Small congregation teams with national volunteer group to build new church in Johnson County

KINGSVILLE, Mo. -- For more than 140 years, the congregation of the Kingsville Seventh-Day Adventist Church have held services. Now, around 60 members gather for Saturday services and hope the construction of a new church will help the congregation grow.

"A lot of times when little churches get old, people forget about them," church member Nancy LaRocque said. "You always have to invest into your people, and we’re investing into our church."

LaRocque is among the dozens of volunteers investing time, money and work into the church's growth by building a new 9,100-square-foot facility.

"I’ve been a member of this church for about 27 years, and to see it grow and change dynamics, young people to old people -- they are all working together and that’s exciting to me," she said.

But it's not just local church members helping out. People from across the country have come to lend a hand.

"This crew is largely from North America -- California, Nevada, Arkansas, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon," said Edward Jensen, a volunteer with Maranatha International Volunteers. "Several of the team has been traveling together this year, and they’ll continue to travel from here."

"We’re volunteers. We pay our own way here. We get free food and free lodging, and so we work for food and a place to lay our head," said Leroy Kelm, a Maranatha International volunteer.

Maranatha is a group of volunteers who travel across the United States and internationally, helping to build and repair churches. The group will spend the next three weeks living and working along 58 Highway, putting together the foundation of Kingsville's newest church.

"We’ve come to help them, and when they come and support their own church, they can take ownership in their church," Kelm said. "They can pound a few nails and later say, ‘I pounded that nail in, and I did this, and I did that,’ so it brings the church together."

It's a team-effort that LaRocque feels will help the church congregation continue for another 100-plus years.

"It’s been here for 145 years," she said. "The people who started it are long gone, but this will be here long after I’m gone, and I’m excited about that."

Church members hope to hold their first service in their new sanctuary this fall.