WADENA, Minn. – Missouri churches are building relationships with a church in Minnesota. The church, Grace Connection in Wadena, Minn., is the only Southern Baptist Church within a 90-mile radius.
“We don’t have a corner on what the Good News means,” Jeff Heisler, pastor of Grace Connection, said, “But, we are the only evangelical presence in this area.”
According to Jeff Hardy, pastor of FBC Kimberling City, the partnership started at the Missouri Baptist Convention in 2019 when the Minnesota had a booth to encourage partnerships with Minnesota/Wisconsin churches.
“We started talking,” Hardy said, “and our church wanted to start a long-term partnership mission. This seemed to be a wonderful direction.”
Heisler remembers that conversation too. “We seemed to have so much in common,” he said. “In addition to our first names, we both loved fishing and both our wives were named Kim and working within the school system.”
COVID-19 brought the building project of Grace Connection to a halt. They had planned to start last summer, but it had to wait until this summer.
“This new church building will be centered on seven acres serving a five-community area,” Heisler said. “Our people canvassed every community,” he continued. “We knocked on every door to share that we were in the community. We were worn to a frazzle, but we didn’t want to start a new work unless we put in the hard work.”
Grace arranged with Volunteer Christian Builders for construction and FBC Kimberling City sent a crew to keep the builders fed.
“We are so thankful for FBC Kimberling City,” Heisler said. “They supplied the kitchen staff, the food and the appliances to fix it.”
Shirley Funk, children’s director at FBC Kimberling City, did a lot of the organizing for the summer. “We had the best mission trip,” she said. “Working there was like working with a happy family. We all just clicked, and I’m looking forward to going back later with another kitchen crew.”
Funk is using the mission effort as a prayer lesson for the children. “I want them to know that their prayers are as important as adults,” she said. “We pray for the building and the workers plus we are praying that each one coming to the church will come to know Jesus.”
Heisler reported that Grace is bathing the building process in prayer. “We pray to move forward on each step,” he said. “We’ve prayed any time that we’ve encountered an obstacle or a Goliath.”
Grace encountered a major obstacle mid-build. After the second week of construction, the completed frame collapsed.
“We don’t know what caused it,” Heisler said. “But we immediately stopped and prayed. ‘God, do you want us to go in a different direction, maybe not this time or this place?’”
“Our answer came in the insurance,” Heisler continued. “Our insurance covered everything, and they are doing the research about what happened. Different theories have been expressed. Further, our prayer of safety was answered. It happened on Sunday while we were all in church.”
“We’ve also seen God working through the collapse,” Heisler said. “People from the community have come in and told us that they will worship there when the church is completed. They’ve seen the setback, but they’ve also seen our response. It turned into a living testimony. It is easy to say, ‘God is good,’ when we are comfortable, but responding that way in hard times is a witness.”
FBC Moberly also partners with Grace Connection. “We are excited,” Heisler said, “because they are coming up to lead backyard Bible clubs for the children in the area. We are not sure how many will come; we’ve advertised and sent out direct mail pieces in all the surrounding communities.”
Other churches from the Crossroads Association who are involved in a partnership with the Minnesota church include: FBC Fayette; Mt. Shiloh; FBC Paris; Salisbury; Pleasant Hill; FBC Cairo; Carpenter Street and FBC Hallsville. FBC Slater also has participated with the Crossroad Association churches, though it is not from the same association.
Funk expressed the experience of the partnership for all involved. “We’ve been blessed more than the church in Minnesota,” she said. “It is about sharing the Word and it will be exciting to see how God will use our partner in that area.”