Buying a “Lighthouse”


SDC churches help Kansas congregation purchase a facility

by Myra Holmes

Think “inner city” and the images that come to mind are probably not far from the daily realities of those in the neighborhood around Lighthouse Community Church, Wichita, Kan.

“We definitely deal with a lot of broken-hearted people,” says Pastor Jerry Willhite. “We try to give hope to people who are struggling.”

Hope comes first through Christ, so the church emphasizes discipleship, asking for a year-and-a-half commitment to training in the Word and in prayer. Lighthouse also works to meet physical needs through food and clothing pantries and a mobile medical clinic.

The ministry is growing in exciting ways. They’ve begun a promising Bible study in a similar neighborhood, and Willhite expects their small membership of 35 to roughly double this spring when a membership class concludes with baptisms and welcoming new members.

But ministry growth in an urban neighborhood doesn’t necessarily translate into financial growth. Sometimes it means taking on more need. So this fall when the building that Lighthouse had been renting for the past eight years came up for sale, the congregation faced a dilemma.

This fairly large church facility is perfectly situated in the heart of the community, where people who need Christ and need help can easily stop in. The congregation wanted to stay in the building but hadn’t even been making their modest rent. Willhite says, “If this was going to happen, God was going to have to bless us with it.”

Word of the need spread throughout the Southern District Conference (SDC), and the SDC churches responded.

 First MB Church (FMBC), also in Wichita, dedicated their entire Thanksgiving offering to Lighthouse—enough to cover about half the purchase price. FMBC also gives hands-on support as volunteers help Lighthouse with outreach events such as a neighborhood BBQ in summer and a turkey dinner give-away around Christmas.

Jana Hildebrandt, FMBC pastor of outreach and assimilation, says the larger, more suburban congregation is grateful for such opportunities to serve. “We want to be part of the Lighthouse story,” she says.

Funds from Lighthouse and the SDC churches will help meet the rest of the building cost.

“God’s called us to ministry here, and this is a difficult area,” Willhite says. “So we’re just very thankful that God is using these partners to enable us to do what God is calling us to do.”

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