On a late snowy October night in the mid-sixties, seven men met to survey the valley and found 23 people who were interested in coming to church, providing there was a building constructed. Interestingly, none of the persons interviewed ever came to church. In the 1966 November annual meeting of the Richard Street Christian Church, a strong majority voted to construct and plant a church in Paradise Valley. Leroy Herder, a co-minister there, was appointed to be in charge of all details involved in the new work. In January, one lot was purchased; measuring 110’ by 100’ for $2750. The building itself was built for a cost of $22,086 utilizing volunteer labor which has always been a large part of the congregation established here.
Thanks to the spiritual generosity of the Richard Street Christian Church and following a 24 hour prayer service the church opened its doors on May 14, 1967; 87 people attended the first Sunday. Six families had come out to serve as a nucleus. They were the Herders, Allens, Ron Cooks, Tenneys, Robertsons, and Mills. For four years the two churches shared a mutual eldership and board. By 1975 an addition of the same size was constructed. A second lot was acquired and eventually three more bringing the church property to its present size. In 1980 an additional eight acres were purchased on Paradise Drive. In the 1990s another two acres were purchased with the help of the Tenney family bringing our property holdings to ten acres at the present site of Paradise Valley Christian School.
Three attributes are noted in the success and stability of the church. First, a strong eldership spanning the history of the church. Two charter members of the original church at Richard Street are members here at Paradise Valley. Secondly, the indigenous church concept, the idea that the church will raise up its own leadership including preachers, tested and trained from its own people. There has been no mistake about leadership this way. Al Allen preached here for 48 years, Jerry Spaulding for 15, Terry Berlin for four years and our present minister, Larry Berlin, for 41 years. Thirdly, sacrificial giving has promoted a great solidarity of spirit.
Services held outside have helped to hold us together. Over the years we have held services on the mountain, city parks, Natural Bridge and also out at Lake Alcova. There are many great memories of good times. It was not just about fun; there was preaching, singing, and on numerous occasions baptisms in the lake. These times of fellowship have connected us together into the body of Christ.
The fall hay rides out at the Watson ranch have been continued by the Wings. It is always a blessing to be there; we all seem to become energized as young and old alike sing songs, go on hay rides, chase deer and enjoy the Chili cook off. Families from the school and church have used this event as a way to connect and get to know one another.
Fall revivals have served as great opportunities to be challenged to grow spiritually and together as men of God have challenged us to have God centered families and lives. From Fred Wagoner to Jack Cottrell we have been blessed with insight that has moved us forward in our walk with God. Prayer has always had a strong influence in our church. We have often prayed over revivals and countless other decisions utilizing 24 hour pray services and intense personal prayer. God has blessed us in so many ways, let His name be praised.
Our Ladies Team, formerly called the “Mary’s and Martha’s” has been so faithful over the years. Their compassion has been demonstrated in so many ways as they remember the sick, feed those who have experienced loss of loved ones and organized so many joyful times for the body here, including birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries. The ladies retreat which has continued over most of our years has given us an opportunity to minister to the surrounding areas in Wyoming and other states. We have been blessed with many nationally known speakers with decorations and music which were a true spiritual experience for many who attended. Do you remember the Shalom circles when loved ones were leaving? The tears often flowed as we said goodbye.
We have supported Dale Mason for most of our history; Dr. Frank Dennis medical missionary and also Dr. Mike Keralis, intern to India. Dave Robinson, George Keralis, Alan Kisner, Dave and Alice Parrish, Pat Allen, Stuart Cook, Al and Velma Corson, and Tyrone DeVault have been supported by the church. The following families from the church have served full time in orphanages; Glenn Pease, Roger Gronewold, Stan Smith and Allen Corson families. In 1971, $1500 was given to create a missions School in Puerto Rico in memory of little Angie Horton. Our ladies have done their share too. Jeanne Boyd, Hong Kong; Karen Sleeger, Indonesia and Haiti; Debbie Allen White, Outreach International; Lois Sleeger, campus ministries; Kitty Allen, Uganda and Kenya; Bev Rhodes Blackwell, Jamaica, Uganda and Kenya; Loretta Sleeger, Russia; Virginia Bowland, Jamaica; Amber Berlin in western Europe; and Ashely Berlin, Tanzania .
The Happy Hearts (teenagers) appeared on T.V. and public meetings for two years and became the foundation for the Agape Harbor meeting on Saturday nights. In '73 & '74, a musical group of teenagers supervised by Kitty Allen, along with an “orchestra” of five instruments performed in seven churches and the city park. In 1973 they sang at the NACC in Denver to a group of 1700 people. Over the years the youth program helped with many Vacation Bible Schools in other states and around the world in places like Jamaica and Mexico. There have been many trips to Thermopolis, football games in Laramie and concerts as far away as Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Youth Rallies have always been a big part of our youth program. For many years we sponsored the Mid-Winter rally here in Casper. At present our youth are active in the Spring Thing, the Fall Fling, and the Winter White Wash rallies. We are very much involved with the Western Wyoming Christian Youth Camp, supplying leadership as camp deans and camp managers for much of the camp’s history.
The Paradise Valley Christian School actually started as a day-care center in 1978 with Leroy Perkins as the chairman. In the summer of 1979 Jeanne Boyd was hired by the board to become the director of the center and plans were made towards the establishment of a Christian School. In January of 1981 the school petitioned the city of Casper for permission to conduct primary grade level classes to begin in the fall of 1981. Eight acres of land approximately 1/3 mile east of the present facility was purchased in late 1980, with the intention of building a three phase project that would include a new sanctuary, education building and a gym. In June of 1984, we were petitioning the city again to continue our elementary school at its present location; the Casper economy had started to slide downward and we needed to scale back our expansion plans at the Riverbend property. Jack Strohl was in the process of completing plans for construction of a 6000 sq. ft. education building at Riverbend (Paradise Drive) and it was hoped it could be completed for approximately $375,000. Ground breaking and construction began on the PVCS education building the 12th of August. A pay-as-you-go plan was initiated along with an effort to do as much as we could with volunteer labor. Estimated costs for the completed building were closer to $425,000. At one time thirty men helped install the large steel beam for the floor. We had nineteen from the congregation one evening raise the 120’ walls in one movement. All of the roof trusses were lifted in place by the men of the congregation. Richard Heller was hired to supervise and coordinate the actual construction. Jack Strohl took care of the architectural design and Rich was ably assisted on regular basis by Larry Berlin, Chuck and Dave Tenney, Howard Harris, Al Allen and Leroy Perkins. Skip DeVault and his sons Brian and Ty donated a considerable amount of time, material and labor to install the plumbing and heating. Zack Brewer gave us a very good bid for the electrical. By June of 1986 we were at the ¾ point toward completion and most of the building fund had been allocated. Work on the education building progressed at a pace commensurate with funding and goals were set for final completion by the fall of 1987. With a strong commitment from the congregation toward Christian education and the continued dedication of our director and staff, we look forward to building on an outstanding reputation within the state and community and we thank each one of you for your encouragement and support. But even more, we thank the Lord Jesus for the many blessings He has given to our school and congregation.
The indigenous concept (that the church belongs to us, not to the reverend) has been very good for us. Most churches would not be dedicated enough to make it work. When men really participate in the church, they feel it belongs to them and they will defend it, not disparage it.
Labor for God has made us grow. We’ve had over 600 work parties involving as many as 31 men at a time. God’s people must labor for Him.
We are a tithing church, hence a blessed church. We gave more to others than self.
The school and Day Care has been difficult, but a most fruitful work.
We are training ground for other churches. We have sent out, or sadly, lost people who were trained here, who went on to become pillars in other churches. We were blessed, God’s other churches were blessed.
A mission emphasis does not rob the local church, it obviously causes the church to grow.
Young people are everything, inspire them and you inspire everyone.
We have made many mistakes, but it has been worth it all; we would do it all again. Most of us would die for the body. We are a true Koinonia, a part of the family of God.
LEADERSHIP AND THE INDIGENOUS CHURCH
THE GOOD TIMES
PARADISE VALLEY CHRISTIAN SCHOOL
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED