(Written by Pastor Mark in June of 2010 for the Church's 10 year anniversary)
Eastern Hills began with a strong call from God for me to begin a new church work in the Northwest. I was pastoring in Texas, my home state, when God placed this in my family’s heart. In praying about how to start and pastor a new Church, God said to just Preach the Word and Love the People. With that calling and extra training in new church work, Paula, Lindsey, Emily and I moved to Washington in March of 2000. Scott Adams and Melissa, our oldest daughter, had just been married in February of 2000. They also felt led to come and lead out in the music ministry of the Church. Another family, Kelly and Shana Brown came to lead out in Youth Ministries. They have since moved and Larry and Angie Loucks have worked with our youth since 2002. The Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention originally sent us to Woodinville for a new church start. My prayer was, “God, I don’t care where you send us, I just want it to feel like home – a place where we can raise a family and a church family.”
The name “Eastern Hills Community Church” started in Woodinville. It was partially as a geographical location (because it was East of Seattle in a hilly area) but also as a symbolism of freshness – a new day – a new start of hope. The sun rises in the East presenting a new day of expectancy and hope. East-er speaks of the resurrection power of Jesus, depicting new life in Him. Hills are spoken of in Scripture as giving strength, refuge and help. They are a symbolism of our help from the Lord as we look upward to Him (Psalm 121:1-2). Community is the sense of belonging that we feel as God brings people together for purpose, meaning and fellowship.
After a few months specialized training in new church work, we felt God’s calling to the Peninsula. God gave us a heartfelt desire that this was home. This was also a time of breaking away from the Home Mission Board (Southern Baptist Denomination) because they were not planning on any new churches in this area. After much prayer and talking with the core group of people, Eastern Hills became an Independent, Bible Believing Church. This has proven to be a tremendous blessing because we have people from every type of denominational background, yet we all come together in the love and unity of Jesus Christ. The Church in its beginning stages was prayed for and helped financially by 6 different Churches and 100 families as prayer partners. Many of these wonderful people are still committed prayer partners.
On June 3, 2000, we had our first organizational meeting at the home of Kelly and Shana Brown. On June 4 we had our first service as a Church. We began to build a core group of people meeting in homes, granges and community centers. From July to November, the Church met in our home in Port Angeles. The Church grew to about 30 people there. In August of 2000 we had a booth set up at the Clallam County Fair. Through the fair and going door-to-door, about 1,000 surveys were filled out on what people were looking for in a Church. Through these polls, the Core Group found that people were looking for a loving, friendly Church that wouldn't condemn people for who they were or what they wore when they walked into Church. People were also looking for relevant, practical messages and a contemporary sound in music. So after 30 years of wearing a suit, I became comfortable in dress and sought to preach Jesus in an exciting, practical way. Music was viewed more worshipful in services as we looked at celebrative and meditative styles of song.
Our first Membership Class was on June 25, 2000. The Church continued to grow. After the floor was literally sinking at our house (the living area was upstairs) from the number of people, Church was moved to a warehouse in the Carlsborg area. By the end of the year, Eastern Hills had grown to about 60 people. This Core Group prayed and planned for our first “Public Launch” as a Church. We sent out mass mailings and on February 25, 2001, we had 133 people present in Church. God was blessing! After that, we averaged around 90 in attendance. We were on our way to be a solid Church Family.
The County allowed us to stay in the warehouse while we looked for property. We thought the biggest need would be people, but God blessed us with people – we needed a place to worship. A building to worship in or property to buy was becoming very hard to find. The County said we had to upgrade the warehouse or “out we go.” We didn't own the warehouse and the owner didn't want to sell at that time. The Church had a called Wednesday night prayer meeting about the situation. The next day the County called and said we could stay in the warehouse until we found our own place. Again, God’s blessing!
By 2005, we still hadn't secured a permanent location and the County said it was time to leave the warehouse. After a very short time at the old Fashion Bug building in Port Angeles, we found a new home at the Sequim Middle School Cafeteria during 2005 and 2006. This was a time of growing stronger as a Church Family with a lot of “set up” and “take down” each Sunday. When the owner of the Carlsborg warehouses decided to sell, so began the renovations. We decided we wanted to go back to the Carlsborg location for many reasons: It was already zoned for a Church, it had water, electric and septic, the owner was willing to finance, and it felt like “home” since we had spent many years there. Praise the Lord! We went into a Building Program and again God blessed by providing about $350,000 for renovations.
On November 5, 2006, we had our first service in the newly renovated auditorium. It took another 2 years to renovate the East building for youth, children and offices.
Here it is, our 10 year anniversary and God is continuing to bless. It has been quite a pilgrimage for us. We have grown as a Church Body both numerically and spiritually. We average about 350 people now in two Sunday morning services, have about 40 ministries going on, help support 17 missions both home and abroad, have 116 notches on the back of the Baptistry, and continue to have a Church of Love and Unity. Happy 10th Anniversary, Eastern Hills!
In His Service,
Pastor Mark and Family
(For EHCC on 10th Anniversary)