Oppressive fog dampened visibility Friday morning, but by the time workers were set to raise the 45-foot steel cross into place atop Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake, sunshine broke through and lifted the curtain.
A crowd of more than 500 gazed upward into a vibrant sky blue background as crews from Advanced Signs maneuvered the 1,000-pound cross into place on a building that hasn't had a cross in nearly three years.
Several spectators raised their hands toward the sun-spangled sky as they broke into canella refrains of “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Amazing Grace.” Others took cellphone pictures, hugged and wiped away tears.
It was an emotional moment for residents of this small lakeside community and beyond, who in the last three years have witnessed the building at 225 E. Exchange St. change from Christ Community Church to C3 Exchange to now Harvest Bible Chapel.
Kristen Wisen, wife of Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake senior pastor David Wisen, said it was as if God himself scripted the scene.
“As the cross started to raise, the Lord parted the fog and the sun shone through,” she said. “When the Lord directs the plans, he does it right.”
Wisen said it was an emotional event for her.
“When the crowd started singing 'Old Rugged Cross,' I got teary-eyed,” she said. “I couldn't sing. It was so emotional.”
For Wisen and her personal and church family, it's a new beginning in a completely remodeled building. She said she was thrilled that many area church leaders attended the event, while others sent flowers.
“There were a lot of tears in the crowd,” she said. “Many people came to me and said 'we've been praying for this cross to go back up.' I'm thrilled with the turnout. We have the opportunity to be a light in this community.”
Spectators said they were inspired to see the cross return to its original home, and for a symbol of Christ to again take a prominent position in the community.
“This is a blessed day for this community,” Spring Lake Township resident Don Miller said.
Miller's wife Janice agreed.
“It gives you chills to know it's coming back to what it's meant to be,” she said. “This is a good example to people of what God can do. We are truly pleased to see this happen. They've done a wonderful job.”
Brian Anderson, CEO of Spring Lake Township-based Christian relief organization International Aid, helped obtain the cross from C3.
“Knowing the story of it coming down, holding it for three years until this day and seeing God's plan all come together is fantastic,” Anderson said. “Three years ago we had no idea. I'm just thrilled.”
The symbolic resurrection of the cross completes a journey that began on June 22, 2010, when C3 Exchange leaders removed the cross from what was then their church. C3 wanted to become a more inclusive spiritual community without focusing solely on Christianity.
Leaders from International Aid, including then-CEO David Wisen, obtained the cross and wanted to place it on their warehouse. Spring Lake Township zoning ordinances prohibited the placement.
The cross was stored behind Advanced Signs in Ferrysburg for the last three years.
While the cross sat on blocks enduring the outdoor elements, the pieces in the story ensuring its resurrection continued to evolve.
In May 2011, C3 officials put their building up for sale due to financial trouble. The congregation moved to the Grand Haven Community Center in September 2011.
A month later, Harvest Bible Chapel Spring Lake moved from the Trillium Banquet Center in Norton Shores to International Aid space.
Harvest Bible leaders toured the C3 building in June 2011, but had recently put a lot of money into remodeling the International Aid space. They felt comfortable there.
The Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids signed a purchase agreement for the property in November 2011, but backed out because of high renovation estimates.
Harvest Bible Chapel leaders toured the building again in February 2012. They prayed this time, and David Wisen said the answer became clear.
The group purchased the building three months later.
Kristen Wisen said she couldn't have written a better story line, right down to the fog on Friday.
Wisen said she woke up at 4 a.m. Friday and saw a beautiful moon. By 6 a.m., a blanket of fog covered the community.
“I thought 'oh no,'” she said. “But the Lord was setting the stage. He said 'We're going to make this dramatic.'”