Church: Neillsville-Living Hope (40th Anniv. - 2017)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Skiff, Zoutendam, Anderson, Elmhorst, Rayburn, Zielke, Gearing, Reiland, Wentz, Webster, Glaze, Erickson, Dunham, Horn, Gardner

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 10/25/2017

Neillsville-Living Hope Church (40th Anniversary – 28/29 October 2017)

Living Hope Church Observes 40th Anniversary

Living Hope Church is located at the intersection of USH 10 and Fairground Avenue in Neillsville. The church was chartered in 1977, and after transitioning in several locations, as the church grew, a new facility was built in 1981. Living Hope is celebrating its 40th anniversary the weekend of Oct. 28 and Oct. 29. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

By Todd Schmidt

Living Hope Church of Neillsville is proudly observing its 40th Anniversary the weekend of Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.

The public is invited to a Celebration Service Satruday, Oct. 28, at 6:30 p.m. and a special worship service on Sunday, Oct. 29 at 10:30 a.m., both at Living Hope Church, located on USH 10 at Fairground Avenue.

Living Hope began with a group of people who saw the need for a church that could reach out to people in Neillsville who came from a variety of backgrounds. The group first met as a Bible study in November 1975, at the home of David and Janet Skiff.

When the group’s prayerful search led them to affiliate with the Evangelical Free Church of America, the Bible study became a church in the fall of 1977, with Wayne Zoutendam as the first congregation chairman.

Wally Anderson was called as Living Hope’s first pastor. He and his wife Midge and children Kris and Kory came in faith that God would provide for their needs. God did graciously provide; financially, and in so many other ways as well.

After two worship services held at the Skiff home (at 1201 Grand Avenue) in October, the church was able to rent the basement of a former bank building downtown (just north of Sniteman Pharmacy.) The first “public worship” service was held there Nov. 6, 1977, with 35 people in attendance.

According to church records, the income for 1997 (three months) was $2,749.18 and expenses came to $2,468.61. Tithing for missions began in 1977 and continues to this day.

Charter members were: Wally and Midge Anderson, Wayne and Beulah Zoutendam, Mike and Vangie Elmhorst, Fred and Marion Rayburn, David and Janet Skiff, Curt Zielke, and Gwen Gearing (later Gwen Zielke).

With average Sunday attendance nearing 80 after two years, the congregation was praying earnestly for a larger facility. The Lord answered their prayers for the purchase of the former Christian Science building at 132 East Fourth Street in three specific ways: that the offer of $10,000 would be accepted, that they would have the $10,000 in cash by the end of 1980, and that the building would not be sold to anyone else during the time of waiting.

The building fund “thermometer” was at $2,743.76 at the beginning of 1980. It slowly crept up during the year, but money came in abundantly at the end of the year, especially at the New Year’s Eve Watchnight service, bringing the total to $10,902.99.

The offer to purchase was accepted, and the people worked enthusiastically together, remodeling, painting, and cleaning the building. Living Hope held its first worship service there on Easter Sunday morning, Apr. 19, 1981.

A Christian school was operated from 1980 to 1985, and many of the youth participated in Free Church district and national youth conferences, a Bible quizzing program, and short-term mission projects.

Five families who lived in the Merrillan area were involved in the planting of a sister church (Countryside EFC) there in June 1983. Living Hope was blessed with many babies born to its young families, so a focus was placed on ministry to children and youth.

After serving as pastor at Living Hope for 8 ½ years, with double preaching at Countryside EFC for several months, Pastor Anderson resigned in July 1986.

In January 1987, Pastor Steve Reiland was welcomed with his wife Marcy and their children Sarah, Kate, Kim and Gregory. Pastor Reiland’s 9 ½ years with Living Hope saw a continued emphasis on ministry to children and youth, both from the church and the wider community. A senior citizens’ group and White Cross ministry (for support to medical missions) were also active.

Plans were started for a larger building and choice property was purchased. Pastor Reiland accepted a call to a church in Silverdale, WA in the spring of 1996.

In the fall of 1996, a congregational call was extended to Pastor Steve Wentz. He and his wife Marie and children Andrea, Nathan, and Sarah began their ministry with Living Hope in November of that year.

Since then, Living Hope has seen God at work in many exciting ways. God blessed them with a 4 ½ acres of property on the very visible corner of USH 10 and Fairground Avenue.

In preparation for a building project, vision and mission statements were developed, and adopted, and a capital campaign was conducted. During the same time, a music worship team was formed, and a second morning worship service was added in order to reach out to more people.

Living Hope also began the search for its first youth pastor, so the position would be in place before the congregation moved into reach out to more people.

Construction began on the new 11,000 square-foot building in the spring of 1999. Wayne Zoutendam gave 18 months of his time and talents to supervise the building project; Ron Webster contributed his talents with the electrical work; Dave Glaze donated his plumbing skills; and many, many people (from the church and beyond) gave countless hours of volunteer labor.

The first worship service in the new building was held Nov. 5, 2000, and the building was dedicated in the spring of 2001 with no mortgage or debt.

Heath Erickson was called to be Living Hope’s first Associate pastor of youth in 2000. He and his wife Loraine were a blessing to Living Hope in many ways. Its junior high and senior high youth ministries flourished, and a separate meeting place was needed to house the youth programs.

The first “Grotto” was located in the basement of the old bank building on the corner of Hewett and Fifth Streets, and when the program outgrew that facility, the Lord provided a larger facility on the corner of Fourth and West Streets.

When Heath and Loraine moved to another ministry after five fruitful years at Living Hope, Alan Dunham accepted a call to minister to the youth beginning in January 2006.

Pastor Dunham and his wife Emily (with Tirzah, Marah, Judah, and Obadiah) contributed much to Living hope with their spiritual passion and talents. His contributions to the Student Ministries included the development of a “Mission Minneapolis” partnership with a ministry in the Twin Cities, a mission trip to Guatemala which has developed into an ongoing partnership, and a revitalized Vacation Bible School.

When Pastor Dunham accepted a call to a different ministry in August 2012, Mary Horn (one of Living Hope’s volunteer leaders) was hired as Interim Director of Student Ministries, and her position was made permanent in July 2013.

“Mary has invested heavily in the lives of our core students and in developing a team of adult volunteers,” Pastor Wentz said. “Mary was married to Mark Gardner in 2014, and plans to devote her energies to full-time motherhood beginning in January 2018.

“It will be exciting to see where God leads, both in the next phase of our Student Ministries and in the future of Living Hope, as we continue to ‘remember the past and to embrace the future’ that God has already prepared for us.”



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