Harvest Christian Church building permanent home that will double as community center

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Mike Halstead is the senior pastor at Harvest Christian Church in Troutdale. As project manager, he also oversees the building of the new church.Half way to its expected completion date of another two years, the walls of a multi-million dollar church have been erected in Troutdale.

Driving on Southwest Halsey Street or Southwest 257th Avenue, you can’t miss the structure on a hill overlooking downtown Troutdale and beyond.

At least that’s the intention of the preacher constructing the new church for the non-denominational Christian congregation he founded 18 years ago.

Since Mike Halstead and his wife, Jeanette, brought Harvest Christian Church into being with 25 original members, the church has never had a permanent place to gather.

They’d pack a truck full of chairs, tables, sound equipment and everything they needed for service every Sunday morning and set up at whichever school in the area had space for them to rent.

Now more than 200 members strong, the congregation has outgrown the little building they lease at 121 S.W. 21st and Troutdale Road.

So, they are building their dream OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - Still two years and $2 million away from completion, when complete, the 35,000 square foot church on Southwest Halsey Street will seat 600.

When finished, the 35,000-square-foot worship center will seat 600 in its pews, contain a full size gymnasium, recording studio, fellowship hall for weddings and events, and an entire wing for children.

“We could have built something smaller,” Halstead said, “but then we would have outgrown it in four years.”

He hopes the church will draw more people to the congregation from the community.

Those attending Harvest Christian Church have been raising money through fundraising campaigns since they could afford to purchase the 4.2 acre property 10 years ago.

Halstead is the project manager, juggling the church’s construction with his duties as senior pastor. People always ask him when the new church will be finished. He always replies: “When we get the money to finish it.”

Harvest Christian is funding the building entirely on their own, opting for a pay-as-we-go model in order to avoid going into any debt they can’t handle, Halstead said.

Having already spent $2.2 million, he expects it will cost another $2 million to complete.

So far, church volunteers have held three fundraising campaigns. At each, members donate one-time gifts or make two- to three-year commitments.

Their last fund-raising event, “Raise the Roof,” concluded in June. The two month-long campaign raised more than $300,000 and consisted of activities for kids and a banquet for people to tell their stories and celebrate the coming of the new church.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: CARI HACHMANN - As part of a fundraiser event, 84 children made handprints and wrote their initials in cement outside the childrens wing of the new church.“The church has kind of come together to rally around this,” said Rob Spitzengel, 47, a longtime member of Harvest Christian who has been working on the project nearly every day since it broke ground in 2010.

To keep the congregation motivated, Halstead said, groups continue to hold Bible study and potlucks inside its roofless, grey brick walls.

Spitzengel said he’s come to have a lot of love and affection for his church. He’s seen it do good for a lot of people, he said.

“I was pretty convinced that with a larger facility, we could do more good and reach more people.”

With years of construction know-how, Spitzengel and Halstead have done most of the work to erect the new church — moving dirt, laying pipes and sewer lines, putting up retaining walls, pouring concrete, and now, planting trees. What they can’t do, they contract out.

Electricians and masons were hired to put in electrical wires and build the church walls.

After a six month lull, the building campaign has renewed funds. Halstead has ordered the roof. Metal columns and roof beams should arrive later this month, he said. “We are a small congregation building a huge church, so there’s a lot of faith involved in that.”

Raised in Albany to a Christian family, Halstead knew by his junior year in high school he wanted to spend his life preaching. He held his first youth ministry position when he was 19, and met his wife a few years later at Puget Sound College of the Bible. He later graduated from Pacific Christian College in Fullerton, Calif., with a degree in preaching. Halstead and his wife worked in a southern California youth ministry before moving to Oregon. Halstead was a youth pastor at Mountain View Christian Church until the mid 1990s, when he felt called to start a church in Troutdale.

“There were not a lot of churches down here, and it was a community with lots of single parents and little kids,” said Halstead, a Gresham resident. “There was a big need for some healthy churches in Troutdale.”

He opened Harvest Christian Church in 1995.

“We are not just a church in the local community,” Halstead said, “but God has called us to reach out to the rest of the world.”

Harvest Christian supports missionaries in Cuba, Sudan, Pakistan and a number of local Hispanic communities. Twenty-one percent of Sunday givings go to cross-cultural missions.

“In the scriptures, Jesus talks about the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few,” Halstead said. “The world is ready to be helped and served. We need to raise up people to be serving people locally and across the world.”

Community service

Halstead said the new church is designed to serve the community of Troutdale.

It’s location is significant. Facing Southwest Halsey Street, Halstead said it is positioned so that everyone coming up the hill, 10,000 to 15,000 cars a day, can see right into its windows.

“Everybody’s going to know where we are,” he said.

He hopes to draw more people to the congregation by opening the church as a community center.

“There will always be cars in the parking lot and things going on here,” Halstead said.

Open every day of the week, he envisions the center offering after-school tutoring for children, evening basketball leagues and a work out room with locker rooms. There also will be a food pantry for the hungry and gardens for weddings and special occasions.

“The goal,” he said, “is to get the people who don’t go to church in our building, so we can get to know them, and find out how we can meet their needs.”

Marriage and parenting seminars also are on the list.

“People don’t think they need church,” Halstead said, “but all of a sudden their marriage is on the rocks …”

Christian mission

When the building is done and Harvest Christian Church has its grand opening, Halstead said hundreds of new people will come through the doors.

“We might not be the right church for all of them — everybody’s welcome, but we don’t bless everybody’s sinful behavior.”

The church preaches no book but the Bible.

“We exist to worship God, study and teach his word, bring people into a relationship with Jesus and help bring them under God’s loving rule in respect to their spiritual, emotional and physical needs,” the website said.

But Halstead said he hopes to have a gamut of ministries that will meet the different needs of the Troutdale community.

“There is just no end to the needs of this community,” he said.

“It’s a broken and hurting world out there, and we believe that Jesus and his Church has the answers.”

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