Building on Faith

Published 10:49 am Thursday, March 5, 2009

CHESAPEAKE — In both the Old and the New Testaments the number seven bears witness to the concept of completeness.

In the Book of Genesis by the seventh day God had completed creation. Likewise, in the Book of Kings Elisha orders a sick man to bathe in the River Jordan seven times for his full healing.

So there may be a special significance to the fact that it has been seven years since the members of Freedom Independent Church started their journey to a new church building.

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Now the goal is almost in sight. Under the leadership of their pastor, Charles Norris, they are taking the last steps to hopefully celebrate the most Holy day in Christianity — Easter— in their new home at the intersection of State Routes 7 and 243, just below the Indian Guyan bridge.

They call themselves the “Freedom Church” and started out in an old structure on the hillside off State Route 243 in 1986 with Gallie Watts as pastor followed by Raymond Baker. There the doors were open to all because denomination is not the defining characteristic for these Christians.

“We have different denominations coming. It doesn’t matter,” Rick Adkins, church trustee and an original member, said. “We all worship the same God. Little things can stop people from going to church. … The people who come here are not just Baptist, Pentecostal, not just Methodist. They like the way we worship.

“We sing the old songs and also sing the contemporary. … We try to praise Jesus. We like to give him praise instead of just singing about how good he is. We want to sing to him.”

As more and more came to the church, the old building just wasn’t big enough to accommodate all. Also along with worship services, the Freedom Church offers a food ministry for Tri-State families every Wednesday night.

That need inspired the congregation to build a new place to worship and serve.

“We looked at a lot of different places. The Lord sent us to this one,” Adkins said. “When we bought it, we didn’t know it was solid rock. We had to have heavy equipment to put in the footers.”

Also the original plans the church ordered were for a bigger structure that outsized the congregation’s budget.

“It cost three times what was in our budget. We sat on it for two years,” Adkins said. “The Lord gave me a vision. … About a year ago, in the middle of the night, the Lord told me to downsize, get off the hill and add as you go.”

Now construction crews are getting ready to put up the dry wall in the sanctuary and start the electrical work in a structure that when completed will have an appraised value of $758,000.

“We may get in to have a service (on Easter) but won’t be finish,” he said. “We can do a lot in those weeks. Now that the weather has broken, we can do a little more.”

Coming up with the money took ingenuity as well as a lot of sweat equity as the members held yard sales, hauled dirt, put on roofs, did dozer work and held car washes.

They also took advantage of their prime highway location by renting out the front yard to local companies to put out their signs as advertisements.

“We made a few thousand from that,” Adkins said. “We are not the type to go out and beg for money. Everybody gets together and tries to see what we can do to raise money.”