Eternal Hope Worship Center is celebrating 10 years of sharing God with the community and have a special event set for Sunday to commemorate the milestone.
Pastor Richard Lehmkuhl and his wife, Susan, recently sat down to share about the church they started a decade ago at 410 E. Iowa St.
Pastor Lehmkuhl first heard the call to ministry when he was 14.
“It wasn’t until 36 when I answered that call,” he said.
Susan added that “God had a plan,” and they moved to Colorado Springs for a couple years as Pastor Lehmkuhl attended seminary then moved back to the area and he finished his degree online. For 3 years, he was unassigned until an opportunity came open at Falls City. There Pastor Lehmkuhl started his ministry as an associate pastor at Nazarene Church in Falls City. For 2-3 years they attended church there and he offered pulpit fill-in when the regular pastor was gone. From there, he said God began opening doors and they found a place at the current location in Hiawatha, opening initially as a Nazarene Church. Two years later, they organized as an independent church and Eternal Hope was born.
“This church was previously a Church of Christ, but we found out there was just a very small group meeting here,” he said. “I began walking around the building and praying for God to let us know if this is where He wanted us to be. I had called the district and talked to them about the building. One day they called and said they would rent us the building.”
Not long after, they were able to purchase the church and Pastor Lehmkuhl he is happy to say it is now paid off thanks to the generosity of the congregation.
A few years ago, the church was able to acquire the Midland Ministries building downtown and turned it into their Family Life Center. They used to have monthly meals there, but stopped during the COVID pandemic. Susan said they are starting those up again, but not every month. The building is also used for other community outreach such as commodities and mobile food pantry.
Pastor Lehmkuhl said host auctions and other community events at the Family Life Center and now that the COVID pandemic concern is not as serious, they are back in full swing there with those activities.
Pastor Lehmkuhl said the COVID pandemic brought about many challenges to the community and especially churches.
“The challenges that began in COVID were difficult and churches have been forever changed because of it,” Pastor Lehmkuhl said. “Many churches will never recover or see the numbers they were seeing before the pandemic.”
Eternal Hope closed briefly at the beginning of the pandemic and were able to reopen by mid-summer of 2020. Susan, who helps at the church in many avenues including with music and in the office, said they social distanced and many wore masks. They halted some of the fellowship activities and made special arrangements some of their services, including the Wednesday evening bible studies and prayer time, along with Sunday School.
Pastor Lehmkuhl — who has served as Brown County Commissioner for the past 4 years and recently filed for re-election — also served as chaplain and deputy for many years at the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. He currently works part-time at Chapel Oaks Funeral Home.
He said through these positions he holds, he has many opportunities to minister to people. He brought prayer to the county commission meetings by involving not only himself, but inviting other ministers to come and lead the commissioners in prayer at the beginning of each meeting.
“I also see many people in the community through all of these other jobs and have many opportunities to reach out to them for ministry,” he said. “My extended family is huge, so I get lots on a prayer list.”
Eternal Hope also has two ordained ministers as members — Ben Walker and Bryce Brobst — who are able to help Pastor Lehmkuhl with ministering needs as they arise or if he needs to be gone.
While the congregation at Eternal Hope averages in the 60s-80s for regular Sunday attendance, Pastor Lehmkuhl and Susan agreed that the real need is beyond those walls.
“There is so much uncertainty in the world,” he said. “We need to be ready.”
At Eternal Hope, the intent is to grow God’s Kingdom — one person at a time.
“It’s so important for us to be that light for people to come to Jesus,” he said. “I don’t want anyone to miss heaven.”
On Sunday, Eternal Hope will celebrate their decade of service and outreach to the community with a special service at 10:30 a.m. Sue Ann Clark, of Branson, Mo., will help Pastor Lehmkuhl with a message for the children and singing. The event will be followed by a potluck meal at the Family Life Center. Community members are invited to join the Eternal Hope family in their celebration.