BELDING — Just a few years ago, Encounter Community Church was on the verge of shutting its doors for good.
Citing low attendance and struggling to survive after opening in 2007, Pastor Rob Lawrence said the church was at a crossroads and faced an uncertain future.
But on Sunday, that uncertain future was greeted with smiling faces, golden shovels and praises to God.
Members of the church, which is located at 1213 W. State St., gathered outside the building together to celebrate the official groundbreaking of a $260,000 expansion and renovation, a project Lawrence said is a true testament to the commitment of his congregation.
“We were at that point in our third year where we weren’t sure if we (as a church) would survive, but yet the people stayed committed and here we are. It’s really been a journey to say the least,” he said.
Lawrence said after countless hours spent in meetings with congregation members and staff, reams of paper printed and hundreds of emails written, the chance to expand was finally reached.
“Along the way, there has been a constant, deliberate, and dependable prayer that has been lifted up to our father God,” he said. “The prayer has been given by hundreds of different people with many different words, but all of them have been focused on one request — that God would lay his gracious hand on us.”
According to Lawrence, the church will be adding to the back of the sanctuary to create more space to accommodate the growing congregation, which currently stands at about 200 members.
An addition to the children’s ministry will be built as well, for a total of about 4,000 additional square feet.
The total project, estimated at $260,000, came to fruition after the church congregation was able to raise $30,000 to secure a mortgage through the Wesleyan Church.
Construct is expected to begin this spring and to conclude as a one-phase project.
“I think we’ll be able to grow more with more space, it’s very exciting,” Lawrence said. “We feel that is how God is leading us. We’ve had people show up who have to leave because there are no parking spots. It’s a big undertaking, but we’re excited about it.”
Along with the expansion, several portions of the church will also be renovated, including a new prayer room to be dedicated to former church members Terri Doll, who died in 2013, and Jeff Wittung, who died in 2010.
Bruce Doll, in effort to honor his late wife, Terri, was on hand to help with Sunday’s dedication and said the prayer room will serve as a place for congregation members to meditate, pray and be closer with God.
“This is awesome,” he said. “Terri was a prayer warrior, that was so much of a part of her life. I wouldn’t see her for hours at a time, but always knew that she would be praying. We know she’s still watching over us and praying to this day, and so is Jeff.”