◆ Sharing ‘the message of the cross’ with Star Valley community
In the Book of Acts, the Apostle Paul and his companion Silas discovered a group of seekers in Berea manifesting a “noble character.”
In the English Standard Version of the Holy Bible, Acts 17, verse 11 reads these believers “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
After a Sabbath afternoon chat with Pastor Doug Hollen, this SVI Media reporter is convinced that a small but growing congregation of the Berean Bible Fellowship in Afton is, indeed, of a “noble character.”
This small band of Christians who seek to “share the message of the cross” with their Star Valley neighbors and hold youth Bible camps are living examples of their web page introduction: “Helping you grow your faith, strengthen your family, while having fun.”
“The most important thing we can do is share the love of Christ with our fellow man,” Pastor Doug (as he prefers to be called) told SVI after his Sunday sermon in the church’s venue at 439 South Washington – the site of the old drug store.
“We’re right between Swift Creek Trading and Mountain Gallery. You can pick up jeans on the way to church and grab a couch on the way home,” he said, with humor his congregants must enjoy.
“We have to look at not only sharing the faith but also sharing the love of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen demeanor change through the love of Christ.”
This demeanor is a trait Pastor Doug has been exemplifying since his days in St. Louis where he was both a stockbroker and missionary. Still a stockbroker during weekdays and pastor always in his heart, he helped found the Berean Bible Fellowship – affiliated with the Southern Baptist Church – after coming with his wife, Elaine, to Wyoming in 2013. The first small Bible study was held here in January 2014, according to their website.
“In 2002, we came out here to Wyoming on a mission team to Cokeville to build a church,” he recalled. “As we were driving around, I felt God leading me to come out here and share the message of the cross, which is that Jesus Christ died for our sins – Christ alone for the redemption of sin.”
The motto of the Berean Bible Fellowship is: “We look to the Bible for the answers to life’s questions.”
In February 2015, according to bereanbibleafton.com, “We had our first Sunday morning worship service at the Afton Civic Center in downtown Afton….”
In their services, they explore what bereanbibleafton.com says is “the core tenants of our faith. We believe in the five ‘solas,’ as those who battled for the truth in the [Protestant] reformation – Sola Scriptura (Scripture [the Bible] alone), Sola Fide (faith alone), Sola Gratia (grace alone), Solus Christus (Christ alone), Soli Deogloria (to the glory of God alone).”
Central to these core tenants is Christlike service. The church is an active – far from passive — member of the Star Valley Chamber of Commerce. Pastor Doug told SVI he and his congregation are involved with High Country Behavioral Health related to mental health, as well as the Star Valley Health Charitable Foundation, and they participate with local Search and Rescue.
“I’m good friends with the mayor and work with the hospital. We can embrace different backgrounds and perspectives and work together for the good of the community. It’s been fun to be part of the community and be accepted as a newcomer.
“I’ve always felt welcomed in the valley and embraced. Even though my church is different than the predominant church, I’ve felt nothing but a warm embrace, which I’m thankful for.”
But Star Valley residents would most likely agree that Pastor Doug was the first to reach out – and continues to embrace his neighbors in myriad ways. Especially for, as he described them, “crazy-busy moms.”
Twice each summer, the Berean Bible Fellowship hosts a youth bible daytime camp. Pastor Doug emphasized that anyone from any church, group, family or faith is welcome.
“We have a good time playing games and crafts while learning missionary stories and Bible verses, learning about God,” he related.
Each camp held for a few hours each day, June 14-17 and July 12-15, is publicized through newspaper and radio, he said. Ages are typically kindergarten through 6th grade, and participants can come for a couple hours one day or for the entire activity the four days. They can sign up ahead of time or “just show up.”
“Any kid who wants to come is welcome. We’ve had kids from different churches and different faiths. We’ve even had kids who don’t live here. They’re visiting grandparents. It’s a vacation Bible school. We do it for the community.”
And community – one’s fellow man or woman, adult or child – is the why behind the Christ-centered attributes lived by members of the growing Berean Bible Fellowship.
“But for the grace of God there go I” is Pastor Doug’s personal motto. “We need to learn to talk again. We need to put Christ in the center of the conversation.”
— To learn more about the Berean Bible Fellowship Church, see https://bereanbibleafton.com. Contact the church at Berean@silverstar.com or call 307-887-8900. Worship services are Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at 439 South Washington Street in Afton. Bible Study is held each Tuesday at 7 p.m.