by Kathy Duff
For John Woodhouse, pastor of River Life Chapel in Youngstown, Gospel ministry is a process, and God began it when John was a young man of 18.
Sitting in the Fireside Community Room of his "new" church building located at 3474 Creek Road, just down from the Town Hall in Porter, Pastor John told a story of God's redirection of his life and of the lives of his 50 or so congregants who are "somehow cycling through the church."
One day as a teenager, he heard a missionary, and, "That man had a call on his life ... God became real to me, and I had tons of questions." John's thinking was changed, and, as a result, he was changed to "know that His heart is good for me."
What John describes as an "insatiable hunger for the word of God and for prayer" has translated into a vibrant community of believers passionate to know Jesus Christ in a more personal way. Initial services began in the rented home of John, wife Aimee and their three children - Lauren, Hannah and Ethan. This was an intimate setting to be sure, with children's Sunday school conducted in a bedroom off the living room where John preached, often with then infant Ethan in his arms. That setting later changed to a donated space at the Elks Lodge on Factory Outlet Boulevard in Niagara Falls. The "sense of intimacy" came along into that bigger space and is conveyed as well, John explained, in the "chapel" part of River Life's name and in its mission statement: "People Becoming Fully Alive in Christ."
John testifies that the lives of those at River Life are different now and that the restaurant-turned-church project shows the "incredible favor of God." Funding for purchase of the property came entirely from that small congregation, composed of many widows who are getting on in years. In addition, practical help such as engineering design and building materials came from - well, supernatural favor again.
"I was in Parco (Building Systems) in Newfane, just wondering about metal buildings," John says. They put me on to Tom Rohring" of Niagara Bible Conference( in Olcott) who has extensive experience in transforming old buildings into new and fresh spaces. "He is often on his hands and knees for us ... and is a key" in the remodel.
Key, too, are the unsolicited donations of materials, labor and money to finish the brick and mortar part of River Life. The Fireside Room off the Old Hardings kitchen, sanctuary, nursery, and children's Sunday school room are evidences of hours and hours of total tear out and rebuild.
Remarking again about his younger life, John said he has all along been "learning to trust. Even if it was painful ... a call to sacrifice ... it was the best thing for my life."
Pastor John, pictured, and congregation invite the public to see and experience all that's going on at River Life Chapel as they host a Community Day on Sunday, Sept. 15. For more information, visithttp://www.riverlifechapel.org.