“In the midst of a global pandemic, God is still making His-story,” Pastor Tabla says.
First of its kind in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the Midwest, the dedication of the Ebenezer Community Church (ECC) marked a very historic event for the ECC’s family, one among the few in the entire United States of America.
Hundreds of believers from across the United States and Africa gathered on Sunday, September 5th, to dedicate the second phase construction of Ebenezer Community Church. The 20,000 square-foot facility contains a sanctuary with a seating capacity of one thousand, office space, classrooms and the Rev. Dr. Peter James Flamming Educational Center. The 20,000 square-foot facility is part of a larger space of 34,000 square feet, situated on 4.3 acres of land, with the total construction and land acquisition costing upwards of US$10 million.
“Today, we are gathered to celebrate the faithfulness of God for making ‘His-story’ possible in our community at home and abroad”, Pastor Tabla said.
The second phase building dedication coincided with the 21st anniversary celebration of the founding of Ebenezer Community Church. The second half of the dedication kicked off with a six days revival, with Rev. Dr. Theo Bessman, Pastor of New Grace Church in Arlington, Texas, and Rev. Dr. Tar-u-way Bright, Pastor of Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church of Marietta, GA, serving as revivalists. Dr. Patrick Taylor, Pastor of Fountain Baptist Church in Richmond, VA preached at the Sunday morning worship service. Rev. Dr. Leo Endel, Executive Director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, served as keynote speaker for the Building Dedication Service.
Under the leadership of Dr. Endel, ECC received support of diverse kinds, including partnerships with the Baptist General Association of Virginia and First Baptist Church of Burleson, TX.
The church embarked upon the journey since its inception, having bought the 4.3 acres of land in November of 2004. It paid off the mortgage on the land in September of 2013, completed the construction of the first phase in 2016 and now, the second phase in 2021.
“Twenty-one years ago, less than ten people met for Bible study and prayer meeting which, by God’s grace, has now culminated into what is now known across the United States and parts of the world as Ebenezer Community Church, Dr. Tabla said in his pastoral message on the occasion. “God has blessed Ebenezer to see hundreds of people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and rededicate their lives to Jesus. Marriages that were at the verge of disintegration have been restored. Scores of people have found purpose and meaning to life.
“People have been healed from the brokenness and wounds they experienced during the civil war in Liberia. People are utilizing their abilities, gifts, and talents to the glory of God here at Ebenezer, while few have sensed and responded to the call of God upon their lives to ministry. Many kids are being nurtured through the children’s church, and the list goes on. God has blessed Ebenezer with the privilege of doing and supporting missions at home and abroad through the partnerships we share,” he boasted.
The Prayer of Dedication (customized from 1 Kings 8) was led by Dr. Tabla, Pastor Chris, Lic. Zinna Abedu-Bentsi, ECC; Rev. Julius Brent, of Hope In Christ Assembly, Madison, WI; Rev. Stephen Cole, of Christ Triumphant Outreach Ministries, Brooklyn Park, MN; Rev. Daniel Goba, ECC, Bloomington, MN; Rev. Richard Johnson, ECC St. Paul, MN; Pastor David Kamuelyu, ECC; Pastor Ethelyn Naiah, ECC; Rev. Johnny Russell, Bethlehem Worship Center, Brooklyn Center, MN; and Pastor Elijah Wreh, of Anointed for Christ Ministries, Elyria, OH.
After the Prayer of Dedication, about 23 members and friends of Ebenezer gave a special, symbolic, and sacrificial seed offering of US$2,021 each, commemorating the 21st anniversary of the church and the year 2021.
The ribbon to the new building was cut by Rev. Dr. Theo Bessman, Rev. Dr. Tar-u-way Bright, Rev. Dr. Lincoln Brownell, President of Go Ye Ministries International and former President of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary; Rev. Dr. John B. Cole (in absentia), Rev. Dr. Steve Daniels, Pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church of St. Paul, MN; Rev. Dr. Leo Endel, Rev. Dr. Josef & Lees Howard, Harvest Intercontinental Ministries (in absentia), Hon. Lisa Jacobson, Mayor of the City of Brooklyn Park; Ms. Glendy J. Junius; Hon. Boyd Morson, City Council Member of Brooklyn Park; Rev. Enoch Nyakoon, Pastor of Second Chance Global Ministry, Philadelphia, PA; Dr. Patrick & Mrs. Emma Taylor; Rev. George Wonlon, Executive Director of Liberia Ministers Association of Minnesota; and many other guests.
Remarks were given by Mike Batty from Dennis Batty and Associates (the architecture firm that designed the building), while Anya Beck, General Contractor, Terra Construction presented the key to the Project Management Team of ECC, headed by Bro. Glenn Toby. Bro. Toby then turned over the key to Rev. Dr. Francis & Mother Christine Tabla, Pastors of ECC.
During the ceremony, the Educational Center, named in honor of Rev. Dr. Peter James Flamming was also dedicated. Dr. Flamming is the 15th Senior Pastor of the Historic First Baptist Church of Richmond, VA! The dedication ceremony for the Peter James Flamming Educational Center was led by Rev. Dr. Lincoln Brownell, Dr. Enoch Nyakoon, Rev. D. Eleazar Reeves, and Dr. Francis & Christine Tabla.
Dr. Flamming served as Pastor for Francis & Christine Tabla, while Francis studied at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. Dr. Flamming also provided Godly counsel to Francis & Christine when they felt called to plant what is now known as Ebenezer Community Church. Under the leadership of Dr. Flamming and his successor Dr. James Somerville, First Baptist Church provided financial, moral, and spiritual support to Ebenezer Community Church at critical periods along ECC’s 21-year journey. They also set up the Francis Tabla Scholarship Fund at Virginia Union University, to commemorate the fruitful partnership between First Baptist and Ebenezer. The scholarship is awarded yearly to students seeking the Master of Divinity Degree at Virginia.
Sis. Marjorie Nebo & Brother Ebenezer Teah, Chair and Vice Chair of the Building Dedication & 21st Anniversary Celebration Planning Committee welcomed all of the guests and members in attendance to the indoor program while, Deacon Gladys Fahngon, Chair of Deacons of ECC said the invocation.
The indoor thanksgiving service was deeply moving, with people in awe for such an amazing accomplishment by God through a predominantly African Church (with Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and USA represented) in the congregation. The word of inspiration and encouragement was brought by Dr. Endel under the theme “For the Name of the Lord,” from I Chronicles 29 and II Chronicles 2, which passage was read earlier by a member of ECC’s Children’s Church, Sis. Celyn Telo Odhiambo. There was uplifting music by Minister Steve Kelly, of Gospel Music,Group, PA; Minister Olivia Jackson Seward, of JJ Inspirations, MN, and the Music Department and Youth Praise Dance Team of ECC.
During the service, Dr. Tabla paid special homage to Rev. Dr. John B. Cole, who secured a scholarship for him to study at Virginia Union in 1997; Rev. Eleazar Reeves and Glendy Junius, who drove the truck to help relocate the Tablas from Richmond, VA to Minnesota to plant the church; Dr. Enoch Nyakoon, who introduced the Tablas to the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention; Pastor Stan Weese of North Center Baptist Church, who mentored Dr. Tabla as a Church Planter, and which congregation hosted Ebenezer for over a dozen years, until the construction of the first phase; and to Dr. Theo Bessman, who is the first clergy of Liberian origin, to lead an immigrant congregation to buy land and construct a church building in the USA, and whose knowledge, experience, ideas, and support were very instrumental in the building programs of Ebenezer.
During the program, remarks were brought by Dr. Theo Bessman, Rev. Jay Butcher, on behalf of the Baptist General Association of Virginia; the Booker Washington Institute Alumni Association of Minnesota, led by President Rev. Michael Wesseh Geegbae, City Council Member Boyd Morson, Hon. Rebecca Dennis, deputizing for Hon. Carlton George, Liberia’s Consul General to the Midwest; Rev. Dr. Jim Somerville, Pastor of First Baptist Church & Jim Norvelle, President of the Endowment Fund of First Baptist Church, Richmond (pre-recorded video); Dr. Tar-u-way Bright, President of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary Alumni Association of America; Pastor Augustus Marsh (pre-recorded video, who invited the Tablas in the year 2000 to see and survey Minnesota); Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves, President of the Liberia Baptist Missionary & Educational Convention (pre-recorded video); Rev. Stan Weese, and Rev. George Wonlon, Rev. Stephen Cole, and Rev. Zephaniah Kaffey, all of the Liberia Ministers Association of Minnesota.
The Chair of the Trustees, Deacon G. Lavelay Dennis thanked all of those in attendance for their love and support to Ebenezer Community Church over the years. In answer to the question by many as to how Ebenezer was able to build, Dr. Tabla said it is all about what God is able to do! The congregation learned to ask and exercise faith in God. Pastor of ECC, Dr. Tabla said that he had earlier heard from God along their journey that He (God) does not run out of supplies, He only responds to faith.
“Faith is seeing things happen before they happen, and that the only thing God cannot do, is what He has not said”, Dr. Tabla said. He emphasized that the congregation did not get to where she is all by herself. It took all of the partnerships she shares, the community, the body of Christ, prayers, sacrificial giving of the members, exceptional determination and faith in God. He then encouraged all present, including pastors to know that God is able!
The benediction was said by Minister Williametta Harris Kennedy, a strong supporter of Ebenezer Community Church. The celebration concluded with a reception highlighting some of the best food from the continent of Africa!
The Ebenezer Community Church was firstly known as the “Liberian Community Church” until 2001, when the church met in a called session and decided to revisit its name. The body discussed and 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 believed that the name “Ebenezer Community Church”, is more inclusive of others who may not necessarily be Liberians, and constantly reminds them about the good hands of God in their lives. The following nations have been represented in the membership of Ebenezer: Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and United States of America.
At the age of 21, Ebenezer has several ministries, including children, deacon, marriage enrichment, men, music, praise dance, prayer line, prayer warriors, senior adults, Sunday school, trustees, usher, women, young adults and youth. The membership of Ebenezer has now exceeded 700, excluding a children’s church with over eighty children.ECC also provides ministry in: evangelism and discipleship; counseling in all aspects and ministry to the elderly. In the future, Ebenezer hopes to provide food and clothes closet (especially for newly arriving immigrants); tutorial program to assist those with deficiency in English and math, and a mentoring program to help shield youth from gangs.