The Living Waters Fellowship church began its ministry in 2008 in the basement of the pastor’s home, seeded from a Saylorville church. About 20 people met to worship in the non-denominational service. The church grew over the next dozen years, reaching regular attendance of about 325.
The congregation sought their own building.
They came close to buying a disused Presbyterian Church, but the deal fell through.
“Many were sad,” said the Rev. Josh Daggett, pastor of Living Waters. “Some were mad.”
The church adopted two philosophies as they marched toward building their own home.
The first came from the Book of Genesis: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Second, the congregation pledged only to be debt free when it acquired its building and land.
In 2017, the church raised enough money to buy 3.5 acres of land on Army Post Road without debt.
They started to raise money to build on the land. Then Daggett learned Fareway Stores planned to close the grocery at 3000 S.E. 22nd St.
In 2019, Daggett approached Fareway about buying the building. Fareway, founded by a family with deep Christian roots, offered the building to Living Waters for $1.2 million.
For a church of 325, each person would have to come up with nearly $3,700 a piece.
Daggett reminded his flock: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
They held bake sales.
They hosted garage sales.
They sold T-shirts.
The members donated.
People unaffiliated with the church who believed in their mission gave money.
Vacation Bible School children raised money.
New City Church, Lakeside Fellowship and Saylorville Church gave a combined $135,000 to the project.
Church leaders hoped to close the gap by selling the two properties it owned – an office building they call “The Well” and the property on Army Post Road.
Deals came close and fell through.
The most-recent disappointment came in late March. A childcare provider planned to buy their office building, but a city inspector said occupancy rates for the building were too low for them to sell. The childcare provider backed out.
Living Waters was now about $200,000 shy of the $1.2 million they needed.
“I was double crushed,” Daggett said.
“Lord, you said you were the God of the impossible,” Daggett said. “Please be that for us now.”
The church leaders met the next week. By then, America had joined the rest of the world in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
No more bake sales, garage sales or other fundraisers could be held during quarantine.
They briefly discussed applying for a loan but decided to remain committed to the debt-free purchasing plan.
Daggett went to Fareway executives with their story and offered to buy the building for $1 million. The executives agreed.
“God made a highway through the sea,” Daggett said. “What a blessing this church home is going to be for many years to come.”
That blessing comes with a few one-liners about turning a grocery store into a church.
“People say, ‘Of course Fareway sold to a church, they’re not open on Sunday anyway,’” Daggett said. “One parishioner suggested we move the meat counter up front and offer a steak for every new member.”
Jokes aside, Living Waters puts itself in a place that could use more positive influences. The apartments on Southeast 22nd Street toward Indianola Avenue are sketchy.
When a roommate and I lived there 10 years ago, a police officer suffered a broken pelvis when a man fleeing authorities ran him down with a pick-up.
Not far from Living Waters’ new locale in late January, three teenagers were shot and killed at a south Des Moines home.
Living Waters holds the potential to be a stabilizing agent in a neighborhood that needs it.
In my neighborhood, First Christian Church, now part of Lutheran Church of Hope, Grace United Methodist and other churches serve as social service agencies providing food, English classes, childcare and after-school programs.
Daggett hopes the same for his flock.
“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” the church asked itself.
Look at how far those inspired few have come and the answer becomes obvious.
Cut loose and cashiered by corporate media, lone paragraph stacker Daniel P. Finney makes his way telling stories about his city, state and nation. No more metrics or Google trends, he writes stories about people and life in the places we live.