In jest a friend asked “Do you know the definition of an atheist? He is someone with no invisible means of support.” Such lack of support was not the case for God’s people who gathered for a series of cottage prayer meetings in the spring of 1933. Prayer along with faith and action became the support of these Christians who had diligently asked God for His leading and guidance to give them a positive gospel message and ministry in the neighborhood of Cicero and Addison.
On the evening of May 7, 1933, 41 interested friends attended the first public service at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Peter Kjelstad. Peter Kjelstad led the song service supported by a five-piece orchestra. Following a short prayer service, John Effertz read and brought a message from the first chapter of John.
A meeting of the members was held on May 26, 1933 and Peter L. Kjelstad was elected church moderator, Chester C. Scholl, church clerk and Alfred Carlson and Peter Hansen were elected trustess. In August of 1933 a resolution was presented and adopted, forming the church to be known as the Mid-West Bible Church, and Gordon Cowin’s name was added to the above trustees. John Effertz was made Sunday School Superintendent.
After a few weeks, the group realized the work would be more effective if the meetings were held in a public place rather than in private homes and rented a large room at the Columbia Business College to hold services for the next three months. During this time, Rev. William Rawlins and his wife arrived in the area. They lived and carried the Gospel to different towns via their Gospel truck. The Rawlins promised to say and serve, with Rev. Rawlins preaching each Sunday until September when they would have to leave the area again. Rev. Rawlins officiated at the congregation’s first communion service on July 9th. The Saturday before, 66 friends attended the first Midwest Sunday School picnic. During this month, Mrs. Helen Logo was appointed to carry on visitation work.
Feeling the need for a building of their own a careful search of the area was made and a suitable double-store building at 3509-11 N. Cicero Avenue was found and leased for $25 per month. Under the able supervision of Peter Hansen, the church building was made ready for the first service on Cicero Avenue of September 10, 1933. Later that month, on the afternoon of the 24th, a dedicatory service was held with Rev. William McCarrell of the Cicero Bible Church bringing the message. The evening of that same day, Rev. William Rawlins began a two-week evangelistic campaign. The congregation was indebted to these men for their kind advice and counsel during these early years and trying days of its organization as a church.
On September 3, 1933, Torrey Johnson visited the church at the request of its members. He preached for them and they liked the young Norwegian who talked pretty fast but who seemed to have the spark their church needed. As with most of the things in which Torrey Johnson become interested things perked up right away. The membership doubled and the store building became too small. The church purchased a double portable schoolhouse from the City of Chicago for $50. This was placed on the rear of the property and was used as a Sunday school annex. In January of 1936, while Torrey was preaching, the portable building burned to the ground. It was only after the service was over and the last soul had been dealt with that Torrey stepped out to the back and surveyed the tragedy. Or was is a tragedy? The $800 insurance money was placed into a building fund and furnished the inspiration for a drive to build up a larger fund for a new church building.
With Joe Gunderson’s real estate background and his devoted hard work, land was purchased and on Thanksgiving Day, 1939, the ground was broken for the new building. When it came to financing the new building and $40,000 was needed, the members chipped in to buy enough bonds over a ten year period so that they did not have to go outside of the church to finance the building program. On May 5, 1949 the new church building officially was dedicated to the glory of the Lord and to the preaching of the Gospel. People from all over flocked to Midwest because they knew they would find a church where the Gospel was preaching in its entirety.
In 1942 four stores to the south of the church were purchased and remodeled into three rooms for the use of the young people and Sunday school meeting places. Still more room was needed and they crossed the street to the west side of Cicero Avenue and rented three stores there. The garage to the rear of the church property was converted into he radio chapel. After that, the church purchased the property just east of the church for its sexton. Next to the church parking lot was a gas station whose owner was persuaded to sell the property for $500 less than another recent offer he had received.
Still, the congregation outgrew their properties and they were able to purchase the Packard garage to the south of the Church property. Dedication for the new home of Midwest Bible Church was held on October 3, 1948 in the remodeled Auditorium building formerly the Packard garage.
Torrey Johnson served until January 1953 along with Bob Book, Associate Pastor 1944-1948. In November of 1953 Rev. A.M. Veltman became the pastor of Midwest Bible Church. Under his leadership, we purchased Phantom Ranch and Midwest Christian Academy became a reality.
Pastor Herbert Scott came to Midwest on August 1, 1962 and served for ten years before moving on with World Vision in 1972.
After being without a pastor for two years, Midwest called Rev. Lawrence Powell in September in September of 1974. It was a thrill for the church to have a young pastor and family. Their three kids, Tim, Tammy and Trudy were 18, 13, and 10, respectively.
The blizzard of 1979 will be forever etched in the minds and hearts of the new pastor and the congregation. There was to be a meeting that Thursday night of January 18 but the storm was so severe that no one could attend. The heavy snow on the roof caused the walls to buckle and much of the roof to collapse right on top of the pews that, under normal weather, would have been filled. Over 100 members and friends worked hard that weekend to reconvert the gym to the north of the Auditorium into a temporary place of worship. They volunteered carpentry and painting while others brought in food for the workers. Pastor Powell was busy on the phone and interviewed over WMBI Radio in praise to God for His safety and assurance of “Praise Worship Service” on Sunday.
Planning began almost immediately. Rev. Robert Shermer directed the organization of the building program crusade. Mr. Louis Matson’s absolute devotion and his hard work, along with that of his committee allowed the cornerstone laying ceremony by June of 1981. On November 1, 1982, the congregation had its first service in the new church. God used Mr. Matson, our building Committee Chairman and Dr. Joel John, Finance Chairman, to steer the completion of the work.
Through the faithfulness of God, the entire expense to rebuild a brand new church had been absorbed by the members of the church. Within just a couple of short years, the new building was completely paid off!
And so it stands today. A beacon of hope in a needy neighborhood and an equally needy city; a church that started out as a store front and now occupies half of an entire city block; a place where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached and taught in a no-compromise fashion, with its doors always open to the visitor and to the seeker.
May they never close.