What started out as a fundraiser turned out to be something more.  On June 24 Salem Mennonite Church in Waldron, Michigan, held a Strawberry Festival on the church grounds to showcase the congregation’s new unfinished building and to help raise funds to complete it.

Salem’s new building sits behind the current structure in the middle of a hay field more than three miles from the nearest main road.  Due to its setting, the congregation has designed the building to look like a barn. By the time the Strawberry Festival was held, the exterior was almost entirely finished, and the rough wiring and plumbing were installed.  The work to date has been paid for by pledges through 2018.

Originally, the congregation began planning the festival as a way to raise needed funds to finish the building.  Bob Sauder, Ohio Conference moderator and a member of Salem Mennonite, said, “As we planned, it soon morphed into a way to present our mission for our church.  Our goal for this new structure is for it to be something that will be available for community use beyond our Sunday morning worship times.  It’s our desire for this to be a safe haven for people to gather and enjoy each other’s company and in that enjoyment perhaps God’s healing and hope can flow to the community.”

The festival was successful far beyond expectations. The weather was beautiful, and about 700 people attended. In addition to a hog roast and a meal including strawberry shortcake, the event included an auction, a silent auction, live music, and activities for children. The festival raised more than $45,000, and with additional donations which were given later, almost $50,000 has been raised.

“The preparation leading up to the event seemed like a lot of work.  In retrospect those efforts were minuscule compared to what God did for us,” said Bob Sauder.