Itinerant church gets a place to call its own

Pastor Kelly Starnes describes the night that Jesus was born as he preaches the gospel to his flock at the new Gospel Ministries Center, 1622 Glenwood Ave.

Like Joseph and Mary, the members of Gospel Ministries have been told time and time again that there’s no room at the inn.

For the past 13 years, the fledgling church has moved from location to location, spreading its members and services far and wide. But they held together, worshiping anywhere that would have them — from living rooms to hotels, rest homes to rented church space.

But this Christmas, the 60 members of the congregation finally have a place to clasp hands, praise God, and call home.

“It’s really the perfect Christmas story for us. We’ve been all over this town,” said Kelly Starnes, founding pastor of the church.

Just before Thanksgiving, the opportunity to purchase a permanent home arose when the building at 1622 Glenwood Ave. was listed for sale. The building formerly was the location of the Global Heart Spiritual Center.

It took just two weeks for the congregation to raise $135,000 to buy the building.

Most of the money came from personal loans and donations from church members. Some borrowed from the equity of their homes, and others dipped into their retirement accounts. Some even chose to liquidate their savings accounts.

Those who couldn’t afford to give monetarily gave generously in other ways to help.

“Great sacrifice came from our members to buy this,” Starnes said, while explaining that some members offered up valued possessions, such as a wedding dress and an heirloom silver set, which were sold to help purchase the church.

Member Raelynn Hilgenfeld began collecting gold watches, chains and other jewelry from church members and sold them to a gold buyer at the Mesa Mall. Other items, such as baby clothes and household goods, she posted for sale on Craigslist. Overall, those sales raised $500.

As word spread of her efforts, Hilgenfeld received an overwhelming number of donated items, which prompted her to have a yard sale that raised more than $1,200 for the cause.

“I’ve really never seen anything like this,” Starnes said. “As a pastor, it’s extremely humbling, and I know that God did that for us.”

In addition to purchasing the building, the interior is undergoing a $2,000 renovation to fit their church’s needs by including a fellowship room, a nursery and a children’s area.

“We desperately wanted a church that the whole family can attend. That’s really the heart of this church,” Hilgenfeld said. “This means more than we can say, and God honored even those who gave a little,” she said.

Jackie Garlitz, a 13-year-member of Gospel Ministries and a “kinderchurch” teacher, said she used to have to construct temporary Styrofoam walls in order to separate the children from the adults.

“This year we are going to be able just to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas and not where we are going to go next,” she said.

Now that everyone will be together, Starnes said the church is ready to expand its membership.

“Anyone is welcome. We want to invite the whole community to join us,” Starnes said.

A Christmas service will take place today at 6 p.m.


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