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Open Bible Welcomes a New Church Plant: Open Bible Prayer Chapel

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Open Bible Churches is excited to welcome a new church plant, Open Bible Prayer Chapel in Wesley Chapel, Florida, founded and pastored by Rev. Calbert Mark. Open Bible Prayer Chapel was affiliated with Open Bible Churches in May of 2020. 

Calbert Mark, who serves as the field director for Open Bible Churches in Venezuela, and his wife, Beverly, are prolific church planters. Sent out from Trinidad more than 27 years ago, the Marks established 12 pioneer works in Venezuela and brought many other churches under the umbrella of Open Bible Churches. They were also instrumental in planting churches in Trinidad with Pastor Cecil Quamina and in Monteria, Colombia, with missionaries Annel and Lumaira Perez (who came to Christ under the Marks’ ministry).  

Calbert Mark has always had a strong passion for church planting and leadership training, which was wrapped up in the call God gave him when he was sent out from Trinidad. So even though the urging from the Lord to start another new church did not really surprise him back in January of 2016, he did not expect the call to take him outside of Venezuela into the U.S.  

In August of 2015 the Marks’ son Joshua had traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend an intensive youth training program. It was while visiting him that Pastor Calbert received a call to start a new work in the U.S. This impression was strongly confirmed by the great number of Venezuelans and Hispanic peoples they found in the States who were unchurched. The surge of Venezuelans in the U.S. increased as life in Venezuela got worse.  

The Marks felt the real affirmation of God’s divine plan was seen in the fact that a pastor of a church in Tampa applied for their religious visa so that the Marks could come to the U.S. to help him, and for the past three years the Marks have assisted the pastor and his church. However, instead of being approved for a religious visa, the Marks’ entire family was approved with full residency status for ten years. The immigration department can seem to be a formidable opponent, but if you ask Calbert and Beverly, they will affirm that God is still in the miracle-working business. They received their permanent residents’ cards in 18 months!  

When the couple arrived in Tampa, Florida, they ministered to the Hispanic community there because of their deep connection to Venezuela, but through one disciple that Calbert won at his local bank, Carlos Castro, and his wife, Zenia, they were able to reach six American families, most of whom live in Wesley Chapel. While the search goes on for some space in which the church can meet, church members join during the week in small groups for prayer and Bible study and on Sundays in a bit larger group to celebrate Jesus. 

Church planting does not happen without a few challenges along the way. For Calbert and Beverly there were two major obstacles: One was the search for rental space and the other was a cultural barrier, or “commitment” issue, so to speak. The Marks discovered that affordable spaces for small congregations that are just starting out are mostly relegated to sharing a building with two or three other small churches because of the high cost of leases and the fact that many small malls won’t rent to churches. The second challenge relates to people’s willingness and ability to commit. Commitment for many people here in the U.S. is difficult as many other responsibilities compete for their time. Working hours that are unconventional is one primary hindrance. In addition, travel, school functions, family occasions, and other activities all sum up the justifications for people not committing completely. Of course, every congregation has its faithful few, so the Marks work with them and encourage them to multiply their faith in others. 

Their efforts and God’s blessings have paid off. Despite being a newly-formed congregation (with fewer than fifty), they have many praise reports:  

  • They started a children’s ministry on June 21 for the ten kids who attend church regularly with their parents. Both parents and kids are excited.   
  • Church members share several testimonies of financial blessings: people starting new jobs, getting promotions, and salary increases. During all the upheaval because of COVID-19, one family purchased a brand-new home, and others have moved to larger homes. People believe that their newfound commitment to God and this ministry resulted in blessings they were not experiencing before. 
  • The Marks and the disciples they pastor all have a heart for souls, so the church grows mainly by personal evangelism although they have plans to do community outreach even more in this time of need. 

Calbert Mark said, “As we move on from our initial assignment, we align ourselves with our Open Bible fellowship and our primary call, to plant churches and raise up leaders.” 

Nathan Hagan, the executive director for Open Bible’s Southeast Region said, “I first met the Marks in Chicago at the Open Bible National Convention and had the opportunity to experience firsthand their passion for church planting. After hearing they had already planted over twenty churches in Venezuela, I was excited to learn they had their sights set on planting in the Tampa/Brandon area. This past year has been a joy for us as we’ve watched God use them to gather a great core group and lay a strong foundation for what is sure to be a Kingdom-building church. We are proud they are a part of the Southeast region ministry family.” 

(Left) Calbert and Beverly Mark with their sons, Joshua Mark and Daniel Mark .

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He Has Made Room for Us 

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Rehoboth Open Bible Church has stood strong for forty-five years. Our journey began in the cozy apartment living room of Revs. Easton and Joy Grant in Brooklyn, New York, with seven adults and seven children. As the years passed and our congregation flourished, outgrowing the capacity of two hundred set by the NYC Department of Buildings, the church initiated a second service in 1998 and began an arduous search for a new, larger home, a journey that has tested our determination and resilience. 

Finding a suitable space to meet [in Brooklyn] is daunting, with people seeming to occupy every square inch

Brooklyn, one of the most densely populated counties in the United States, presents a unique set of challenges for churches. Finding a suitable space to meet is daunting, with people seeming to occupy every square inch. There are no new spaces for churches in New York. Currently existing churches were originally built in the 1800s, often by Catholics and Presbyterians; modern churches must convert commercial spaces or purchase existing spaces occupied by older churches or temples. Even when property can be found, political and business environs do not want such valuable real estate removed from the tax roll and often restrict access by religious non-profit organizations. Thus, most churches in Brooklyn are classified as storefronts, utilizing small commercial retail spaces or the front rooms of homes.  

When we were appointed as pastors of Rehoboth in 2011, the search for a larger facility was already ongoing. Four months into our role, we drove by a former Jewish temple on 888 East 56th Street which had a sign saying, “For Sale or Triple Net Lease.” Despite our uncertainty, we called the listed number and met with the owner.  

Founding Pastor Easton Grant prays over current pastors Leroy and Dalton Spencer

Most of the property was in a deplorable condition, requiring eyes of faith to visualize its value. Based on the redlining lending practices of the neighborhood and commercial banks’ refusal to lend to churches, the likelihood of acquisition was slim to none. Negotiations were painful, but after numerous meetings and much prayer, two years later we achieved an owner-seller financing purchase. That was the first miracle in the journey to 888, since we would not have been able to qualify for financing on the open market.  

The purchase consumed all the church’s savings and more. Despite this, God provided monthly mortgage payments of $16.1k while funding the church’s day-to-day operations, our second miracle.  

888 East 56th Street is more than a building. It continues the legacy of bringing Rehoboth’s soul to life.

We launched a three-year capital campaign in 2015 that proved God’s power in Rehoboth’s life at a new level. Like Gideon, God used a small group to catch the vision, amassing funds exceeding the pledged amount by nearly forty percent! God’s faithfulness gave birth to the third miracle – providing the equity needed to match our upcoming construction loan.   

In 2019, six years after purchasing the property, we obtained a construction loan and refinanced the seller’s note at a lower interest rate, providing more funds for renovation – miracle number four. 

With much excitement after the groundbreaking in December 2019, construction began in March 2020. Three weeks in, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sending NYC spiraling. The city that never sleeps shut down tight for three months. While COVID-19 kept us all enclosed, our property renovations were in limbo. Unattended projects suffered, material prices quadrupled, and labor costs followed suit.  

Rehoboth church members march in celebration from their old church location to the new one at 888 E 56th

The challenge of dealing with unscrupulous consultants, renegotiating contracts, finding new subcontractors, confronting disfavored lending practices, and seeking to manage construction timelines was an enormous feat. But God provided miracle after miracle by granting favor, stretching finances, creating new alliances, empowering us with new boldness to advocate, and providing the changes we needed while keeping our integrity intact. As one major devious player on the project stated, “With all that I have done, you should not be here. I know God is with you.” To which we say, “Yes, Amen!” God is with us. 

On Palm Sunday, March 24, 2024, we held our final service at our previous address. Afterward, we marched to 888 East 56th Street with a police escort and a drumline, waving palm branches and flags in joyous jubilation. Our seniors who were unable to walk traveled via cars behind the marchers. All reveled in the moment, singing and giving God thanks as we beheld the miracle on East 56th Street and rejoiced in what God had done! 

Upon arrival, we introduced ourselves to the community, recited Psalm 24, opened the doors, and let the King of Glory in! We then held our first service at 888, celebrating jubilantly the fulfillment of the biblical promise our church name represents. The founders of our church chose the name “Rehoboth,” taken from Genesis 26:22:  

The beautiful sanctuary in the new church building

And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So, he called its name Rehoboth because he said, ‘For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land’ (NKJV). 

888 East 56th Street is more than a building. It continues the legacy of bringing Rehoboth’s soul to life, providing room to become, belong, and believe for those who are here and those who are yet to come. What God said with His mouth, He has fulfilled with His hands this day for His glory. He has made room for us! 

About the Author

Leroy and Dalton Spencer

Leroy and Dalton Spencer are the lead pastors at Rehoboth Open Bible Church, in Brooklyn, New York. They have been members of Rehoboth for over 25 years, serving in various capacities before assuming the helm in 2011. They are passionate about advancing the kingdom of God, prayer, and caring for the sheep with a good shepherd’s heart. Leroy and Dalton believe people are our greatest asset and fully embrace the mandate to bring them to maturity by equipping them with the Word and life skills.  

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Teen Entrepreneur Shares Gospel Through Fashion Company 

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Frank Collins III was only seventeen when he had the idea to start a clothing company called “Project M.” Originally standing for “Project Millions,” referring to the millions of dollars he hoped to make, Frank later reconsidered his mission. “I felt like God wanted me to focus on souls instead of dollars.” Today, Project M is doing just that, as its mission statement reflects: “Reaching millions of souls through faith and fashion.”

Two young ladies modeling the popular “Humble Yourself” design

Frank saw a gap in the market, noting that there weren’t many Christian streetwear brands for people his age. He wanted to create an eye-catching brand for a young audience that portrayed God and faith, products that would be attractive and intriguing to non-believers. He began designing hooded sweatshirts, T-shirts, and sweatpants with this goal in mind.

As the sole designer, Frank’s process is to sit down and ask God for ideas before creating new designs in an app. One of Project M’s most popular designs is the “Humble Yourself” hoody. Seeing too many Tik-Tok videos of people bragging about themselves and their belongings, Frank wanted to put out a different message. Based on 1 Peter 5:5-6, this design takes literally the instruction to “clothe yourselves with humility.” Other designs include bold statements like “He Lives in Me” and “Creation in Motion.”

“I want to teach business owners how to focus on the value they can provide people instead of just their financial reward.”

Frank’s first fashion drop in March of 2023 produced only one sale, but his latest, in August of the same year, has earned $10,000. Currently nineteen years old and working towards a degree in Business Administration, Frank continues to think about business differently. He would eventually love to launch a program teaching people how to make money God’s way. “I want to teach business owners how to focus on the value they can provide people instead of just their financial reward.” Frank hopes to create a business model that prioritizes eternal value over monetary value.

“Frank has been well-discipled at his church, Fresh Wind Community Church in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. His lead pastor, Renita Collins, shared the following: “It is an honor to have a young man in our congregation who is pursuing his calling and sharing his faith uniquely. As an entrepreneur, he is concerned not only with financial success but also spiritual success in reaching the masses for Christ. I am proud to be his pastor and honored to be his mom!”

To learn more about Project M, visit the website at www.project-ms.com or follow on Instagram: project.ms.studios.

Collins family and friends modeling Project M streetwear

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New Executive Assistant to the President 

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Mindy Khanthavixay joins the Open Bible national office as the new Executive Assistant to the President.

Mindy steps in to replace Nicole Kerr, who served faithfully and with excellence for the last seven years. With a background in both healthcare administration and children’s ministry, Mindy brings much to the table. She and her husband Bay live in Des Moines, Iowa, and have two children. They pastored at Kingdom Life Church in Des Moines from 2020 until the church merged with Lifesong Church in 2024. They continue to minister there with a new combined church family.

Concerning her new role, Mindy says, “I am thrilled to be a part of the Open Bible staff and eagerly look forward to what the Lord has in store for me here. I am grateful for the leading of the Holy Spirit in my life and am excited to continue growing in my faith and serving the Lord with all my heart.”

President Michael Nortune states, “With Mindy’s experience and passion we know she will be a great asset to the national office and Open Bible. With Mindy being bilingual, she will assist us in serving our growing Open Bible family in an even greater capacity. Welcome to the team, Mindy! We are looking forward to many years of fruitful service.”

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