Long, Brutal Winters Inspire Church
Don't miss any stories. Follow AG News!
But what do you do when the need seems beyond your ability to fill?
David and Emily Clason, who pastor Walhalla Assembly of God, and their church members recognized that their small community of around 900 needed a place for kids and adults to be active and have a comfortable place to meet, especially in winter.
“In North Dakota, winters can be a little bit longer,” David Clason says with a tinge of humor. “So, we spend a lot of time inside.”
Walhalla is located approximately five miles from the Canadian border and about 30 miles west of the Minnesota state line. In short, it’s cold — bitterly cold — for months at a time.
According to USA.com, the average annual temperature in Walhalla is 38.49 degrees (Fahrenheit) with wind speeds averaging over 20 mph during the coldest months (November through February). In comparison, the temperature average for Anchorage, Alaska, is 36.1 degrees, with average winds of roughly 5-11 mph during the coldest months.
But with only the school, school gym, and a legion hall (that is in need of some updating) available, the options for indoor activities are limited and the city didn’t seem to be in a position to build a new facility.
That’s when the church decided to do something unexpected.
On Sept. 8, the Walhalla AG broke ground on a 3,600-square-foot community activity center. The 56-by-60 foot addition will stand 18 feet tall and accommodate an elementary-sized basketball/volleyball court, game room, classrooms in a partial second story, and provide a needed storage area for the church.
“The court area will be of a durable, rubberized material to allow greater versatility in its use,” Clason says. “And because it is attached to a portion of the church’s kitchen, we’ll be able to provide food options through a service window while still being able to serve those in the fellowship hall, when needed.”
“I feel it’s [the center] really important for our community . . . it’s something we need,” states Mike Belanus, mayor of Walhalla. “The whole Assembly of God community has just done a lot for the area youth. This will help keep the kids active instead of into the other things out there.”
The first phase of the building is already well underway, with Clason hoping to have the building enclosed before any significant snow fall occurs. During the winter months, Clason is looking to the skilled labor in his church to help put up insulation and drywall in order to help keep costs down.
“We are not going into debt to build it — we’re paying for the activity center as we go,” he explains. “If we don’t have the funds to continue at a certain point, we’ll just stop and wait until we do have the money.”
The church paid $190,000 cash for the cost of the first stage of the project and has had enough come in to begin the second stage of the nearly $300,000 project . . . not too bad for a congregation that averages 30 to 35 people on Sundays, including kids.
Clason says that he’s seen God at work, providing finances for the building when they were needed, from both within his small congregation as well as outside of it.
“The goal of the facility is to minister to our community — we want it to be in use every day of the week, and not necessarily by the church,” Clason says. “We’re collecting ideas about ways we can open it every day, and as the building goes up, our kids, congregation, and community are getting more and more excited about it.”
Belanus who has been in public service for more than 20 years and attends the town’s Catholic church, says he gives a lot of credit to Clason and his efforts to involve the town’s youth, but adds, “People there [at the Assembly of God] are really committed to their faith and involved in a lot of other areas in our community.”
Currently Clason hopes that the building can be completed and operational in the next 12 to 18 months.
“If this was just something for the church, we wouldn’t have moved forward with it,” he says. “But we’re meeting a real need in our community while at the same time opening the doors to sharing the gospel with people who otherwise may have never walked through the doors of a church or responded to an invitation.”