Northeast Indiana natives Heath and Ashley Kain are preparing to launch an Assemblies of God church in LaGrange, which will be the only full-gospel congregation in the county of 40,000 residents.
Heath and Ashley began a relationship a decade ago, but they didn’t have church planting on their minds then.
“We met through bad company,” says Ashley, 36. “We were wayward at the time.”
“We were seeking after things of the world,” says Heath, 32.
Those distractions primarily involved substance abuse as the couple lived in Orland, a town of only 400 in the northeast corner of the Hoosier State. Ashley fell into addictions to prescription drugs, which led to other abuse, including methamphetamines. Heath had a dependency on marijuana and alcohol, and eventually prescription drugs.
“There was little we didn’t try,” recalls the soft-spoken Ashley. While cohabitating, Ashley gave birth to a son to go along with two children she had from earlier relationships.
Ashley remembers the pills providing temporary relief to life’s pain. She had struggled with mental health issues dating back to high school, when she self-harmed by cutting.
But that fulfillment pursuit — and praying relatives — ultimately led the couple to Angola Assembly of God in a town of 8,700 located 15 miles southeast of Orland. There, under pastor Jeffery L. Gowen, the couple simultaneously sought the Lord and found deliverance after hearing the Word of God preached.
“They were striving to do right, but they needed hands-on discipleship,” recalls Gowen, 58. Gowen convinced the couple to wed and ushered them through premarital counseling in 2015. Subsequently, Heath adopted Ashley’s two older children, and the couple have since added two more. The family now includes Carter, 17; Kyla, 11; Ryder, 9; Indie, 4; and Jentzen, 2.
The Kains learned to follow God at Angola AG. Heath started preaching occasionally, got involved in leading men’s ministry as well as handled duties on the sound and streaming team. Ashley served as women’s ministry director, attracting younger females to the group. Last September they received ministerial credentials through the Indiana School of Ministry after sensing a call to minister together.
Meanwhile, a little over a year ago, lead pastor Jeremy M. Jones of Sweetwater Assembly of God in North Manchester, Indiana, says God began speaking to him about planting a church. No one in the congregation of 150 felt qualified, but Jones and congregants began praying for a young couple who could launch a church.
“Small churches in rural communities can plant,” says Jones, 45. He and a team at Sweetwater AG started praying intentionally about the location and they soon connected with Jeff S. Carlson, Indiana District church development and multiplication director. Carlson told them of the need in LaGrange, 60 miles northeast of North Manchester. Jones and a team from Sweetwater visited the community, met the Kains, and sensed a good fit. Sweetwater has invested $15,000 in the launch effort so far, and other area AG congregations have made donations as well.
Although the county seat, LaGrange’s population is only 2,700. The Fountain LaGrange is set to launch on Easter, April 17. Ashley doesn’t see her past woes in the region as a deterrent to ministry. In fact, she says those who have seen her transformation to Christ follower from drug addict may be interested in checking the church out.
“I can relate to many people in the community who are struggling with the same problems I did,” says the tenderhearted Ashley.
“We found freedom and we want to see other people restored,” Heath says. “We want to bring a message of hope to people who need deliverance from drugs, alcoholism, religion, mammon.”
“We are Spirit-led, but CMN provided practical tools to equip us,” Ashley says.
“The training helped us become aware of overlooked realities,” Heath says.
While they face a challenging road ahead, Gowen is convinced the Kains will be up to the task.
“They have what it takes to see the long term through because of their passion for God,” Gowen says. “Their faith has grown so awesomely.”