How Did We Get Back in Jefferson?

Hope Community Church was birthed in 1974, that is, in my heart. I was born in Ashtabula and grew up in Jefferson, graduating from Jefferson Area High School.

I came to faith in Christ at the age of 14 while attending youth camp.  I also felt a call to full-time ministry. During the summer of 1974, I struggled with what to do regarding my perceived need to remain at home or to leave for college.  One day, while walking in the field behind my home and feeling overwhelmed, I cried out to the Lord for direction.  I fell to the ground, sobbing in the high grass and heard the Lord say, He who does not forsake, father, mother, brother or sister for my sake is not fit for the kingdom of God.  One day you will return to Jefferson and plant a church.  That promise came to pass 40 years later!

I subsequently attended Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, where I met Lori Owens.  We married in 1977, and over the next 35 years, the we pastored five Assemblies of God congregations. Each time we completed a church assignment, we wondered if it was time to see the Lords vision for Jefferson fulfilled.
In 2012 we transitioned from our fifth church. Both of us were experiencing ministry burnout, and thats when the Lord directed us to Journey Community Church in Fairview Park, Ohio.  For one year we just attended services.  Members of that congregation, along with lead pastors, Jim and Jennifer Wilkes, loved us back to spiritual and emotional health, 

During the summer of 2013, Pastor Jim asked me, Do you still have a dream left inside you?  I shared my dream of one day returning to Jefferson to plant a church in my hometown.  Not only did the Fairview Park church support this dream, but they financially resourced the new church!  In September, 2013, my sweetheart and I began holding monthly Meets and Greets in the Henderson Memorial Library.  Journey Jefferson was born! 

Later that year, the infant church moved to a small room in the Jefferson Recreation Center, still holding monthly meetings.  Momentum continued to build and by May, 2014 the church was ready to begin monthly services. The church launched its first weekly service on September 28, 2014.  By that time, Journey Jefferson had relocated to the Central Park Hall, adjacent to the Police Department.

Initially, individuals/groups of servant leaders from the Fairview Park Campus were scheduled to help lead the infant church until local leaders could be raised up.  Journey Jefferson experienced steady growth over the next two years, necessitating yet another move.  The church moved back to the Community Recreation Center in May, 2016, utilizing the entire facility. By March, 2017, average weekly attendance was 100 plus people, with local leaders in place for the worship team, childrens ministries, and servant leaders.

The Jefferson Campus owes Journey Community Church a debt of gratitude.  The first four years of the churchs existence would not have been possible without the love and support of Pastors Jim and Jennifer Wilkes and the entire Fairview Park Campus. It is interesting to note that Pastor Wilkes was born the very same month God called me to Jefferson!  God promises may be placed on hold, but they never come with an expiration date!

In early 2017 it became apparent that Journey Jeffersons rural culture, along with the 90-mile distance from the main campus were working a hardship on the campus ability to move forward.  The church exhibited needs and core values different from those of Clevelanders. Leadership felt that the unique needs of Jefferson necessitated an autonomous church in Ashtabula County. God was doing a new thing across the entire Journey network. In short, the campus had moved from infancy to a more mature family of believers. It was time to move forward with a new vision, a new name, and to place a pastoral presence in Jefferson.

To that end, Hope Community Church was birthed in May, 2017.  The new church held its first service on May 28, 2017.



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