Upper Peninsula Church Undergoes Major Renovations
The Sault Saint Marie church is thankful for the volunteers who poured time and effort into their building, but most importantly, they are thankful to God.
After seeing incredible numbers pour through church doors from community ministry, the members of the Sault Saint Marie church began to seriously evaluate the state of their building. The members knew it was past time for a remodel and stepped out in faith to begin renovations. Now, they look back and praise the Lord for how His hand directly touched their project.
Over the past few years, the Sault Saint Marie church has become very active in their community, participating in center of influence ministry, says David Austin, who pastors the church. They restarted their Pathfinder club, which has grown into an active youth ministry, with children from the community enrolled in the club. The church also began a health ministry, which has been very successful. After holding a plant-based food fair, members were ecstatic to see that it had brought nearly 50 people from the community through church doors. Attendees, says Austin, commented “we’ve been waiting for something like this—where have you been?”
In addition, “the Lord was sending people,” Austin says, “people we’d never contacted before.” People who listened to Strong Tower Radio, people who watched 3ABN or Amazing Facts, people with questions about their faith—they streamed through the doors.
That was when the church realized they needed more space and began to seriously evaluate the current condition of their facility. There was nowhere to park, says Austin, and “we knew we needed to fix our walkway and our doors—they were rusting.” He adds, “parts of our electrical hadn’t been touched since 1947.”
The church began looking for contractors, but no one called them back. They finally got ahold of one, but he was booked “sixteen months out, and then he forgot about us,” says Austin.
They needed money, and they needed someone to do the work, as they didn’t have the knowledge or the time to do it alone. “We started praying,” said Austin, and “held a prayer and fasting session.” They sent the prayer request to Strong Tower Radio, and the Lord heard their prayers.
A Divine Appointment
Rich Sutton, director of “Mexico Missions & Beyond” heard about Sault Saint Marie’s plight from Strong Tower Radio, and he was touched. Sutton organized a group of 35 volunteers to come work on the church for 2 weeks. Adventists from Florida, Arkansas, and Virginia came together to help renovate the church. This group included members from the Sault Saint Marie church, and members from other churches in the Upper Peninsula.
"Some stayed for two weeks; some could only stay for a few days,” Austin says, but no matter how long they stayed, all volunteers worked hard.
As the initial projects of electrical and new entrances were being completed, Sutton suggested that, while there were volunteers, why not put on a new roof, add insulation, and do new siding, as well as add new classrooms, make the baptistry functional, and fix the heating? The heating was a serious issue. The system was old and there were no heating ducts. When the heat turned on, it was so loud that whoever was speaking couldn’t be heard even with a microphone. “We just had to wait for it to shut down,” Austin says.
Sault Saint Marie members jumped at the opportunity to better their church, and side by side with the volunteers, they began to tackle the new projects. Those who could helped with the construction projects. Some helped offsite or ran errands. Some stayed at home and cooked for the workers. “There was a host of volunteers performing different tasks,” shares Austin.
Unfortunately, the project didn’t run quite as smoothly as Sault Saint Marie members hoped. “When they pulled the siding off,” Austin says, “they found dry rot.” The rot had spread, creating a hole so large that “two adults… could fit through the hole in the corner down into the crawlspace.” Fortunately, Sutton “brought talented people that could know how to fix it,” Austin says, “and they went right to work.”
If they had waited just five years to renovate, the dry rot would have caused them to have to abandon the building, Austin explains. The church had raised $100,000 in the past five months, “which was a miracle,” Austin says, but it wasn’t enough. There “wasn’t enough money left to do the rest of the tasks.”
All of the volunteers and members gathered together to pray, and shortly after, an offering came in for $8000. Another volunteer felt impressed to call an acquaintance, and despite being “nervous about asking for money,” Austin says, “the person gave $25,000.”
“God has been leading every step of the way,” Austin says, “we have had about $400,000 -$500,000 worth of work done on our church. There will be changing rooms for baptisms, balcony seating, two new rooms for classrooms—God has been very good—it’s just been one miracle after another.”
It is worth noting that, although the church was already playing a significant role in the community, the renovations have caused heads to turn. “We were already known as the white church at the top of the hill,” shares Austin, “but now we are the white church that’s getting a facelift.” Sault Saint Marie locals are stopping by to ask questions.
After the renovations are complete, Austin is optimistic to see how God continues to work through the little white church. Sault Saint Marie is home to Lake Superior State University. At previous health events, “a quarter of our interests were from the university,” Austin reports. “The hope is that our center of influence will [continue] to grow and reach out to the university.”
As winter is around the corner, landscaping will be put on hold until spring, but the church is planning a grand opening in May to celebrate. “All praise goes to God,” Austin says, “there’s no chance that a small church like this could raise $140,000 in less than a month if it weren’t for Him.” The Sault Saint Marie church is thankful for the volunteers who poured time and effort into their building, but most importantly, they are thankful to God for, as Austin says, “He brought all of us together.”