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Act of God

Wadena Evangelical Church will celebrate the completion of a new sanctuary with a dedication service at 10 a.m. on Aug. 27--more than a year after a storm delayed the expansion project.

The storm struck on June 20, 2005, nearly two months after the church turned the soil for the addition of a new sanctuary. The wind and rain ripped off half the roof and tore down the walls and steel rafters, said Jeff Heisler, pastor of Wadena Evangelical. The damage presented a great challenge to the church, he said, and taught the congregation some lessons in patience.

"God promises us a safe landing, but he doesn't promise us a turbulance-free life," Heisler said -- a message he repeats in his sermons. "That does not change the fact that God is still good."

Volunteer work played a key role in renovating the church, he said. And the church did not allow the storm to stop their efforts.

"All of our people really stepped up to the plate and did what they needed to do," he said.

Church members lent their carpentry skills to the project, Heisler said, and the insurance company covered the $40,000 cost of the damage. In two weeks time, the project was back to where it was before the storm, he said.

The church began the renovation during Heisler's first week officiating in April 2005, although he was not officially on staff until June 1.

The church had been considering the expansion project for years, he said, and had raised enough money to do the project with very little debt. The church has always attracted visitors, Heisler said, and the expansion creates more room for people to hear the church's message.

"It allows us the opportunity to communicate our vision to more and more people and share with them the good news of Christ," he said.

Visitors typically stop going to a church that reaches 80 percent of its capacity, Heisler said.

"We've grown and we need room," he said. "That's it."

The new sanctuary features a pine ceiling and front inlaid with a bronze cross. A stained-cement foyer bridges the two large double doors on the east and west ends of the new church. It features a cross arm design and an inlaid wooden cross. The addition includes an upstairs featuring a balcony with room for overflow crowds and small room for classes or prayer.

Now that the main portion of the addition is complete, the church is not wasting anytime getting started on the rest of the renovation. They have already ripped up some of the pews in the old sanctuary, which will be transformed into a fellowship hall, Heisler said. The church plans on building new bathrooms in an unfinished portion of the addition. An unofficial dream of the church, he said, is to create a youth center in the old fellowship hall in the basement. The church also plans to expand its parking.

For now, Heisler said the congregation is excited about the addition and looking forward to having services in the new building.

The church is also taking time to reflect on the project and what has been accomplished. The dedication service on Aug. 27 will be a time of remembrance and thanksgiving for what God has done, Heisler said.

"God wants his people to have celebrations, parties and rejoice," he said. "God is a God who loves us and cares for us, and we want to celebrate that."