THE LIGHTHOUSE SHINES
"There were four people with us," smiles Robin Parker.
The Parker family had come to La Grande to minister to the small United Pentecostal Church and see what the Lord would make of it through them.
In three years, Parker says, their ministry had grown to the point where they needed to find larger facilities.
They bought a piece of property in Island City with a good-sized building that had once housed a restaurant and bar.
"We remodeled and moved in," Parker says with a never-ending smile.
The new building was large enough to house their church, their offices and a school, she says, but not for long.
By 1994, the Lighthouse church and school had outgrown its facility once again. So church members constructed a large steel building behind the old church.
The new building incorporated a gymnasium that would function as a sanctuary and fellowship hall. The original church building housed the school.
By the end of the decade, however, it was obvious the Lighthouse had grown out of its facility again. Today there are about 90 children enrolled in the school and 280 people attending Sunday morning worship on a regular basis.
Originally, Parker says, the church was planning another larger steel building to house a new sanctuary.
To start the financial ball rolling, Pastor Parker Â— with help Â— built a log home on the site for resale. It was sold to a man in Washington, disassembled and shipped out. The proceeds paid for a concrete pad and steel frame.
It sat that way for a while. As funds came in, more was done and the project crept along. Then a year ago last December, Parker says, "we really went after it."
During the planning stages with architect Karl Juve and contractor Jeff Weaver, Parker says the plans, and the vision, just kept getting bigger. Robin Parker laughs and adds, "like most all building projects do."
The end result is a beautifully appointed 16,000- square-foot building housing an 8,000-square-foot sanctuary and pastoral offices, a huge foyer, a music room for the worship team, a conference room, and a large, softly lit room specifically designated for prayer.
"I love this room," Parker says. "It's my favorite."
She is happy to show off the facility. She leads a quick, joyful tour that ends back in the huge foyer where she is met by husband and pastor of the Lighthouse, Jesse Parker.
Pastor Parker and his wife say they spent plenty of time on their knees during planning and constructing.
"I'd say at least half the time," Pastor Parker says with a smile.
Understandably proud of what has been accomplished, he suspects the new auditorium may be the largest in the county.
Since Thursday, the capacity has been tested. The Lighthouse is throwing open its new doors for the auspicious honor of hosting hundreds of people from all over the U.S. for the Oregon District Conference of their church. The conference began Thursday.
At noon today, there is a barbecue to celebrate. At 2 p.m. the dedication of the facility to the service of the Lord will take place.
Outside last week, men, women and children were busy planting flowers in the new beds, cleaning up telltale construction signs and finishing last-minute projects.
John McMillan, who was working outside last week, has been a member of the Lighthouse for 17 years. He remembers the beginning at the little church on M Avenue. He is excited that the dream of a special place strictly for worship is now a reality.
"This is the first real sanctuary since M street," he says with the same smile of joy and excitement reflected in everyone's face.
McMillan says a lot of the work was done by members as well as other churches. A group from California came up just to install the air conditioning unit, donating their labor.
"We've probably saved over $200,000 doing as much as we could ourselves," he grins.
As he looks across the yet-to-be-paved parking lot, McMillan's smile brightens at the reality of their new sanctuary. No more setting up chairs for church and taking them down for school and potlucks. The Lighthouse house has a new sanctuary just for church.
"And nothing but church," McMillan smiles.
Â— Story and photos by Mardi Ford