A New Church in Town
by Arnold Stobbe and Naomi Epp
Who would have thought that visiting a patient in the hospital in Borden would be the beginning of a new church in Hafford? God loves each person and longs that each one love Him. He cared for the people in Hafford.
One Friday afternoon as I walked into a woman's room at the Borden hospital, she asked, "What's your religion?"
"Mennonite," I replied.
"Oh, I was baptized and married by a Mennonite priest."
"What was his name?"
"Rev. Fast from south of Blaine Lake," was her answer. I remembered my grandmother talking about this pastor. "Why don't you come and visit our family over in Hafford?" the woman asked me. Accepting her invitation, my wife and I visited this woman and her husband at their home in Hafford once each month.
My heart went out to the people of Hafford. There was no one is this town who taught them the truths of God's Word. I longed to tell them about what God had done for me and what God could do for them. However, for 2 - 3 years no families were willing for us to visit them except this one woman and her husband.
God loved these precious people and longed that they love Him.
One summer day Miss Millar, our niece Marilyn, and another helper drove to a neighbouring town to hold a week of Vacation Bible School for children. Upon arriving there, they were told that the meetings were canceled. What should they do?
Rather than returning home, they drove to Hafford and prayed that God would open the way for them to have Bible meetings for the children here if this was where He wanted them to teach His Word. Their request to rent the hall was granted.
Then Miss Millar and her helpers went house to house to invite the children to Vacation Bible School at the hall. They waited.
Thirty children came to sing Gospel songs with them and listen to them teach stories from the Bible. God cared that the children of Hafford learn who He is and what He has done for them.
"I'd be willing to organize a Bible Club for the Hafford children for this winter," I told Miss Millar one day that fall. Was she ever excited!
The enthusiasm to share Jesus with the children in Hafford didn't stop with her. God stirred the hearts of several from my home church in Borden to help Miss Millar, Helena, and I teach the Bible to the children in Hafford. Then my home church offered to pay the rent for the hall in Hafford for 11 weeks so that the children could have weekly meetings that winter.
For the following 26 years, the children of Hafford were taught about God at VBS in summer and at Bible Club during the school year.
Not only did God's heart go out to the children, but also to the youth and adults of Hafford. Within two years of Bible Club being started for the children, youth meetings for the teens were begun. Again God provided volunteers to teach the young people, and youth came to learn of God's love, holiness, wisdom, and power.
Even some adults came. Consequently, we, along with Peter Thiessen, soon began Bible studies for the adults which continued for two years.
Because I longed that everyone in the area come to know God, I personally visited or contacted each home in Hafford and the neighbouring town of Speers as well as a lot of people living on farms in the area. For four winters my friend, Jake, and I visited forty homes each year. I would phone to make arrangements for our visit a day or two ahead. Very, very few people ever said, "No". God had changed the hearts of the people in Hafford. Now they were open to having us come and read the Bible and pray with them.
Wanting everyone to feel welcome to come to the hall to hear about God and what He has done for us, we had a flyer put in each person's mailbox four times a year. The flyer invited the people to each of our activities at the hall: VBS, Children's Club, Young Peoples' Meetings, Children's Crusades, Adult Bible Studies, and later the Worship Services. In each flyer we also included a Gospel tract or the story of how someone in Hafford came to know God. While in their own homes, the people of Hafford could read how God had changed someone's life.
"We would like to have worship services on Sunday," some adults in Hafford said. Not being a preacher myself, I invited preachers from surrounding communities to come and teach God's Word. The truth about who God is and what He has done to have a close relationship with people had been faithfully taught to the children for the past ten years. How thrilling that now families were eager to come and worship God together on Sundays!
After some time, the new church requested a pastor. Having known Conrad Hunchuk and his heart for God, I introduced him to the church, and they accepted him as their pastor.
God was faithful to provide a meeting place for this new church. For some time they rented the town hall. As they were almost the only ones who rented it, they considered buying it. It was a large building and not energy efficient, so they also looked around to see if there was another more suitable building that they could buy. In God's timing, someone sold the church a double serviced lot for $1.00.
A little later a Christian school in Battleford offered the church two trailers which had been used as classrooms. What was the price? It was also, only $1.00. The trailers were moved to Hafford and placed side by side.
After many hours of work by volunteers the painting, wiring, and building of steps, decks, kitchen, and washrooms was completed. What was the result? One trailer was made into a sanctuary for the worship services, while the other one was converted into an entrance, activities/dining room, kitchen, and washrooms. Everything that was needed was provided - even musical instruments and furniture were donated. The two classrooms had been transformed into a nice, cozy church building.
Interestingly, people came from three different towns to participate in the services in Hafford. Worship services were held in the afternoons or evenings as people were attending services in four different churches in the mornings. However, people from the Hafford area were also coming - four families from in the country and three families from in town.
Working together as a church, the new group had the Lord's Supper, funerals, Thanksgiving banquets and services, Christmas parties, and Valentine parties. Then a church constitution and a doctrinal statement were put in place. After the church had their own building, they had a chartering service and joined the MB Conference.
Now the new church in town, Hafford Gospel Fellowship, has recently celebrated 20 years of worshiping God together.
Other testimonies by Arnold Stobbe:
I Would Like That JOY!
Overworked, BUT - God Said...
The Burn Patient Who Laughed
"Visit in the Hospital? . . . Not Me!"
Serve Faithfully - God Can Use You!
Our House is on Fire!
Going to Heaven!
Working with Western Tract Mission
Back to Index of Hope Testimonies
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