Through interim pastors and the building of two churches, parishioners of the Ponderosa Baptist Church never gave up hope of a permanent sanctuary over the years, drawing strength in worship and fellowship.
Seventeen years ago, meetings began to establish a Conservative Baptist Church in Payson. Members built their first church three years later, outgrowing it by the late 1990s.
Calvary Chapel's purchase of the church at Sherwood Drive and Beeline Highway was a challenging blessing, according to former pastor's wife, Jeanne Greene.
Between October of 2002 and June of 2003 -- a period of change -- the members met during the week for services at different locations, including the Julia Randall Elementary School cafeteria, and later, at Manzanita Manor.
They were blessed to add 26 new members during this time.
"It was not satisfactory, but we were together," said Greene.
In 1989, the church had acquired nearly six acres of land, a perfect place to build their new church, a bit further north on the Beeline Highway.
The congregation met en masse to move chairs, the piano, the organ and all the church possessions from the many homes where the items had been stored.
Four days later, on Father's Day 2004, Ponderosa Baptist Church was dedicated.
Ponderosa Baptist is essentially a conservative evangelical church, said the Rev. Duane Ayers, associate pastor.
"We believe the scriptures are the inspired word of God and the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice," Ayers said.
Ayers served as the interim pastor until Senior Pastor, Dr. Joseph E. Falkner was called to the position this past January.
"(Falkner) preaches the truth. His life is open and he doesn't put on airs. He is who he is. He does church like I've always done it," said Ayers of his colleague. "He is a very good speaker; biblical and extemporaneous."
Ayers, who recently moved to Payson, said he was, "... impressed by the friendliness of the people in the congregation" and came back himself as a result. "We accept people for who they are," Ayers said.
The congregation is involved in outreach ministries to missionaries all over the world and people in need in the Rim community via the Chaplains Ministry, Payson for Payson, St. Vincent de Paul, Payson Christian Ministers Association and Community Action Program.
Thursdays after school, kids from first through sixth grades get picked up by parishioners at their respective schools for an afternoon spent as Voyagers, Pathfinders and Trailblazers in the Pioneer Club.
They sing songs, make crafts, go on nature walks, play games and explore the Bible. Transportation to and from Ponderosa Baptist is provided, and all children, including non-members, are welcome.
Vacation Bible Study is a fun summer event which is well attended by children in the community.
Ponderosa Baptist Church is located at 1800 N. Beeline Highway. Sunday School is at 9:15 a.m., morning worship is at 10:30 a.m. and evening worship at 6 p.m. Phone: (928) 474-9179.
This story is another part of the Roundup's continuing series on how the churches in the Rim country add beauty and grace to our community.