A reason to celebrate

Marshall Evangelical Free Church experiences expansion

The new nursery at Marshall Evangelical Free Church is colorful and provides many activities and resting places for the infants and toddlers visiting church.


Marshall Evangelical Free Church is enjoying a growth spurt that has it expanding its facilities to include more youth ministry space.

“A building has been added between the two buildings,” said the Rev. Don LeClere, who is senior pastor. “It holds a whole new youth room.”

The main entry had been just a small connector space between the two buildings. The connector space was expanded in the back to fill in with a spacious new coffee shop called Fireside Cafe.

Beyond the coffee shop is the new nursery. It is painted in cheerful neutral colors and provides multiple play stations and rest areas for infants and toddlers.

Down a hall and out the back door, there is a wide deck and an expanse of grass before a stand of trees. This entire backyard space is being developed for youth ministries.

“There will be a sand volleyball court in the first open space,” LeClere said. The field beyond was seeded for a soccer field, he added.

The growth spurt was initiated when the Rev. Matt Yoder, associate pastor, was part of the Casting the Vision (planning). Yoder worked at developing the youth ministry and saw it double in membership during his time at E-Free, LeClere said. “It was Matt who first said we needed more space.

“We also have a Mothers of Preschoolers who meet two Tuesday nights a month,” LeClere said. “We have women from all over Marshall who come to that.”

Another area of growth has been in the campus ministries at Southwest Minnesota State University.

“We’ve had a youth ministry on campus for 10 years which was basically all American,” LeClere said. “SMSU is a multi-cultural university. Jacob Hart began researching on how to reach out to the international students. Now, we have a second ministry on campus called Bridges. We have people in our church who ‘adopt’ them. They bring them into their homes for the holidays, drive them places and so forth. It’s like a home away from home.”

Two Taiwanese students went home after Christmas, he said, and shared their experience with their parents. Their parents were so glad there was this American family who took care of them that they had a special, custom-built music box made for LeClere. It has a church on the top and a mechanical car with an angel in it driving around the church while the music plays.

Volunteer general contractor and church member Kevin Hart said a similar gift was given to his family.

Hart was instrumental in hiring the construction companies that built the expansion between the two buildings over the past year and a half.

One of the additions was an elevator to assist people transporting to the basement. It is located on one side of the Fireside Cafe and leads to the classrooms, fellowship room and library in the basement.

These rooms, too, have been refurbished. They received new paint and carpet, and the library was provided with a piece of artwork featuring a cross that was made by a church member.

The junior-senior high school-age meeting room was refitted to include theater seating that faces a video screen and multiple overstuffed couches were donated to fill the tiers.

Special lighting was also added, LeClere said.

Hart displayed bean bags on the floor in front of the couches that provide additional seating.

The room also held musical equipment for sing-alongs.

There were four people on the building committee, according to Hart.

There are eight people on the celebration committee, planning three parties to celebrate the completion of this expansion and redecorating.

“There will be a dedication on Sunday, April 2,” LeClere said. “There will be coffee and doughnuts in the Fireside Cafe at 9 a.m. and a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m.”

After the 10:15 a.m. worship service, there will be a banquet with a surprise, he added. The time capsule from the old cornerstone will be opened at noon.

On April 5, the church will host an open house from 5-7:30 p.m. to give tours to the community. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served.

“Come and learn more about our church history and the current ministries,” LeClere said.

April 9 will be another Celebration Sunday and family fun day beginning with the 10:15 a.m. service.

“We will reveal items for the new time capsule and place it in the cornerstone,” he said.

There will be a catered meal at 11:30 a.m. with bingo, youth activities and carnival games beginning at noon.