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News for Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Church Planter in Toledo Given School
By Connie Davis Bushey
news editor, Baptist and Reflector

TOLEDO, Ohio — One day in 2012 Dan Stevenson called the metro Toledo school system office. He got through to an official who listened to his proposal. As a result, a Baptist congregation here which needed a facility was given a school building.

Toledo is located in an area of Ohio which might become a part of an expanded Tennessee/Greater Cincinnati & Dayton, Ohio, Partnership.

Stevenson, a church planter and Baptist center director here, explained that he has developed a “partnership and friendship” with the school system over the years. As he has started churches, he has arranged for Baptists to volunteer in schools as outreach and ministry.

In 2012 Stevenson knew that the metro school system had 13 school properties which had been closed and were to be given to a charter school, auctioned off, or given to the city.

Just a few months later after making the call, amazingly, New Heights Fellowship, which was renting two adjoining buildings but had outgrown them, had a $2 million, 10,000-square-foot building.

“He (God) moved miraculously to make it happen. There’s no doubt about it,” said Stevenson.

New Heights, which was started by Stevenson about 10 years ago, will be meeting in a great neighborhood when it relocates to the facility. In fact, it is the neighborhood the church had targeted for its “focus area” — East Toledo, said Stevenson, whose parents, Lee and Sue Stevenson, live in Tullahoma and attend Highland Baptist Church there.

“We had determined that people here are most likely to be interested in the church,” he added. The congregation draws about 100 each week to activities.

Six Baptist missions teams served here this summer working on the needed renovations to the building. Thankfully the building had already had been through an abatement process to remove any hazardous building materials. Though built in the 1920s it also had undergone a $600,000 renovation in 1999.

Stevenson’s hope is that the congregation can start using the building soon and next summer it will be the base for community services, many of which will be provided by the city, said Stevenson.

Those services will include employment help and a summer lunch program.

Up to this point, neighbors have received the Christians “very, very positively,” said Stevenson. That may be partly because the neighborhood opposed the school property being used for government-subsidized housing.

“Please pray for this young ministry which is in need of God’s provision to survive and reach the lost of Toledo,” the pastor wrote in an e-mail.

Steve Long, director of missions, Northwest Ohio Baptist Association, which includes Toledo, said “Dan’s the hardest working guy in northwest Ohio.”

For more information, contact Steve Long at stephenlongnwo@gmail.com or 419-345-9144.

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