The vision to plant a church came about when Rev. & Sis. Francis Tabla were asking God whether or not to immediately return to Liberia following Rev. Tabla's completion of graduate studies at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University. When it became clear that the family would not return immediately to Liberia due to civil war, God impressed upon them the need to reach Liberians in the United States of America with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The family then conducted surveys in Atlanta, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Virginia respectively. As the burden intensified, they began sharing the vision with churches (including First Baptist Church of Richmond, Virginia) and friends, including Rev. Courage Kai and family, who were residing in Rhode Island; Pastor & Sis. Augustus Marsh, who reside in Minnesota and Pastor and Sis. Jerome Sackor who reside in Philadelphia.
On January 21, 2000, at the invitation of Pastor Marsh, Rev. Tabla and Rev. Kai traveled to Minnesota for a week's visit. They conducted a survey and interviewed church and community leaders, including Mr. Harris Meh, who was then President of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota. The survey in Minnesota showed the following:
claimed almost three hundred thousand lives and devastated the land in all respects.
After much prayers and consultation, it became clear that of the seven states surveyed, Minnesota was the place the Lord was leading to plant a church that would provide ministries such as:
Upon relocating to Minnesota in middle of 2000, they began visiting churches (including Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul), Liberian gatherings, etc, sharing with them the vision to plant a church. On September 9th 2000, the first group of four people met at the home of Rev. and Sis. Kai, to study the Bible and pray. Following two subsequent meetings (averaging seven), the group decided to be called Liberian Community Church.
A significant progress in the church plant came about when Pilgrim Baptist Church of St. Paul, under the leadership of Dr. Robert L. Stephens (who was himself excited about reaching the Liberian community), embraced this little group, and allowed them use their edifice to hold prayer and praise services on Sunday evenings. This began on October 8th, 2000, and averaged eleven in attendance in two months. On October 29th, the church had a pre-lunching service with the hope of gathering more Liberians together to further share the vision. This service was attended by almost a hundred people.
In December of 2000, the Lord provided a space (with a seating capacity of fifty people) for the infant church at the North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park, MN. The group moved there and began Sunday morning worship service on December 17th, 2000. In January 2001, the Sunday school ministry began. By March, the membership grew to 21, and averaged thirty in worship attendance. The Lord's Supper began to be administered on March 4th, 2001.
With the increased financial responsibilities upon the infant church to pay for the use of the college's facilities, Dr. Robert Stephens introduced the little church to the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of St. Paul. They immediately raised financial support of $2,500 for the work. Substantial financial support came from First Baptist Church, under the leadership of Dr. James Flamming; Lee Hilbert Family Fund & Community Foundation, all of Richmond; Virginia, and Gracie and Ernest Davenport of Columbia Heights, MN.
The infant church continued to forge ahead. In May of 2001 with some financial help from First Baptist Church of Richmond, the church obtained an additional classroom to provide space for New Members class and children's church. The children's church began on June 3rd. We averaged 42 in our worship attendance the same month. This led us to begin negotiating with the college for a larger room. In July, negotiations were done. We moved into another room with a seating capacity of 80. By this time, the Praise and Worship Team began.
In the third quarter of 2001, the church met in a called session and decided to revisit its name. The body discussed and agreed that it was about time to change the name "Liberian Community Church." The body came up with the name Ebenezer, which from the Hebrew language means "this far has the Lord helped us" (I Samuel 7:12). The body felt that this name is more inclusive of others who may not necessarily be Liberians, and constantly reminds us about the good hands God in our lives.
Earlier in 2002 when efforts in having an affiliation with the American Baptist Convention failed, we began efforts to have a partnership with the North American Mission Board. Rev. Wayne Bandy, Director of Mission of the Twin Cities Metro Baptist Association, Rev. Steve Blanchard & Rev. Billy Burford of First Baptist Church Richmond, VA, Rev. Steve Melvin, Director of Church Planting, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention and Rev. Stan Weese, Pastor of North Center Baptist Church, Brooklyn Park, MN worked along to ensure that this partnership became a reality. Ebenezer continues to receive different forms of support from all of these bodies, and in turn supports Corporate, Associational and indigenous missions.
The partnership significantly enhanced the work and growth of the church. The church outgrew the seating capacity of eighty, and obtained a permission in September of 2002, to begin using a room in the Science Building that could take 125 people. Ebenezer also outgrew that space, and obtained permission to begin worshipping at the Park Center High School Auditorium (with seating capacity of 600) on June 27th, 2004.
Four times since her founding, Ebenezer has moved from one place to another due to her rapid growth. It is worth noting that with the responsibilities God has placed upon Ebenezer, we saw it expedient to start saving some money to purchase a property of our own in 2002. In late 2003, the church identified 4.3 acres of land on sale for $745,000, at the corners of West Broadway and 93rd Ave. in Brooklyn Park. Ebenezer's offer and purchase agreement were miraculously accepted, and we vigorously stepped up our fundraising efforts. Members' pledges to the first phase of the project (acquisition of the land) came up to $218,000.
With God's favor upon Ebenezer; a generous gift of $50,000 from First Baptist Church, Richmond, VA, gifts from our Convention, friends, well wishers and the faith, determination and sacrificial giving of members of Ebenezer, the closing was done on the land on November 1st, 2004 at the Riverview Community Bank in Elk River, MN. Ebenezer formally dedicated the land to God on September 11th, 2005, and is trusting God to be worshiping on the land on or before the 7th anniversary of the founding of Ebenezer.
As you read through the chronicles of Ebenezer, you can certainly agree that God has helped Ebenezer this far. At the age of five, Ebenezer has several ministries, including children, deacon, men, music, senior adults, Sunday school, trustees, usher, women, and youth. It is worth noting that Ebenezer's services are aired on the national radio in Liberia (through the courtesy of a member). The membership of Ebenezer now stands at 250, excluding a children's church with about 85 children. We are grateful to God for calling us to partner with him, we are grateful to God for the bodies and individuals he has raised up to partner with us, and we are grateful to God for bringing us through five years of faithful ministry. When we think of the favor of the Lord, and all he has done for, with, and through all of our partners, friends, well wishers, and members, we have one big testimony: Ebenezer! This far has the Lord helped us!