Niles church moves into new, permanent home

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- The family of Hope Community Church finally has a new home.
After four years and three different meeting locations, one of which was at Ring Lardner Middle School, the people of Hope have moved into their permanent location at 2390 Lake St. in Niles.
The new church is located just a mile east of the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport
In 2001, the congregation bought the 20 acres on which the new church is located on from the Willard Estate and paid cash for the property.
Then, in the fall of 2002, the church contracted with Lemacks Construction, Inc. of Elkhart, Ind., to build the new church.
The new, recently-completed, 10,300 square foot facility includes two offices, three classrooms, a nursery, a kitchen and a sanctuary that seats 400 people.
Many people in the community have donated money and services to get the church completed.
Smith said the church, which is affiliated with the Church of God, Anderson, Ind., has grown steadily since a group of nine people held the first meeting in a house on the southside of Niles on May 2, 1999.
However, the first official meeting was held later in a garage and was attended by 42 people, he said.
Before meeting at Ring Lardner, Smith said the group met at Howard Township Hall for three weeks before the congregation outgrew that facility.
Smith, ordained through the Church of God, said last Sunday's ceremony drew 304 people, but the church averages between 220 to 250 people at worship services.
The Church of God is non-denominational, and so is Hope Community Church.
Smith said the church is there to take care of people's physical and spiritual needs.
To take care of the physical needs, the church has a food bank in Edwardsburg that during the last year-and-a-half has put out 6,000 pounds of food.
That includes helping people who have lost their job, families that go through divorce and people who struggle with addictions.
Smith said Hope Community Church is made up of a larger mix of people, including ex-addicts, jailbirds, lawyers and teachers.
An alcoholic until 1983 himself, Smith went into the ministry in 1993.
He said church members and himself have visited people in jail and helped out several of them.
Smith only has one agenda as the pastor of Hope Community Church.
The people of Hope Community Church invites Niles Daily Star readers to an open house and building dedication service on July 27 at 4 p.m.
The Rev. Kenneth Wiedrick, who is the head of church planting for the Church of God in Michigan, as well as Smith, will speak, as will some of the church's founding members.
The event will close with refreshments and tours of the new facility.

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