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Fort Des Moines Open Bible Celebrates Mortgage Burning

Fort Des Moines Church of the Open Bible hosted a mortgage burning celebration November 3, 2019, planned around the theme “Reminisce, Rejoice, and Revive.” Dignitaries included Open Bible President Randall Bach, who shared a powerful message; Central Region Executive Director Bruce Pfadenhauer, who shared a short greeting and word; District Director Jaccie Kenyon, who pastors Church of the Open Bible in Iowa Falls; and Randy Richards by video, one of the church’s former youth and children’s pastors who currently pastors Open Bible Praise Center in Boonville, Missouri. Interestingly, Randall and Bruce both shared from the same Scripture, Joshua 3:5, reminding attendees that “crossing the Jordan” is not the end, but a new beginning.

According to Jim Beyer, the church’s administrator, who along with the leadership team planned the celebration, “the goal of the mortgage burning celebration was to give God the glory and thank the people. The ‘Fort’ was birthed in generosity and revival. That has been the case from 1931 to today.”

Alison (Beyer) Beaird, who grew up attending the church, flew in from Denver to join the worship team for the event. She sang two special numbers, “My Tribute,” by Andraé Crouch, and a “Fort” version (written by staff pastor and former OBC Secretary/Treasurer Teresa Beyer) of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” leaving hardly a dry eye in the auditorium. Guests also viewed congratulatory video responses from Iowa’s governor, Kim Reynolds, and both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst. A heartwarming video from living former pastors and leaders and a humorous video, which actually kicked off the event, rounded out the celebration. Of course the actual burning of the mortgage was one of the most highly anticipated highlights of the morning. 

Every church has a core of people who are the rock-like anchors of the church. They always participate, are faithful to every ministry, and loyally stand by the vision of the church. Likewise, every association of churches or denomination has rock-like anchor churches that are faithful to every ministry and loyally stand by the vision of the association. Fort Des Moines Church of the Open Bible is such an anchor church.

Randall A. Bach, President of Open Bible Churches

Matt Sanford, the church’s current lead pastor, said, “As someone who was raised in this church and is now pastoring it, the mortgage burning is much more than a financial issue to me. It’s a reminder of our congregation’s faithfulness to God over the last 88 years and of the great shepherds that were chosen to lead our church. I consider it a privilege to be a part of this legacy and look forward to what God has for our church family.”

Fort Des Moines Church of the Open Bible was founded in 1931 during the Great Depression. John R. Richey and his wife, Louise, pastors of First Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, had felt led to launch a program of expansion into satellite churches around the city. A half dozen families on Des Moines’ south side living near the old U.S. Cavalry Fort wanted a church in their neighborhood and suggested holding a tent revival. Recognizing this as an opportunity to provide ministry training opportunities for Open Bible College students, John Richey led efforts to host the tent revival, which was a huge success. Each night the tent was packed and many souls were won to Christ. 

Miraculously the Lord provided money and land. On Labor Day, 1931, around one hundred people from the neighborhood who had attended the tent meetings showed up to cut trees and dig the basement of the new church. The sanctuary was completed and dedicated the following Thanksgiving with R. Bryant Mitchell as the church’s first pastor. That morning 56 members were received into fellowship. “The Fort,” as the church is lovingly called today, has left an amazing legacy of disciples well trained to reach the harvest fields.*

Randall Bach said, “Every church has a core of people who are the rock-like anchors of the church. They always participate, are faithful to every ministry, and loyally stand by the vision of the church. Likewise, every association of churches or denomination has rock-like anchor churches that are faithful to every ministry and loyally stand by the vision of the association. Fort Des Moines Church of the Open Bible is such an anchor church. What a joy to celebrate with them the burning of the mortgage! They can train their focus and resources on mission without having to service a mortgage. Wonderful!”

*Information taken from Heritage and Horizons, published in 1982 by Open Bible Publishers.
Photography by Barbara Bach and Dennis Lee

2 comments

  1. Carol and Fred Hornshuh, Jr., my parents, met in the old Fort DesMoines Church back in 1940 or 41.

    Today, December 5th, would have been their 75th wedding anniversary.

    I have fond memories of stories told of those early days in Des Moines.

    Jan Kent

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