GOD AT WORK - PINE CREEK CHAPEL
The words that follow, document the beginning and early history of Pine Creek Chapel in Arcaida, Florida.
The birth of the thought of starting a church in Arcadia, Fl. was not necessarily in the pattern of strategy believed safe by most mission strategists. However, the clear leading of the Lord, by speaking to individuals and "opening doors" made moving in this direction a joy and a challenge.
It all started when Martin Lehman and David Kniss, who was then pastor of Ashton, drove through the town enroute to Miami. As they went through the town the Spirit spoke in a very clear and convincing manner to Bro. Kniss that it was in the plan of God to start a church in this area. Upon returning from the trip, he shared it with several other brethren and had the sense of this call confirmed. He then returned one day to Arcadia and spoke with some people on the streets, the Chamber of Commerce and spent the day walking, observing. They prayed to hear more clearly what God was saying about the matter. The direction still seemed to be, to proceed.
Sometime later Lehman and Kniss returned to Arcadia and spoke to Mrs. Robert Linn about Kniss' feelings. The Linns had moved to Arcadia from the Ashton church in Sarasota about a year before. Mrs. Linn replied by saying, that about two weeks prior to the visit from Lehman and Kniss, she started praying that the Lord would lay the burden on someone's heart to begin a new Mennonite church in Arcadia. Her commencement in prayer coincided perfectly with the trip through Arcadia two weeks previously. The following day she "happened" to meet the Realtor, Gene Turner, from whom they had purchased their property and told him of her pastor's thinking. He immediately replied, "You tell your preacher that if he wants to start a church here I will donate him five acres of land for a church." This offer was seen as another clear indication of the Lord's will.
The Church trustees of Ashton met to take a look at the land offered and decided to accept Mr. Turner's offer. After much praying and searching out the Lord's will four more families from Ashton felt the Lord leading them to move to Arcadia to help get a new church started. These families were Ivan Schlabachs, Henry Zooks, Ed Grabers, and Dennis Sharp. The first of these famlies to move was Ivan Schlabachs. He moved out in August of 1973 and the other families moved out soon after.
When the families of Ashton, interested in starting a church in Arcadia, met at Ashton, they decided to call Dave Kniss to be their pastor. Kniss accepted this call, having previously resigned his pastorate at Ashton to take a year of schooling at Eastern Mennonite College in Virginia. He continued to give guidance and leadership to the Arcadia church through mail and occasional trips south from EMC.
The first service to be held in Arcadia was Sept. 19,1973 when Schlabach: Linns, and Sharps met on Wednesday night for prayer meeting at the Linn home. It was decided there to meet the first three Sundays of each month and visit other churches on the fourth Sunday. The group experienced many times of warm spiritual fellowship as they met in their homes from week to week.
February 24,1974 marked another highlight for the church. Ron and Terri Merkin were baptized. This was a young couple that Ivan Schlabach met through his place of employment.
The group meeting in various homes continued to see their need of a more permanent church facility on the property donated by Turner Realty. After some investigating, they decided to purchase a mobile unit for a church bldg. The unit was purchased and the first service held June 16,1974. On July 3, 1974 the pastor, David Kniss, moved into the community from VA. He was installed as pastor and the congregation established a charter membership of seventeen persons on Sept. 4,1974, one year after the first meeting in their homes. The facility was dedicated on November 24,1974. This service large and taxed the new facilities capacity with by 120 persons in attendance.
As we look back it simply makes us say again, "Thank you Lord, for your leading and guidance throughout the birth of a new church."
The above is an exerpt of material written earlier by Pastor David Kniss and distributed to the church community.
Pastor David Kniss