Kenosha News correspondent
PADDOCK LAKE — Westosha Lakes Church now has a permanent home after one year as a fourth service of Kenosha Bible Church and the past four years meeting at Central High School.
The congregation recently received a generous gift: the deed to take over the home of Grace Valley Bible Church at 24823 74th St. in Paddock Lake.
“They approached us and asked us if we wanted the building and all of its contents,” said Mike Cassity, Elder Board chairman of Westosha Lakes, an evangelical free church. “And after voting on it, we said, ‘Yes.’ It is an extremely generous gift, and we praise God for it.”
The Rev. Paul Volbrecht, one of two Grace Valley pastors, said that Grave Valley members contemplated the donation for months and decided giving the gift to a congregation with more members and more resources was the right thing to do.
“This is the way we see it: A church is not a building, a church is its people,” Volbrecht said, adding, “We prayed about it for a long time. We know these people, we love these people. And we found out that they had been praying for a (permanent) place. So we saw this as an answer to their prayers as well as an answer to ours.”
Membership at Grace Valley consists of about six families, with roughly 30 members, many of them children. Maintaining the approximately 8,000-square-foot building was becoming a struggle for the small congregation.
A fair market value was estimated so that Westosha Lakes could pay a transfer tax to the state, but no money was paid to Grace Valley in exchange for the building.
The first service of Westosha Lakes’ members in their new home was on Palm Sunday, April 5. Grace Valley members joined those from Westosha Lakes for worship and fellowship, bumping attendance a bit over the sanctuary’s capacity of roughly 200.
For now, Volbrecht said, Grace Valley members are contemplating whether to join Westosha Lakes.
While the gift was a surprise to Westosha Lakes officials, it wasn’t the first time that the two congregations reached out to one another.
“Since they are practically across the street from Central High School, we have coordinated efforts by sending our kids and parents to their AWANA program, and we brought their kids into our youth group,” Cassity said. “The deal was, we provided a youth pastor and they provided the place … I guess one thing led to another and it came to this.”
The nearly 200-member Westosha Lakes congregation never planned to reside in a permanent home, as members felt their mission of “Bringing the kingdom of God to our world one life at a time,” did not require a building.
“God gave us one anyway, and it will allow us more opportunities to expand his kingdom,” said Sue Stoner, Westosha Lakes’ communications chairwoman. “The feedback is very positive, and the congregation is extremely excited about having a place to call home.”
For the weekly services at Central High School, members participated in setting up and tearing down the portable sanctuary items related to their worship. Stoner said not having to do that leaves members feeling a bit melancholy as it became an enjoyable and bonding mission.
“Every Sunday morning we gathered several hours before church to set up our sanctuary in Central High School’s cafetorium,” Stoner said. “And we remained after service to diligently take down and store our portable church until the following Sunday. The set-up crews, I am certain, will miss this camaraderie.”
Although the gift of a church building is an unexpected blessing for Westosha Lakes, Senior Pastor Jeff Talbert has empathy for the remaining members of Grace Valley.
“We are very excited as we make this transition from being a portable church to a church that meets in a building,” Talbert said. “Please pray for us for unity and creativity as we make this transition. Please pray for the remaining members of Grace Valley that God will direct them at this bittersweet time in their church’s history and that they will feel welcome at Westosha Lakes if they choose to join us.”
As a congregation of diverse membership, with many gifts, talents, strengths, weaknesses and compassionate hearts, Stoner is in awe that God brought them together as a family, striving together in unity to honor and serve Jesus Christ.
While they have been given the deed to the new building, the members are aware that they are not the true owners.
“The true owner is the Lord,” Stoner said. “He has entrusted us with this building, and we will use it to do good works. That is what we intend to do.”