From The Baptist Testimony – Volume 55 Number 5 September/October 2009
“Be Faithful Until Death . . .”
The following is a testimony shared by Randy Reed, Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Negaunee, at the memorial service for Pastor Martin Strolle. Martin’s testimony is like many of those faithful, veteran pastors who served in the Hiawatha land of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We share this testimony with our Baptist Testimony readers not only as a tribute to the Lord’s work in Martin’s life, but also in thanksgiving for the many faithful servants of God who have blazed a trail with the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the upper and lower peninsulas.
“Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” These were the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to His servants in the persecuted flock at Smyrna two millennia ago. (Rev.2:10) Rest assured the Master’s encouragement was neither trivial nor superficial! Conditions of life in Smyrna were electric with hostility toward the Gospel, and sometimes it meant martyrdom for those unwilling to capitulate to the threats of those who hated the Truth.
But there is another environment where “being faithful until death” is equally challenging! It is the day-in-day-out, relentless unfolding of a life’s spiritual calling in a comparatively “vanilla” setting! Take, for example, the 96 year stint of an Upper Peninsula church planter named Martin Strolle (stro-lee). Born April 24, 1905, he breathed his first breath as do all of us – as an heir to Adam’s sinful status and nature. He grew up alienated from God – one facing the Divine wrath against his sin – but one that God in His infinite mercy would set out to rescue by Grace for His own Name’s glory!
I summarize Martin’s testimony from notes I hurriedly jotted down as he shared his life’s adventure before a group of pastors assembled at CBC in September of 2004. (I was able to add some details two years later when he retold the story to the same group – but no one minded!) It seems Martin was playing cards in a public setting with his three brothers one day in 1934 in Bergland, Michigan. A visiting preacher by the name of John Vander Sky (spelling unconfirmed – a little help please, my Hollander friends!) interrupted their game to invite them to the meetings that night. With a note of skepticism, Martin replied, “I’ll listen to you ONE time!” Very meekly he recounted in our hearing, “That’s all it took!” And on July 4, 1934, Martin accepted the Divine invitation to turn from sin and darkness – and embrace Jesus as his only hope for salvation – by faith – and become a new creature in Christ!
Two years later he attended the inaugural Bible Camp held for youth at Eagle River, Michigan. Pine-pole wigwams were constructed and covered with tar paper that first gathering at “Gitche Gumee Bible Camp”. That week as the Word of God was taught, Martin recalls the Holy Spirit’s mighty work within his heart concerning his future life and calling. He reviewed his submissive response – “Lord, if You can use me in any way – I’m at your disposal!”
John Vander Sky again played a role in Martin’s life as he encouraged his training. “Would you like to go to Moody, Martin?” He would – and he did – earning his tuition laboring in the CCC camps that were sprinkled across the U. P. in those depression years. There at Moody Bible Institute he met Florence in 1935, who later became his faithful wife – who would be at his side until her promotion to Glory – I believe in 2006.
Of his college years, Martin especially noted the wonders of God’s great “wake up call” in his life. Struggling with school as a lad – he recalls only “D’s” all through high school. But all through his Moody days he got straight “A’s”! By God’s Grace, he and Florence stayed in an apartment in Chicago supplied to them without charge. He recounted living “from meal to meal” – working at a local restaurant for 25 cents and one meal per day. The Lord faithfully met every need as they prepared to serve Him, and they learned to tithe as an expression of loving worship and trust even in such demanding times. He graduated in 1939 – Dr. Will Houghton, president of MBI, presenting his diploma. “Our class motto,” he recalls, “was ‘Servants For Jesus’ Sake’”
From Moody, Martin came to Ontonagon, Michigan, to do “pulpit supply” for John Rader, pastor there, and founder of Gitche Gumee Bible Camp. That time in Ontonagon turned into three years, 1940 – 42, followed by “double timing” – leading Hancock’s Calvary Baptist Church and Dollar Bay’s Bethany Baptist Church – simultaneously. During this time he and Charles Hart began a daily radio program from Calumet – a fruitful ministry that reached into many Yooper homes that had not heard the Gospel.
After nine full years in Hancock, Martin and Florence settled into the work at Newberry, Michigan. With utter glee and worshipful wonder, He reviewed the astonishing work of the Holy Spirit during those days – with many trusting Christ – including entire families! The remainder of his days included 21 years of pastoring (including time in Escanaba and Watersmeet) – 12 years as deputation secretary and 10 years as missionary representative of the Hiawatha Baptist Mission.
My personal contacts with Martin Strolle extended from 1965, when I first heard him preach at L’Anse Baptist Church, to privileged settings of pastors’ prayer gatherings the past seven years. I tell you his story primarily to encourage your hearts as he did mine. Three characteristics especially touched my life – a deep and evident humility at the wonder of his salvation by grace – an ardent and devoted appreciation for God’s sufficient Word – and a relentless sowing of the Seed of the Gospel into lives until his dying day. As with other such servants, he “could tell you many stories” to illustrate his “earth walk” of faith here in the Upper Peninsula. Much of his life was satisfying and grand! Multiplied were the gut-wrenching trials! Myriad were the mundane “normal” things. But “faithful was the One Who called him – and He also brought it to pass!” (1Thes.5:24)
Martin Strolle, like so many of Christ’s servants before him, was laid to rest almost without notice in the world about him. This past month America has seen a plethora of celebrities die with glowing accolades and pomp. But THIS servant – a joint-heir of the universe with Jesus Christ – slipped away – but YOU won’t forget – for now YOU know he was “faithful unto death” – and “the rest of the story” is BEYOND TELLING!
Grace Hispanic Baptist Bible Church
A Special Ministry Opportunity
An eleventh anniversary Sunday celebration was held by Grace Hispanic Baptist Bible Church (GHBBC) on Sunday afternoon, August 23. The service was held in the facilities of Rice Lake Baptist Church with approximately 150 in attendance. Rice Lake has partnered with GHBBC in allowing them to conduct services in their facility since 1998. Special music was presented by the church children and teens. Congregational music was sung in both Spanish and English. Ken Floyd, MARBC Executive Director, was invited to be the keynote speaker and shared a Biblical message related to the subject of “grace.” Five adults made public decisions for Christ. An adult man who recently received Christ as Savior participated in believer’s baptism at the close of the service. A special fellowship meal was held on the church grounds following the service.
La Iglesia Hispana Bautista Biblica de la Gracia (GHBBS) is led by Pastor Isidro “Pepe” Morales, a native of Mexico, who came to Michigan with his wife, Rosina, and their three children over a decade ago. The Morales came with the burden to start a church for the many Hispanics migrants and the year round residents who have relocated from Mexico to west Michigan to work in the orchards and farms. Pastor Morales reflected on the early years of Grace’s ministry sharing that at the first Sunday service his family members were the only people in attendance. The first services of the church were in an “open air” format in the summertime, with the PA system and music actually being an improvised “karaoke” machine. When Pastor Dan Fullmer and the members of Rice Lake Baptist Church learned of the need of their sister church, they invited them to utilize their church facilities.
Grace Hispanic’s ministry has grown extensively over the past several years. The church has a strong focus on evangelism and an emphasis on growing believers in Christ. The church has Sunday services, Sunday school, weekly discipleship classes and correspondence classes. Spanish and English interpreting is provided with the ministries. A Daily Vacation Bible School was held in early August with an average daily attendance of 110 children. 140 children were in attendance for the closing program along with over 40 adults.
Ten years ago, Pastor Pepe was invited to begin preaching Spanish services in the county jail at White Cloud. The church was chartered by the State of Michigan six years ago. Three years ago the church was invited to start broadcasting a half hour radio program every Sunday morning on 1530-AM in Grand Rapids. The program is called “Palabras de Gracia y Vida” (“Words of Grace and Life”). The church has received many responses as a result of the program.
A few years ago, God graciously provided the church with 12.22 acres of land in the Grant area. Pastor Morales came in contact with a widow who, when the pastor inquired of her if she knew of any available acreage in her area replied, “My late husband and I have prayed for years that part of our property would be used for a new church.” She went on to state that they had decided not to publicize their burden but instead wait upon God to send them the ones who would have the opportunity to use the property! Grace Hispanic was able to purchase the land at a very nominal price.
The church plans to build a new church facility on the new property in order to serve God and to train Hispanic men to plant and lead Bible-believing Hispanic churches wherever God may call them. The special building project is called, “Arise and Build.” The project includes a church building, picnic pavilion, playground, and soccer field. The church’s goal is to break ground on the project in the spring of 2010 and is seeking additional funding from churches and individuals in order to start on schedule. The church has saved about $70,000 for this project. Several sister churches, including some from the MARBC, have helped with the early development of this property. They have also partnered with the church in many of its outreach efforts.
We would encourage our MARBC family to consider partnering with GHBBC in this exciting church planting project. If you would like additional information regarding the church’s ministry and the building project, contact Grace Hispanic Baptist Bible Church, PO Box 108, Grant, MI 49327, 231.834.7550 or 231.834.1768. Or you may contact the MARBC office.
MARBC NEWS & NOTES
ALLENDALE, Allendale Baptist Church (Jonathan DeCou, Pastor) – Jonathan DeCou is the new lead Pastor at Allendale Baptist Church. His training at Moody Bible Institute in their three-year diploma program in Music and Broadcast Communication, along with his nearly 25 years of significant and successful experience in several churches across the country uniquely equips him for the diverse needs of the Allendale Baptist family and the community they find themselves trying to reach. He states his passion in life this way: “The Lord has me on an exciting and fulfilling journey to invite people to participate in redemptive relationships with Him, His people and the unchurched for His Kingdom’s sake! Through my family, my teaching/communicating gifts and my call as a pastor/shepherd I will exceptionally and excellently declare God’s glory, build up the Body of Christ locally and abroad, and point the lost to Christ.” Jonathan considers his wife, Shari, and their five children, Carissa, Christopher, Cameron, Connor and Cullen, among his most significant benefits in life. He enjoys reading, writing, swimming, photography and bicycling.
BATTLE CREEK, Calvary Baptist Church (Brian Spencer, Pastor) – On Sunday, August 2, 2009, Calvary Baptist Church celebrated the faithful ministry of Senior Pastor Brian E. Spencer. Pastor Spencer retired from shepherding the congregation at Calvary after 28 years of ministry there and over 50 years of total pastoral ministry. He and his wife, Sharon, arrived with their children, Lynne, Dan and Jill and began their ministry at Calvary on August 2, 1981. Sharon Spencer went home to be with her Lord and Savior on June 16, 2006.
During a combined Sunday School hour, Pastor Spencer reflected and reminisced regarding his ministry experience at Calvary. The often humorous session included comments from church members and former pastoral staff members.
For his final sermon, which was shared in the morning worship service, Pastor Spencer preached regarding Christ’s message to the churches of Asia Minor from Revelation 2-3. A special children’s choir shared a song about their pastor, the church choir sang a selection that was one of the pastor’s favorites, and there were other special musical numbers shared. All of the songs that were sung during the service were chosen by Pastor Spencer for the occasion.
A wonderful catered luncheon followed the morning service. During the meal time a video tribute to Pastor Spencer was played on several monitors throughout the church facility. The tribute included testimonies of current and former members of Calvary expressing their appreciation for their Pastor’s ministry.
A Retirement Celebration Service was held in the afternoon. A beautiful prelude featured a piano duet by music director Judy Cary and her son, Tim. Long time Calvary deacon, David Spear, served as the emcee for the afternoon. The service included two musical selections shared by a special choir comprised of current and past choir members. Special music was also shared by several groups and ensembles, including a solo by Pastor Spencer (who would often break into song during his sermon.) A video that highlighted the 28 year ministry of Pastor Brian and Sharon Spencer at Calvary was then presented.
Special testimonies were shared by Pastor Scott Church (former staff member and current pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Muskegon), Dr. Daniel Spencer (Brian’s son, who spoke for the family), Pastor Don Jackson, Jr. (current associate pastor at Calvary), and Pastor Ken Floyd (MARBC Executive Director).
Randy Cary, deacon chairman at Calvary, led a segment in the service titled “Presentation of Gifts.” Several gifts were given by the church family to Pastor Spencer. As each gift was presented, a different grandchild of Pastor Brian participated in bringing the gift to their grandfather. One gift was a memory book prepared by the Calvary children that contained drawings and pictures done by the children.
A monetary love gift of over $10,000 that was received from the church family and friends was also presented to the pastor. A special trip to the Mediterranean to visit Biblical sites, scheduled for late in the year, was funded with part of this gift. To her surprise, Pastor Spencer announced that he will be chaperoned on this trip by his granddaughter, Cassie, who helped present him the gift. Finally, the church presented their retiring pastor with the key to his new retirement house. Assisting with the presentation of the key was the former owner of the home, who then gave a wonderful rendition of “Bless this House, O Lord, We Pray.”
Honoring the retiring pastor’s request, a cake and punch reception was held after the retirement service. Pastor Brian is to be commended for his faithful and fruitful service for God’s glory. The Calvary Baptist Church family is commended for the wonderful way that they have celebrated their pastor’s ministry in “giving honor to whom honor [is due]” (Romans 13:7).
CHEBOYGAN, Faith Baptist Church (Jim Currie, Pastor) – Faith Baptist Church held an installation service and welcome reception for new associate pastor Tony Barber and his wife, Sarah, on Sunday, August 23. Tony is a graduate of Baptist Bible College and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He recently completed a pastoral internship at Alpine Baptist Church in Comstock Park, MI. Tony’s former pastor, Dave Sims (First Baptist Church in Lowell, MI) gave the installation charge. Pastor Jim Currie, the senior pastor at Faith Baptist, also shared in the service.
FLINT, South Baptist Church – On Sunday evening, May 3, South Baptist Church held a special service for the purpose of ordaining Pastor Don Chapin. Pastor Don has served as Pastor of Student Ministries at the church for 7 years. An ordination council made up of area pastors met with Pastor Don on Friday, May 1 after which a unanimous recommendation was made to the church to proceed with ordination. The service included a challenge from Pastor Don’s Youth Pastor, Bud Hall who is currently Pastoring in Long Island, NY. Fellow Pastors Larry Burk and William Payne also took part in leading the service. Many family members were able to attend the service. A reception followed the service and a love offering was taken to enable Pastor Don to purchase books for his library. Pastor Don and his wife Laurie are blessed with 4 boys: Joshua, Jackson, Jason, Joseph. Congratulations Pastor Don!
FENTON, First Baptist Church (Josh Gates, Pastor) – Pastor Zachery Dawson was licensed to the gospel ministry by First Baptist Church on August 9. Pastor Zach has served as an associate pastor since January. Josh Gates, senior pastor, comments, “Pastor Zach has definitely displayed that God has gifted him for the work of the ministry. He preached a passionate message about radical humility at his recognition service.” The service was followed by a Taco bar dinner in honor of Pastor Zack and his wife, Jessica, which was prepared by the women’s ministry. The Dawsons were married in June.
OWOSSO, Calvary Baptist Church – Fourteen teens and five adults from Calvary Baptist Church, Owosso, took a missions trip through TEAMeffort to Hedgesville, WV, July 19th – 25th. They spent most of their week working on the home of a needy family in the area. During their time there, they were able to re-side the house, prime and paint it, and replace a load-bearing wall that had been devoured by termites. They also spent time interacting and getting to know the family that resided there. The group worked well together and accomplished their goals. Randy Peterson, associate pastor, states, “It was great to see a group of young people, with little experience, pull together and do such a phenomenal job for the glory of God. The family was very appreciative and could not understand why a group would travel all the way from Michigan and be such a blessing to their family.” Towards the end of the week, the group also enjoyed some free time, including whitewater rafting down the Shenandoah River in Virginia and floating on tubes down the Potomac River in Maryland.
PLAINWELL, Orangeville Baptist Church (Dan Bowman, Pastor) – Rory and Kristy Moore were commissioned by Orangeville Baptist Church to minister in Togo, Africa on Sunday, May 3. Along with their sons, Davis and Austin, the Moores will be serving in ABWE’s school for the blind. They are currently at the 30% support level and are eager to present this special ministry in churches. Rory is also available to assist churches in how to set up a budget.
Orangeville Baptist teens and adults ministered in Indianapolis on July 23-31. They helped lead the Vacation Bible School week long ministry at the International Baptist Church and also assisted in making new contacts for the church in the community.
WAKEFIELD, Calvary Baptist Church (Tom Bauder, Pastor) – Pastor Tom Bauder shares a couple of updates regarding this ministry located in the western Upper Peninsula –
“We held our VBS this week and it was fantastic! When two possibilities for assistance did not work out we decided to do it “on our own” with God’s help. We had over 35 registered and 30 was the high attendance. We took an offering for the Roman family, missionaries in Minnesota with Continental Baptist Missions and will be able to send them a check for $500. The girls and boys competed by bringing pennies and they were weighed. One girl brought over 75 pounds on one day!”
“Calvary Baptist enjoyed a 56th Anniversary Picnic on August 16 and it was a great day. We had a wonderful group for our Morning Worship Service with several visitors. Following the Morning Worship most traveled the six blocks to the park for a picnic. Although it was rainy and windy, we all had a wonderful time in the Park Pavilion. We praise God for His blessing these 56 years and look forward to 56 more, if He should tarry. We have had visitors in 9 of the last 10 weeks, many of whom are from the local area. We have also seen our numbers slowly climbing and some visitors becoming ‘regulars.’ God is blessing this summer and we praise Him for it!”
MARBC Publications: Two MARBC e-mail publications are available free of charge for those who would like to subscribe.
“For Your Strengthening” – UPDATE! Work is currently being finalized on setting up the e-delivery format for this newest MARBC publication. The first issue should be sent out in October. This new publication will be sent out quarterly as an e-mail and downloadable publication. The focus of “For Your Strengthening” will be encouragement and practical help for those involved in ministry. “For Your Strengthening” will be sent out in months opposite of the publication of the Baptist Testimony. Subscriptions for this publication are free, but subscribers will need to send their email address to Ken in order to be placed on the special mailing list.
MARBC Messenger – The MARBC Messenger is a regular informational e-mail communication from the MARBC office to our pastors and churches. This e-mail includes special prayer requests and information items related to the churches, pastors, and ministries of the MARBC. Several MARBC Messengers are sent out frequently from the MARBC office. If you have not received MARBC emails recently, be sure to email Ken or Sharon to be placed on the email list. Thank you!
EMAIL ADDRESS – Do we have your accurate e-mail address? Many people and organizations change their email addresses from time to time. Does the MARBC have your current address? Why not be sure by sending us an email and including your updated contact information? Send your information to either Sharon or Ken.