A Legacy of Compassion
Fifty years ago, the Assemblies of God established Maranatha Village, a Christian retirement community in Springfield, Missouri. While Maranatha Village was initially founded to care for elderly Assemblies of God ministers, the ministry expanded to also serve non-ministers, and hundreds of people now live on its 100-acre campus.
In the early years of the Pentecostal movement, a strong belief in the imminent return of Christ sent ministers and missionaries into difficult places in the United States and around the world with the Pentecostal gospel message. Many of these ministers lived entirely by faith, with only enough to meet their daily needs. Their lives were spent for God with little thought to laying up materials things for their old age.
In 1946, it was recommended to the General Presbytery that the Assemblies of God (AG) establish a home for ministers who “have spent their strength and lives in the gospel ministry and now face their declining years with no place to go or without anyone to care for them.” This home became a reality in 1948 when the Pinellas Park Hotel and then Bethany Retirement Home was opened in Florida, adjacent to Southeastern Bible College.
When Southeastern Bible College (now Southeastern University) needed more land for expansion, 40 acres was purchased next to Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, for the construction of a new retirement home. Twenty-six of Bethany’s residents began the process of leaving Florida for Missouri. Making the transition with them was administrator Gordon Earls, who provided continuity as the new Springfield administrator.
In May of 1973, College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, provided private air transportation, and the new Missouri residents were greeted at the Springfield airport by AG national office personnel, Central Bible College students, and many waiting friends. Fifty years ago this week, the Pentecostal Evangel highlighted the opening of the new facilities in its July 15, 1973, issue.
The name chosen for the facility was “Maranatha,” a greeting meaning “The Lord is Coming!” For centuries Christians used this greeting to remind each other that God’s people are people of hope for the future and the new residents of “Maranatha Lodge” (now Maranatha Retirement Village) were encouraged that, with God’s help, their future would be one surrounded with love and care. The first housing unit was a 120-bed facility which reached 100 percent occupancy in October of 1974.
Assemblies of God churches, ministers, and laypeople joined together to make Maranatha a pleasant place to provide for the physical care and spiritual nourishment of the residents. More than 120 churches and individuals provided furnishings through an “adopt a room” fundraiser. The National Women’s Ministries department purchased a van with a wheelchair lift so that residents could take trips in comfort.
Through the coming years, many of the Maranatha residents were alumni of their neighbor, Central Bible College, including Carolyn Unruh, a member of the first graduating class in 1923. This proximity to the college campus provided students with a deep well of ministry experience to draw from as they were exposed to AG pioneers, such as E.S. Williams, Ruth Plymire, Maynard Ketchum, and many others who served as chapel speakers, guest lecturers, and friendly next-door neighbors.
With Springfield being a crossroads of the nation for the AG, a steady stream of ministers, missionaries, and laypeople have made their way to Maranatha to seek counsel, visit old friends, provide fellowship, and attend events such as the 100th birthday party of Frank M. Boyd in 1983, the 97th birthday party of Stanley M. Horton in 2013, and the recent 100th birthday party of Owen Carr in 2023, which was attended by well over 250 guests.
While Maranatha Retirement Village has the word “retirement” in its name, many of its residents continued to work hard in service to the Lord and mankind every day. During the Florida years, they served as Sunday School teachers and personal evangelists in street ministry. Today, Maranatha residents continue in ministry, through such venues as grading papers for prisoners taking courses from Global University, serving as blood bank and election volunteers, working in crisis pregnancy centers, and filling pulpits in the Springfield area.
The retired ministers and missionaries also have a heart for generous giving. “Maranatha Mall,” an on-campus thrift store managed by Roger Perkin (age 89) and operating with a dedicated staff of resident volunteers, has brought in funds to provide an electric cart for the housekeeping staff, a power washer for the maintenance team, Christmas gifts for each employee, and $30,000 to purchase electric beds for residents in need.
Maranatha residents also support local, national, and global mission’s projects through their weekly chapel services with a 2022 missions giving total of $118,890. Chapel giving also covers the cost of summer camp for every employee’s child or grandchild and in 2023, provided scholarships for 10 Native American children to attend Bible camp in Montana.
Fifty years after its opening in 1973, Maranatha Village is a 100-acre home for both ministers and laypeople living in Christian fellowship. Whether in independent living homes, in assisted living apartments, or in the full-nursing care facility, these faithful Christians continue in service to God and the global Christian community.
THE BEST IS YET TO COME!
Maranatha Village Mall
The Maranatha Mall was started by the Maranatha Auxiliary in the early 2000’s or late 1990s, probably by Mrs. Charles Scott, as an instrument to (1) Dispose of many items of clothing and household items left behind by residents in the expanding independent living area through death or moving and (2) Convert the proceeds into needed funds to purchase medical equipment for Maranatha Village or needed clothing or personal assistance for residents.
At first the small creative center was used for display and sale. However, this only worked for a brief time as the volume of left behind items grew. After discussion with Maranatha management three rooms were set aside in the lower level of the Lodge and Tom Rutherford, who managed the purchase and distribution of Maranatha nursing supplies, helped with the storage and display of left behind items.
Every two-or-three-months sales were conducted by volunteers from the auxiliary to raise the cash needed. The larger furniture items were put out for bids over about a week and awarded to the highest bidder. Clothing and household items were sold for cash on selected days of that week.
As the Independent Living area of Maranatha grew in homes and population, so did the left behind items. After a few years these items began to overwhelm both available space and available volunteers. Again, management was consulted and a former rehabilitation and exercise area on the lower level of the Assisted Living area was converted into what is now the Maranatha Mall.
Volunteers from the Auxiliary were challenged to give regular weekly time to assist with the expanded sale area. Thus, the Wednesday morning weekly sales at the Mall began. Clothing, household items, books and many other assorted items left behind were converted into cash for needed assistance to nursing home residents and needed expensive medical equipment. There is considerable room for display of furniture items and they soon became a major source of revenue for the Auxiliary.
After a time, as the volume continued to grow, Roger Perkin, a retired Assemblies of God minister and resident of Maranatha Village, was asked to assume responsibility for the management of the newly named Maranatha Mall. Under his management the handling and sale of left behind items has improved and now produces growing funds to be used by the Auxiliary. All services and help by members is voluntary and the funds put to beneficial use for the Maranatha Village Nursing areas and residents.