Small Iowa church plant serves over 600
Fri, 09/30/2022 – 14:57
Evansdale Hope Church of the Nazarene might be small, but its reach into an Iowa community is mighty. At this year’s Bless Evansdale Day, the church of just over 30 people served more than 600 community members with a school supply giveaway, haircuts, and food.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lead Pastor Del Rittgers described the church’s early efforts as more of a “drive” where members brought supplies to the local schools through a connection with the local Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
“That’s really what birthed the whole school supply giveaway,” Rittgers said. “The following year, rather than trying to take it to them, we were looking for ways to invite families to our property.”
In 2021, about 300 people came to the church for the first Bless Evansdale Day. This year, the event doubled in size as more than 600 people showed up to receive school supplies, books donated by the local library, shoes, coats, and even packs of diapers for young families. A couple that recently began attending the church volunteered to give free back-to-school haircuts.
Five years ago, there was no Nazarene church in the area. Rittgers and his wife were pastoring a church in Buffalo, Kentucky, when they felt God calling them to go back to their home state of Iowa and plant a church.
Rittgers has planted churches before, but this time was different. With no salary, no church board members, and no pre-existing congregants to take with them to the church plant, Del and his wife, Chris, were “parachuting” into a community and planting a church from the ground up. The key for Del? Prayer.
“This whole work here has truly been prayer-driven,” Rittgers said. “Everything that we have — from chairs to signage outside — literally everything has been prayed in.”
When Del, Chris, daughter Nikki Carter, and son-in-law Tyrell Carter moved to Evansdale, they began their work in the community through prayer walks, asking God to specify their call and place the right burden on their hearts. They first felt a call to a local restaurant. Del and his wife went in for breakfast and ended up not leaving until the owner and chef closed the restaurant at 2 p.m.
Eventually, the owner offered to open his space for them to hold a Bible study on Thursday nights. The family’s waitress that day was the first person who accepted the Lord and began attending the Bible studies.
“It was through that prayer walk that we developed a greater burden, which led us to that particular building,” Rittgers said. “And then from there we just worked to plant more seeds and make more connections with people.”
Today, between 30 and 40 people attend Evansdale Hope’s services throughout the week. Like the restaurant and supplies, most of the church members have come through prayer. The church has a youth group led by Tyrell Carter, which is attended by 10 to 15 youth from the community every weekend.
“A lot of them are coming in with drug and alcoholism backgrounds,” Rittgers said. “We’ve been able to pour ourselves into them in a different way, learning how to disciple them in a different manner as opposed to going into an established church, where you already have a community built.”