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Miracles, volunteers help build church

Becky Vargo • Aug 23, 2017 at 12:00 AM

FERRYSBURG — The superstructure of the new Gateway Church has risen, and the church’s pastor says it’s been miraculous how the fundraising has provided for a debt-free facility once it’s constructed.

The steel skeleton of the church’s first phase was erected in July at the north end of Maple Street, alongside southbound U.S. 31 in Ferrysburg.

The church has rented a home for the past several years at 1641 Pontaluna Road, just off U.S. 31 at the intersection with Harvey Street in Fruitport Township.

The Rev. Ben Vegh said groundbreaking for the $1.5 million project took place June 11 and contractors started digging for the footings 17 days later.

Volunteer crews are currently constructing pads for eight motorhomes that will be on the site in the spring. Retired volunteers will bring their RVs to the site for housing while they help finish the new church.

Al Buchanan of Grant was working with Bill Nemeth of Lansing and Randall Badgley of Bath at the site last week, while their wives — Linda, Mary and Janice — rested in the shade of the motorhome canopy after serving lunch.

“We’re doing a bucket list of travels with this,” Buchanan said.

The retirees sign up on the Assemblies of God website for work projects year-round, where their specific skills are needed. Vegh said those skills will save the church $400,000 in labor costs. At the same time, it gives the retirees a chance to travel and share their skills.

The church purchased 7.5 acres from High Grade Concrete in 2007 for $250,000. The land was previously the home of Holtrop Cement.

Vegh, who has pastored the church for 11 years, said they waited for the right time and considered locating to other places before starting to fundraise for the property’s purchase in 2014.

“We were a young church,” he said. “We needed to grow and stabilize.”

Vegh said that members of the church board contacted other organizations to get direction on building a debt-free church. 

“We know it’s unique,” he said. “We knew it was what God was calling us to do.”

Vegh said there was a lot of sacrifice from the congregation of 200 to raise the funds. But they are doing it.

The final bids came in $242,000 higher than expected.

“It was a huge blow,” Vegh said. “Everybody was saying to finance the rest, that the money would be there. The board decided we would not break ground until we had the money in the bank to finance the project.”

Vegh said they went back to the congregation and, within a couple of weeks, had raised $80,000. But they still needed $170,000 more.

On a Saturday before a Wednesday all-church meeting, an anonymous donor offered to match up to $100,000. But that offer was good only up to noon that day, Vegh said.

“Person after person came to the church,” he said. “Dozens of families stopped by. Even people from outside the church came. We raised another $80,000 that was matched. It was a miracle.”

Some of those donations came in the form of materials.

“We had some out-of-town guests at church. They own a steel company,” Vegh said. “They are going to donate hundreds of steel studs (valued at about $50 each).”

Vegh said everyone is excited about the new facility, which will include a large youth wing, sanctuary and lobby. Future phases will include an office wing on the north side and a sanctuary expansion to the west.

The facility being built will include a driveway on the south side that wraps around to the main entrance on the east side of the building.

Vegh said the goal is to “dry it in” by winter and to have volunteers return in April to start the finishing process.

“If things go as planned, we will open here by the end of September or October 2018,” he said.

For more information on the church, go online to thegatewaygh.com.

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