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VAN WERT — According to Senior Pastor Jim C. Burns, Liberty Baptist Church in Van Wert has paid off its construction mortgage and is debt free. Liberty Baptist Church was established in 1982. In 2007 the congregation urgently needed to move from a small church building on Main Street to Van Wert for more space. They needed a bigger parking lot, bigger classrooms, and handicap accessibility.

Horace Mann Elementary School had just closed, but the building was still usable. After inspecting the property, AML
church leaders saw great potential in this property for their ministries. The Horace Mann School building at 501 E. Third Street, Van Wert had 4 1/2 acres, parking, a playground, a ball diamond and an 18,000 square foot concrete block building with a sports hall, a hall, offices and 10 large classrooms, all on one level.

School superintendent Van Wert and the school board voted to auction off Horace Mann School property on December 29, 2007, inside the school gymnasium. A large crowd filled the school gymnasium that day for the auction, but only three bidders showed up. That day, Liberty Baptist Church won the auction for $92,000.

However, the congregation needed an additional $200,000 to meet Ohio State requirements for fire protection, handicap standards, and all renovations, including a new roof. The church family would like to thank Citizen’s National Bank and the bank’s branch president, Pat Ryan, for taking the risk of AML by lending the necessary funds to the church for the purchase of the building and to carry out their construction project.

Although the congregation was worshiping in the building three months after purchase, the 2008 recession hit and it took three years to complete the renovation. To save money, much of the work was done by volunteer labor from loyal church members.

The groundbreaking for the church building took place on September 18, 2010, in the renovated gymnasium that is now their auditorium. Ironically, September 18, 2022, was the day Pastor Burns was able to announce to the congregation that they were repaying their building loan and the church would be debt free.

Liberty Baptist Church was in three locations prior to the purchase of Horace Mann School under three previous pastors. But in October 1992, when Liberty Baptist Church was founded under the leadership of Pastor Keith Stoler, the new congregation rented Horace Mann School on weekends to start their church. This year, 2022 is the 40th anniversary of the church.

On Sunday, November 6, there will be an official mortgage during the 10:45 a.m. worship service, and the following Sunday, November 13, will be the church’s 40th anniversary celebration. The public is invited and everyone is welcome.

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