Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church is opening a mission church in Tonto Basin.
For the past two years the small congregation of 150 or so has been contributing to the Missouri Synod’s “Fan Into Flames” mission drive. The drive returns 15 percent of the contributions back to Shepherd of the Pines to do mission work. The congregation elected to use those funds to start a church in Tonto Basin. It will be contributing to the campaign for another year, said Ken Haggit, chairman of the SPL evangelism committee.
The Tonto Basin area was chosen because the church has several members in the congregation from there and they have had others express an interest in opening a Missouri Synod mission in the community.
The mission church will use the building belonging to the Punkin Center Baptist Church at 441 McLellan Drive. A new Baptist church is being constructed and should be occupied by Easter. Until then, the mission church, Tonto Basin Lutheran Church and the Baptist congregation will share the building. After the move, the Lutheran group will take over the building.
The culmination of the effort to start the church will be an open house, from 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, March 21. Services will start Saturday, March 28 and will be held from 5 to 6 p.m.
At the open house, members of the community are encouraged to come and visit the facility and see what is being planned for the new church. Dress is casual and light refreshments will be served.
The services will be led by the Rev. Steve DeSanto of Shepherd of the Pines and Vicar Jim Toma.
Retired minister Dave Lindeman has helped Haggit and his committee get the mission church started. For the time being, the mission’s core congregation will have about 20 people, with half living in the Tonto Basin area and the other half coming down from the Payson area.
“We are so excited about starting this. There is a great need for it,” Haggit said.
For more information, call Shepherd of the Pines at (928) 474-5440 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., or Haggit at (928) 474-9308.