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Zion Lutheran Church expands

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ST. IGNATIUS — Standing before a packed house Sunday in the center of Zion Lutheran Church’s new addition, Reverend Kyle T. Whaley was all smiles while gazing over the product of more than five months’ hard work and perseverance. 

The new parish hall, built right up to the existing church’s steps, creates an ease of use for senior citizens and a welcome addition to the 65-year-old congregation. 

Whaley opened his sermon with an anecdote about his experience with the Apr. 18, 2008, Mount Carmel, Ill. earthquake. The 5.4 magnitude quake shook buildings and rattled windows within a several hundred mile radius. Whaley said he was attending seminary at the time and was awoken in the middle of the night when his bed started shaking. 

Most of the buildings on the seminary campus were built in the late 1800s and early 1900’s, and Whaley said he found himself questioning the structural integrity of his surroundings as the earthquake threatened to bring it all down. 

While no buildings were destroyed and Whaley was fine, the event did leave a lasting impression on him, drawing the conclusion that the work done in the construction-phase of a structure determines an individual’s survival in the event of a violent storm or earthquake. In-the-moment reactions count for very little. 

“We stand in this new parish hall, built on a firm foundation — I know because I was there when they poured it — we have not labored in vain. The Lord has built this house and will keep us until the day we all live in a building from God, not a house made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” he said.

Former councilman, chairman and secretary for the church, Walt Schock, said he was glad he’d stepped down when he did because building the addition was such a big job, but that everyone is extremely happy with the addition. 

“I love it; everybody loves it,” he said. “We used to have our social hour downstairs, (but) it got to be a hassle for us older people. We’ve been debating about this project for years, and we finally decided we’d better do it or forget about it.”

And they did it. The majority of the funding for the project came from the Lutheran Church Extension Fund, a part of the church body where all churches donate money and the LCEF invests it and uses it specifically for building new churches or additions. Whaley said when a church decides to do something, they contact the LCEF for help with setting up the loan at a lower interest rate and helping line up construction. 

Zion Lutheran Church obtained about $80,000 from the LCEF fund, $50,000 from church savings and $15,000 to $20,000 in donations from church members. 

One anonymous donor gave $10,000 toward the project. 

“The new building looks great; it’s awesome,” said Joyce Shima, a member of Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in Polson, who’d come down for the day to show her support. 

With help from the Laborers for Christ, a group of well-qualified, retired construction workers and tradesmen who travel from church to church assisting with additions and remodeling, the project was completed two weeks ago and is now fully opperational. 

“They’re all retired people doing this out of kindness and giving back to helping people out in the church,” Whaley said. “They consider it a part of their mission to go out and help other people in the Christian community ... It was great.”

Whaley said the laborers were very supportive of the community while they were in town, attending Bible studies, hosting prayers every morning and coming to church every Sunday. 

“They were a very good addition to the community,” Whaley said. 

He added that for his first experience with remodeling or improving a church, he felt the project went smoothly as compared to some of the horror stories he’d heard about other building projects. 

“I know that this parish will be a blessing to the people of this congregation,” Whaley said, “but I also hope that it will be a blessing to the people of the community.”

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