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History of Grace Baptist Church
After the First World War and the collapse of the German economy, the Baptist Church in Germany began to look at helping their people by assisting them to immigrate to Canada. In 1927, some of the people in that small church made a decision, on faith, to come to a new country in order to make a new life for themselves. About half of the members sold what they had for a one way ticket to a new life. They packed what few belongings they had, boarded a ship for a ten day voyage across the Atlantic, then took a ten day rail trip from Halifax to Ste. Rose. They settled in the areas of Ste. Rose, Ochre River, and Makinak. They settled on previously occupied "Soldier Settlement" farms through negotiations by E. P. Wahl, appointed by the North American Baptist Mission Board and Mr. Sanderson, Immigration Officer of the Soldier Settlement Board. Four or five years before this, Canadian soldiers had left these farms, and no one had lived on them since then.
Grace Baptist Church buildings - left: from 1927-1939; right: 1939-1969
In June of 1927 these new Canadians officially organized as a church as a mission outreach of McDermot Avenue Baptist Church in Winnipeg, through the leadership of Rev. Luebeck and Rev. Bloedow. This church became known as the Ste. Rose Baptist Church. This was changed in the 1950's as it is now known as Grace Baptist Church. It began with a membership of 53. The first officers included: Deacons - R. Meyerhoff and C. Lange; Secretary Treasurer - H. Sturhahn, Sunday School Superintendent - A. Blessin. More immigrants arrived in 1928-29 and settled here through private negotiations.
In 1930 under the leadership of Rev. Luebeck and Rev. Kaiser, this church was reorganized and was officially recognized as a member of the North American Baptist Conference. Elected officers were as follows: Deacons - R. Meyerhoff and Heinriche Amman; Secretary - Fred DeVries; Treasurer - Ippe Voss; Sunday School Superintendent - E. Wentland.
During the first 13 years, the congregation met for worship in the Turtle River School house, approximately two miles north of the current location. The place was kept warm in winter with a wood stove. It was very rare that anyone failed to attend, and when seating space was lacking, the men brought in blocks of fire wood to sit on.
The first 10 years were perhaps the most difficult for the newly landed immigrants as a congregation. During this period as many as 22 families moved away for a variety of reasons including the fact that:
• Many individuals were unfamiliar with farming, as they were accustomed to city life.
• The winters were long and severe, and most houses were either poorly built or sorely in need of repair.
• Trying to make neglected land productive was difficult when horsepower and machinery were scarce.
• Many succumbed to the great depression. Each family was entitled to buy 3 cows at $70 per head on credit from the Canadian National Railway, underwritten by our mission board, with repayment to begin after 2 years. During the depression the market value sank to $10 per head, forcing people into debt and adding to the burden already sustained from the transportation costs of immigration. As a result many pulled up stakes and sought greener pastures in BC, Ontario, and even back in Germany.
However, In spite of these adverse circumstances and losses, the membership increased. The Lord gave grace and strength to those who remained as they trusted and believed that He had placed them in this area for a purpose.
In 1940, the congregation was privileged to dedicate their first church building. The construction was financed by a $500 gift and an interest free loan of $1000 for 10 years from the North American Baptist Mission Board. Members sacrificed much in money and labor. God blessed, enabling them to repay the loan in full within 3 years. That first church was erected along the old No 5 highway one mile north of its current location.
New church building with additions from 1969 to present
As the congregation grew and more space was needed plans got underway in 1967 to build a larger facility. This new building was completed and dedicated to the glory of God in 1969. At that occasion, one of the guest speakers referred to this church as "A lighthouse by the highway of life." This building has undergone several expansions and renovations since then.
Although the early congregation consisted mainly of German speaking immigrants who left their home land as they sought freedom from a dictatorship and threats of war, they left a rich heritage of faith to the succeeding generations. The original membership has evolved and is now a multicultural congregation from all walks of life. We appreciate all those who have joined this congregation, and made it what it is today. A lot has changed over the years. The goal of this church however continues to be the proclamation of the gospel of Christ as we serve the local community and support local ministries and missionaries in several countries.