The church building recently completed and occupied by Redeemer OPC in Ada, Michigan, just outside Grand Rapids, was designed to welcome visitors and to house a large and expanding mission-minded congregation. I was a guest at their first worship service in the new facility on a sunny but chilly day in mid-February. The 419 people in attendance made the 550-seat worship facility seem comfortably full. And the 260 folks who came back for evening worship gave clear evidence that this was a lively and substantial congregation of God’s people.
As Home Missions general secretary, I have had a unique experience with Redeemer OPC over the years. I was there in Ada at one of the early Bible studies when the church was forming in the Spring of 1998. And I followed closely the news of their first Sunday of worship in late June, when Dale Van Dyke, pastor of Harvest OPC on the other side of Grand Rapids, preached at both services. The Lord brought ninety-two people that morning, and fifty-three in the evening. And when several people came to know Christ through the church’s ministry over the next two months, it became clear that a pastor was needed quickly.
It was my privilege to come back later that same year, on the day Redeemer OPC welcomed Eric Hausler as their pastor. Eric and his wife, Donna, along with their four young sons, came from Naples, Florida, where Eric had been the associate pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (PCA). It was a damp, raw December morning in Grand Rapids, but more than one hundred were gathered at Forest Hills Central Woodlands School to turn the gray cold of a Michigan winter into the bright warmth of Christian fellowship.
There were builders and engineers, along with lawyers, nurses, and factory workers. Large families who home-schooled their children sat beside single moms with babes in arms. Some came from Dutch Reformed backgrounds; others had only recently heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as they raised their voices to sing, and as they leafed through their Bibles to follow the message preached, I was struck by the fact that almost no one had come more than five miles to worship God at this new church. This was truly a neighborhood church.
During the next decade, Redeemer Church moved several times to larger places in order to keep pace with the growth that God was giving them. They developed a passion for missions. Pastor Eric had become fluent in Haitian Creole during his time in Florida, and he conveyed his zeal for ministry in Haiti to his new congregation. So it was no surprise that on the first Sunday in their new building the walls were already full of pictures of past mission trips to Haiti. During the fellowship time following each service, glowing conversations abounded among dozens of Redeemer members concerning past and future mission trips.
It was encouraging for me, as I hope it is for you who read this, to follow the thirteen-year journey of a young, vibrant congregation from its birth, through its maturing, and all the way to the opening of its permanent home. As I raised my voice with hundreds of other believers that Sunday morning to sing “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners,” it was surely a resounding testimony to the goodness of the Lord of the harvest and his purposes for our church-planting efforts.
Ross W. Graham