Bethesda Church celebrates 80th anniversary

Celebration brings former pastors back to Huron for celebration

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Eight men who served Bethesda Church as pastor returned for the congregation's 80th anniversary celebration. Photo: Bethesda Church

Ten Krimmer Mennonite Brethren conference members met Feb. 21, 1943, to organize a church to serve the city of Huron. This was in the middle of World War II. Think of the courage and faith it must have required for these 10 people to begin a new church plant during those dark times.

But God blessed their faithfulness. Today, some 80 years later, Bethesda Church is flourishing, with an average Sunday morning worship attendance of over 300 people and 165 members. The church’s annual mission budget of $168,000 financially supports some 30 missionaries locally and in 14 countries. Fifteen missionaries have been sent from the Bethesda church family.

Bethesda’s humble beginning was in a small country church building that was purchased and moved from the country into northwest Huron. After some remodeling and expansion projects in the 1950s, land was purchased in southwest Huron for the purpose of eventually building a new facility. In 1971 the new church was built under the guidance of Pastor LaVerne Hofer.

More expansion projects followed as growth continued, including a new activity center/gymnasium with more classrooms constructed in 1974. Eventually the growing congregation prompted two morning worship services in 1979. A new worship center was constructed and attached to the existing building in 1990 at a cost of $650,000. Capacity was designed to accommodate 450 people.

Bethesda Church, Huron, South Dakota, most recently updated its worship center. Photo: Bethesda Church

Over the years, several specific ministries were added including AWANA, Celebrate Recovery, a comprehensive library with over 14,400 books and DVDs, Senior Adult Ministries, Souled Out (youth ministry), a Spanish Sunday School class, men’s and women’s Bible studies and others.

Twelve former pastors who had served Bethesda during the past 45 years were invited to the celebration, with eight of them attending the August 13 weekend. The festivities began on Saturday evening with an informal reception hosted by Lynn and Gloria Schneider in their home. About 125 people attended, including the eight pastors and their wives. This was a very special time of blessing with food and great conversation. Many people remarked that it was like a wonderful reunion. Some wondered if this is how a bit of heaven will be.

The Sunday morning worship began during the Sunday school hour with a dialogue led by current senior pastor Aaron Garza asking questions of the eight pastors. Questions covered the pastors’ ministry history after leaving Bethesda. Three have retired, three are senior pastors, one leads a Christian school, and one is in a career outside pastoral ministry.  Another question centered on what has changed in ministry from then to now. One pastor zeroed in on how distorted truth has become in recent times and how confusing that can be to Christ followers. It is critical to be well grounded in God’s holy Word, the Bible.

Garza gave the morning worship sermon. He noted Bethesda’s history along with the history of the church in general. A noon lunch was served at the church to 365 people. More conversation followed.

Over the years many baptisms and confessions of faith have occurred. Today Bethesda is led by the senior pastor, seven elders and seven deacons. There are also ministry leaders that oversee various ministries such as AWANA. Bethesda is anxious to see how the Lord uses us, going forward in this community of 14,000 people, which now includes a significant minority population of Hispanics and Karen Asians.

This report is written by Lynn Schneider, chair of the 80th anniversary planning committee.

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