Along with a snippet of Stewards Foundation’s history, this edition of the Newsletter includes testimonials from a current loan holder, Martin Road Gospel Chapel, and Floyd and Helen Pierce who have served the Lord for many years both overseas and stateside.
As we near the end of 2015, it seems appropriate to acknowledge some of the history of Stewards Foundation. This year marks the 70th year of Stewards Foundation’s service to the assemblies of the Lord’s people throughout the U.S. In 1945, under the leadership of William McCartney, Paul Erickson, James Humphrey, Clyde Dennis, and Donald Tyler, Stewards Foundation was established as a nonprofit corporation. These men are all now at home with the Lord, and likely they would be uncomfortable receiving any accolades for their part in establishing Stewards Foundation, but now 70 years later their names are worth noting.
William McCartney’s vision for Stewards Foundation came from a personal experience At the time, William was a furniture salesman at a large Chicago department store. His home assembly was in need of a new facility and decided to undertake financing the project by receiving gifts from those in fellowship and offering interest-bearing notes to the same. The question was raised why financing was not sought from a bank? The response was that banks did not look favorably on loaning money to small nondenominational churches with no permanent convention of churches, or the personal signatures of those in the church’s fellowship to guarantee the loan. Mr. McCartney reasoned that loaning money to the assembly was risky, so he made a small contribution to the project and then invested the greater part of his funds in bank stock. Soon after, the bank failed and he lost all of his investment. Noting that all those who invested their funds in the assembly project received their money back plus interest, Mr. McCartney realized that Christians are faithful in meeting their financial obligations. The reality of I Corinthians 4:2 was borne out, “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Pondering over this experience he developed the idea of a nonprofit organization to finance assembly projects through the sale of bonds to those in assembly fellowships across the U.S. Such an organization would give the Lord’s people a source of investment offering a good return on their money, and the satisfaction that they were making possible needed assembly building projects. Thus, on March 26, 1945, William McCartney and the four men listed above joined to incorporate Stewards Foundation as a nonprofit organization chartered under the laws of the State of Illinois.
The first office for this new nonprofit corporation was located in the building of Mr. McCartney’s wholesale furniture business at 311 West Lake Street, Chicago, Illinois. Space was made available for the work of Stewards Foundation at no cost. However, by 1956, both the furniture business and Stewards Foundation were in need of additional space, so a ten-story building was purchased at 127 S. Wacker Drive in Chicago. This building was home to Stewards Foundation until it was sold late in 1965, with Stewards Foundation continuing as a tenant until the end of 1969. In 1970, Stewards Foundation moved into a newly constructed building at 218 W. Willow Street in Wheaton, Illinois where it remained until the office was relocated to Addison, Texas in 1998. The office was moved to the present address at 1420 W. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas in December of 2015.
The desire of the founders of Stewards Foundation was that of assisting New Testament pattern assemblies in establishing and strengthening testimonies for the Lord across the U.S. This remains the primary purpose of Stewards Foundation. Financial statements from the early years reveal the following:
- In the first full year of its existence, Stewards Foundation made 4 loans totaling $11,735
- Through the first decade, 1946 – 1955, 327 loans were made totaling $2,934,122
- At the end of the first decade, Stewards Foundation’s net worth was $5,225,159
- By the end of the second decade, 1956 – 1965, 652 loans had been made for almost $7,600,000 with the net worth of Stewards Foundation being $9,355,377
It is difficult to accurately determine how many assemblies have been assisted through the Loan Program in 70 years of existence, but the number could hardly be less than 2,000 totaling loans in excess of $50,000,000. At the end of our 2015 Fiscal Year (June 30, 2015), the Loan Program had a balance of $11,696,106 invested in 47 assembly loans across the U.S. These loans include building purchases, new construction and remodeling projects in 19 states broken down as follows:
New York (8), Pennsylvania (5), Michigan (5), Texas (5), Illinois (4), Georgia (3), Florida (3), South Carolina (2), North Carolina (2), Wisconsin (2), New Jersey, Indiana, Tennessee, Minnesota, Iowa, Alabama, Oklahoma, Colorado and California.
Looking back over the past 70 years, we readily exclaim with the Psalmist, “The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” Psalms 126:3. No amount of labor by those that have been involved with Stewards Foundation can compare with the Lord’s part in the work of this service organization. Of course we cannot say with any certainty that this work will continue for another decade.; Rather, we can say that we exist and serve according to the Lord’s will and purposes, and to that end the Board and staff covet your prayers.
Martin Road Gospel Chapel, now located in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, originated as a Sunday School work in the heart of Detroit in 1916. Cyril and Ethel Popplestone hosted the work in their home on Bewick St. on the east side of the city. The earliest recorded mention of that work describes the children singing “A ruler once came to Jesus by night to ask Him the way of salvation and light,” as Ethel played the organ. At the end of the Sunday School time, and encouraged by the large and enthusiastic response by the children, several of the adults would pass out tracts in the community every Sunday afternoon.
In 1919, one of those adults, John Ferguson, Sr. put up a tent at the corner of Warren Avenue and Cadillac, four blocks away from the Popplestone residence, and used it to host a month of nightly evangelistic meetings. When the tent was folded up a room was rented in a store on the nearby corner of Warren Avenue and Pennsylvania Street where meetings were held for a couple of months until a sectional frame building was purchased, dismantled and moved to the same east side neighborhood. This building was called East Side Gospel Hall. As mentioned, the focus in the early days was children’s work but there was also an emphasis on neighborhood outreach. In 1921 an evangelist by the name of Don Charles held some special meetings and several people were saved, including one couple who attended because a paper invitation blew into their yard.
Up until January of 1924, the believers at East Side Gospel Hall broke bread at Central Gospel Hall, a meeting on the west side of the city. But after a six week, six nights a week series of meetings on the topic “Two Roads and Two Destinies” in November and December of 1923, it was decided to begin meeting independently. Records are sketchy, but about 17 families and several individuals, many of them new believers, met to remember the Lord, to host children’s meetings and for Bible readings. By 1926 attendance at these meetings was roughly 70.
East Side continued to host tent meetings for those who would not enter a church building “no matter what”, to quote one man who was eventually saved as a result of those meetings. Highlights of those years included what were then called Sunday School Treats – Christmas programs, Easter programs, etc. – where the Sunday Schools kids sang songs, recited Scripture passages and long poems and then ate sandwiches, cookies and ice cream. One letter written back in the day says the girls learned the passages and poems and the boys ate the sandwiches.
In 1950, due to a deteriorating building and a neighborhood which became predominately Catholic, it was decided to move further north. A lot was purchased in 1950. A series of open air meetings was held on the property every night for seven weeks and then a single story brick building was constructed. The new building was called the Harwood Gospel Chapel, combing the name of Harper Avenue and Woodhall, the streets where the building was located. Four meetings were held every Sunday: Breaking of Bread, a Bible class for young people, a Bible class for older people and the Sunday School. Since there was no basement and because the three teaching meetings took place simultaneously, it was noisy but, according to people who were there, gracious attitudes, the use of the men’s and ladies coat rooms and the kitchen made it workable. In addition to the meetings held on Sunday, there was a prayer meeting on Tuesday evenings and a Bible reading meeting on Thursday evenings. At some point in the 1950’s the assembly began to hold gospel meetings on Sunday evenings. The assembly bought a bus to transport Sunday School kids to the building, a work that was hindered by the lack of space and frequent mechanical problems with the bus. Harwood continued to host special gospel meetings on a regular basis and formed a radio choir of 8 to 12 people who sang on WEXL for a few years.
The next move took place in 1957 when plans for the I-94 Expressway revealed that Harwood Chapel was going to be leveled. Property being too expensive in the City of Detroit, the people found property on Martin Road in a northern suburb called St. Clair Shores. Progress on the expressway was faster than progress on the new building so the first several meetings at Martin Road Gospel Chapel were held in the basement on rough concrete floors. For several weeks the assembly met with no plumbing, electricity or pews. One of the first meetings to be held in the new building, once construction was complete, was the Sunday School Christmas program in December of 1957. What was called the “Inauguration” took place in early 1958. The building was filled with about 200 people for that meeting.
In the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s the name of the meetings changed but the emphasis on breaking break, children’s work and Bible teaching continued. Separate meetings were held for the girls – Pioneer Girls – and boys – Jet Cadets – as well as for young people. Gifted singers from the assembly traveled about an hour north to sing for a weekly gospel radio program in the city of Lapeer.
During the 1990’s and 2000’s the assembly continued to have a good outreach into the neighborhood through the Boys Club and Girls club activities. As a result of these meetings, several young people were saved and are serving the Lord in other parts of the city and country. Martin Road, along with Curtis Chapel, supported the Central Bible Mission in downtown Detroit, working with inner city young people.
In the early 2010’s we began to hold our three Sunday meetings – Breaking of Bread, ministry and Family Bible Hour – in the morning and early afternoon. This change was made to accommodate some of our older people (who found it difficult to attend Sunday evening meetings, especially during the winter months when it is dark that time of night) and those who travel a great distance. We still meet on Tuesday evenings for prayer and Bible study. Our young people’s work takes place on Friday evenings. Special Bible conferences are held once or twice a year. A major effort is dedicated to our Vacation Bible School, held every summer.
Due to age and general deterioration of our building, it was decided to improve its appearance and function with the help of a loan from Steward’s Foundation. In 2014 major renovations were made to the auditorium, bathrooms and basement.
“That the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thess. 1:12
Floyd was saved at the age of 10 while living with his maternal grandparents on their rented farm in Christian County, Illinois. An evangelist came to the country church a few miles from the farm for a week of meetings. It was there that he trusted Christ as his Savior. Helen was saved when she was 14 years old in Springfield, Illinois through the ministry of an evangelist, Jack Shuller. It was at that time she knew the call to be a missionary.
Two assemblies in Illinois commended us to the work of the Lord in Brazil: Milton Avenue Chapel in Springfield in 1960, and Prospect Avenue Assembly in Champaign in 1961. These two assemblies are now Grace Bible Chapel (Springfield) and Stratford Park Bible Chapel (Champaign). In 1976, we came back from Brazil to Springfield for the education of our youngest son Jonathan. During that time, we helped two other assemblies in Illinois: Shawnee Bible Chapel in Carbondale, and a work in the home of Bruce Brown in East Peoria. When we were ready to return to the field, these two assemblies commended us to the work in Brazil.
We served the Lord in Brazil from 1982 until 1996 when we retired from the mission field and returned to the U.S. due to Floyd’s health. Our years since, as “refocused” have been replete with ongoing work in both Portuguese and English. For the first several years, we visited the Brazilian assemblies in the Eastern U.S. where Floyd ministered the Word in local meetings as well as at annual conferences and campgrounds. The work included performing marriage ceremonies, baptisms and distributing Portuguese Bible courses that we had used in Brazil.
We have also been active in our home assembly, Grace Bible Chapel in Springfield, where Floyd serves as an elder and ministers the Word. He also started the chapel website (www.springfieldgrace.com) and updates it weekly to advise locals about the assembly and its ministry. In addition, Floyd has a website (www.biblecourses.us) where Bible courses translated into English then digitized to print are made available to students who want to study the Bible at home. These courses are sent overseas to students in at least 25 countries. Hard copies of the English courses are sent to students in the U.S. and Canada. We are in the process of digitizing the Brazilian courses to send to Portuguese speaking students via email. Floyd’s office is in the attic of our home, so he walks down four flights of stairs to put each course in the mailbox, then back upstairs to his office. This provides a good bit of the doctor-suggested daily aerobic exercise.
Helen participates in the weekly ladies Bible study at the chapel, taking the lesson at least once a month. She uses her talents in quilling (paper filigree) as a means of personal outreach through teaching quilling to adults and children. Helen has participated in National Quilling Conventions and won prizes for her work. She shows her work on Pinterest and carries on spiritual conversations with folks she meets through that venue. Helen has many opportunities to exercise her gift of hospitality as we frequently entertain missionaries and visiting speakers in our home. This would hardly be possible without her cooking and hostess prowess.
Since the missionary team in Brazil from the U.S. and Canadian assemblies has been dwindling, we have been deeply concerned about new workers entering that harvest field. An opportunity was made available to set up a table on Brazil at the San Francisco Bay Area missionary conference in November. We are praying that the Lord will send folks to our table that may be interested in filling the ranks.
Some of those in fellowship at Grace Bible Chapel are retiring to Concordia Village, a retirement facility in Springfield. The assembly is praying for younger ones to join in the work and for our evangelistic efforts to bear fruit in bringing some into the fellowship. Many employment opportunities are available in the nursing and medical fields in Springfield. The fields here are also ripe for harvest, just as they are in Brazil and elsewhere around the world.
We are very grateful for the help that Stewards Foundation has been to us during our years in the Lord’s work. First, through loans made to our home assembly to finance at least two meeting places. Second, through the insurance program that paid many of our medical expenses while on the foreign field and on furlough. Finally, the help continues as an annual gift through our home assembly to assist with our medical expenses and supplemental insurance.