James D. Clark has been pastor of Calvary Assembly of God in DeMotte, Indiana, since 1985. Under his leadership, Calvary Assembly regularly participated in community outreaches and completed two building programs. Still, Clark knew the Lord had more planned for the church in the community of 4,100 just 65 miles southeast of Chicago.
For many years, Clark, 62, wanted to build a gymnasium at the church, but didn’t feel a release from the Lord. Then he began to sense God redirecting the way he viewed church and connecting with the community. Clark shared with his staff that he had set aside a specific time to pray each morning to seek wisdom and clarity.
Associate pastor Jeff A. Martin, 51, came to Calvary as an 8th grader and has been part of the church over 35 years — almost as long as Clark has served as pastor. Martin officially has been on staff for five years, though he previously volunteered in children’s, youth, men’s, and other ministries.
In a staff meeting a few weeks after Clark explained his prayer focus, the pastor told of his desire to establish a place where the church could offer services or activities as an outreach, similar to the YMCA, but with a Christlike emphasis to the hurting.
“Many in our community will not set foot inside a church, but they will go anywhere anytime for activities for their children or grandchildren,” Clark says. “ We want to meet the physical, emotional, mental, and relational needs in our community with the love of Christ and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.”
After Clark’s revelation, Martin brought out completed drawings he and his wife, Donna, 50, had completed five years earlier of a proposed community center. The Martins had even looked at land and talked to owners, but they didn’t feel the Lord leading them to continue at the time.
“It was a matter of timing — God’s timing instead of ours,” Martin says. “This was a mind-blowing example of how the Holy Spirit works to bring things together.”
Construction began on the Connection Center in May 2020 after almost two years of prayer and planning. Church Mobilization (formerly U.S. Mission America Placement Service) volunteer Allen Martin, Jeff’s father, served as one of the many who donated time and energy to the project. With over 11 years of experience with U.S. MAPS, Allen served as job supervisor on phase 1.
The 6,500-square-foot health and wellness wing of the center, formerly the sanctuary and church offices, opened in January debt-free. The church used its own funds to complete the project. The updated facility houses counseling services, elderly programs, a banquet hall, social services, and education and tutoring. Phil’s Friends, a faith-based, nonprofit designed to help cancer patients, has recently been added to the services offered. The new medical clinic opened this month.
“People are coming to us with their vision, passion, and skills, ready to be part of and lead community classes,” Clark says. “This is becoming bigger than we ever imagined.”
Martin, who now serves as the director of the Connection Center, is focused on reaching those who have been resistant to church in the past.
“If we can show others the love, compassion, and heart of Christ, it can be a turning point of hope for them,” he says.
Completion of phase 2 is projected for summer 2022. This wing of the center, the recreation and rehabilitation area, will house a café, commercial kitchen, multiuse rooms for education, physical fitness, and ministries as well as a rehabilitation facility, workout/weights area, walk/running track, and gymnasium.
The increased cost of steel put the full-scale project out of reach, necessitating a redesign of the phase 2 floor plan and removal of a second gymnasium, at least temporarily. But leaders are hopeful.
“We know this is the direction God has for us,” says Martin. “Just like David facing the giant, God can provide the victory.”
“This is similar to Jesus telling His disciples to feed the 5,000,” says Clark. “They asked Him how, as they did not have the resources to feed such a large crowd. Jesus simply told them to give Him what they had, and Jesus multiplied their “not enough” into “more than enough.” We are committing our resources to God’s kingdom and sharing them with a community in need.”