked on the parsonage. They were a God-send with Murray’s home-builder background and Gordon’s meticulous skill. They contributed hours helping with the drywall, flooring, and other projects. Those were good times of fellowship!
But this period was not without its challenges. One day, I received an email from a lawyer informing us that the injured contractor was suing us for several hundred thousand dollars. We endured this lawsuit for two years and had to hire a lawyer. I had sleepless nights pondering the lawsuit that could bankrupt the church and force it to close.
Eventually, the lawsuit was dropped. Praise the Lord!
A Small Church has a New Parsonage
During that whole time, we carried on building, and God sustained us. Almost 18 months to the day after the first shovel went in the ground, our family moved across the church lawn into the new parsonage. After spending 14 years living in the church basement, we were now living in an actual house.
Once we had paid all the bills, the total came to much less than the $400,000 quoted by building contractors and even under the $200,000 with volunteer labor estimated by Murray. We build this parsonage for approximately $175,000!
We couldn’t have done it without all the support from friends, family and God’s people. Thank you for your financial gifts, your volunteer labor, and your prayers!