Whipple Creek Celebrates God's Timing

March 14, 2017 | Heidi Nelson

When the Whipple Creek Church in Ridgefield, Wash., paid off its debt and formally held a mortgage-burning service with conference leaders this January, it was not only time for rejoicing but also for reflection on God's leading. 

Members can trace the church's roots back to the 1970s and the Sara Church. At one point, this little church family debated closing due to low membership. They decided to canvas the neighborhood, and the church started to grow. It grew over the years to about 90 people.

Church members added a classroom to the existing structure, but it was still crowded. So they sold the church and bought a church in the Hazel Dell area of Vancouver, Wash.

Again membership started to grow and soon reached 285. With chairs down the aisles and concerns about violating fire codes, a new church needed to be planted.

A call was made Dec. 17, 1977, to meet with members interested in establishing a new church. The Ridge Dell Company began to take shape. After much prayer and looking, property was purchased on 179th Street in Ridgefield.

Reavis Belin and Jim Norberg supervised church members to bring the facility under a roof. With the help of Art Finch, a carpenter from Maranatha, the Ridge Dell Company celebrated their first Sabbath in the new church on Jan. 17, 1981.

Yet something was missing. The church had been built with the intention to add on a sanctuary as funds came in at a later date.

Years passed, and the vision to build a sanctuary seemed to fade.

The vision to build a sanctuary and add more classrooms was renewed in about 2006. During this time, a $75,000 mold disaster was used by God to bring the Hazel Dell and Ridge Dell congregations together, and they worked together to complete the new sanctuary.

Finally fruition came to the long-standing dream that had spanned the tenure of three pastors: George White, David Bostrom and Donavon Kack. Members held an open house in October 2009.

A loan was taken out with the North Pacific Union Conference (NPUC) in 2009 to pay off the mortgage on the new sanctuary. Funds from the sale of the Hazel Dell Church were soon allocated to go directly into the mortgage payment, and members faithfully contributed as well. The loan was steadily making progress as God continued to bless.

Finally in 2016, as the church board was evaluating the church loan, it was pointed out the church was in its seventh year of debt. “That’s the year of release,” quipped Edward Nelson, current pastor.

Members dug out their Bibles and read Deut. 15:1–6: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed … if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

With more than $126,000 still outstanding on the $800,000 loan, would Whipple Creek be able to participate in this “year of release”? After prayer and consideration, church leadership decided to present a pledge drive to the church members and see what God would do.

People pledged and gave sacrificially, and the church family was amazed to watch their goal get closer and closer.

Dennis Schafer, church treasurer, handed over a check to NPUC on Nov. 9, 2016, completely paying off the debt taken out seven and a half years earlier. By God’s grace the loan was paid in full 12 years ahead of time.

A praise and mortgage-burning service was held Jan. 21, 2017. Former pastors Kack and Bostrom, along with Dan Linrud, Oregon Conference president, and David Freedman, Oregon Conference treasurer, joined 300 members of the family of Christ to celebrate the burning of this mortgage. Memories of the rich history of Whipple Creek Church were shared.

Whipple Creek Church continues to grow and is looking again at church growth options, but members are confident, as they move forward with church growth plans, God will continue to lead in the future, just as He has in the past.