Theft. Flooding. Collapse.
To say the congregation of New Hope Ministries hit a rough patch between 2014 and 2015 would be an understatement; the church experienced three major disasters in a period of two years.
The small congregation of about 20 members was discouraged, but they refused to be defeated. As one parishioner put it:
“God doesn’t stop working for us, so why should we stop?”
These days, the members of New Hope Ministries are still counting their blessings for how things worked out and, in June, the church will celebrate four years at its new home in Roanoke.
New Hope Ministries, led by Pastor Jim Graham and his wife of 51 years Kay, had been located in a 100-year-old church in Warren for about six years before the first disaster struck in December 2014. The church was broken into. The thief or thieves ransacked the church, stole musical equipment and made off with practically everything that wasn’t nailed down, including some cleaning supplies and crayons.
“That was devastating, to walk in for Sunday service and find your stuff gone,” said Steve Graham, Jim and Kay’s son.
Fortunately, they were able to replace the stolen items.
In 2015, disaster struck again. After heavy rains, the church, which sat adjacent to fields, flooded and once again, church property was lost, this time to water damage.
Then, just a few months later, the main ceiling beam that ran the length of the church collapsed, bringing the ceiling down with it.
Steve Graham described seeing his church home destroyed like “walking into a war zone.”
Kay said she thanks God that the church was empty when it happened. The ceiling crushed most of the pews and if there had been a service happening at that time, she believes people would have been critically injured if not killed.
“We counted our blessings many times over,” she said.
Finding a new home
After the shock wore off, Pastor Graham asked himself, ‘What do we do now?’
“We didn’t want to feel defeated. We couldn’t let these things stop us. We had to keep going,” Kay said.
The church had already been planning a move, but the building – an old school bus garage – had not yet been remodeled. Still, they took the equipment that wasn’t damaged and held a makeshift service the following Sunday.
“The ceiling was down Thursday, and that Sunday we scrambled to get enough equipment over here to have service here,” Pastor Graham said.
Debbie Graham, Steve’s wife and Jim and Kay’s daughter-in-law, said the building looked more like a junkyard than a church at that time.
“The first time we came in here, it was nothing but buses and tools and grease,” she said.
That summer, the congregation worked 12-hour days to remodel the old garage into a church, doing much of the work themselves. They even worked over Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
“About every bit of free time we had was over here,” Pastor Graham said.
After two years of blood, sweat and tears, the church’s interior has been completely transformed, including a new stage, sound and light system, meeting rooms and space for Sunday school classes.
The congregation salvaged parts of the church in Warren before it was torn down, including the bell from the bell tower and stained glass windows, which have been installed in the sanctuary.
“We tried to save a lot of the memory of the building,” Steve Graham said.
What once was lost
A sign in front of the Roanoke church reads: Where the spirit of the lord is, there is peace.
While the congregation has found peace in its new home, but there’s still building to do, Pastor Graham said. The church lost some members in the move, and he invites the community to see what the church has to offer, including an excellent worship music program.
Not many people know we’re here, Kay Graham said, and the ones who do are very skeptical about the new church in the old school bus garage – that is until they step through the door to find a beautiful sanctuary.
“It’s exciting to get to come here on Sunday mornings,” parishioner Joyce Lane said. “You look forward to seeing what the pastor is going to bring forward and you’re uplifted when you leave.”
New Hope Ministries, a full Gospel church, is located at 1167 N. Seminary St. in Roanoke. Morning worship is at 10:30 a.m. each Sunday. For more information, contact Pastor Jim Graham at 260-494-6753.