Essay Project 2021: Portland Mount Hope - Why It Matters
By Adriana Adler
As people drive along Ionia Road, they might miss the miniature, warm brown church on the side of the road. This tiny church is Mount Hope Church, one of the many churches in Portland. Pastor Joe Robbe and his wife Nancyanne Robbe started the Assemblies of God church on January 1st, 1991. Since then, it has exhibited wonderful examples of community service, love, and servant heart ship. Especially, through the tough times this previous year has brought us, the church as a whole has continued to reach out to people in and out of the church by showing their love of God through their acts of service. Those include: Feeding America; food and clothing drives; fundraisers for special causes; mission trips and projects; events, especially in the holidays, for kids and families; and even providing care and aid for a person or family that is struggling. Through these actions, Mount Hope Church provides the safety and compassion that our community and society is thriving for, thus being an admiring representation of Jesus's love.
In our very own state capital of Lansing, lies the Big Mount Hope, or Mount Hope Lansing. According to Pastor Joe Robbe, “I had recently graduated from Bible school and was selected by [Mount Hope Church in Lansing]. They wanted to plant churches in other communities and established daughter churches,” he went on to say, “I was selected to come out to Portland [along with his wife] to begin this church.” According to the Ionia Sentinel-Standard, “Portland was chosen as the second church plant of Mount Hope in Lansing.” The church was created at the very beginning of the year, 1991, and has been going on strongly since then.
Mount Hope Church is of a Penecostal denomination called the Assemblies of God. According to the Assemblies of God, “[they were] organized in 1914 by a broad coalition of ministers who desired to work together to fulfill common objectives, such as sending missionaries and providing fellowship and accountability.” According to Pastor Joe Robbe, “We’ve always been very strong in the area of prayer, and over the last 30 years, we’ve spent hundreds of hours praying for our community. And I think that has made a very positive impact.” As a young member of this church, I’ve only seen a fraction of the many great things this church has been able to do for our community. Pastor Joe Robbe goes on to say, “We work very well with other churches in the community to help people in need. I have a good relationship with the other pastors where we work together for the good of the community in a lot of different ways.” To support that, Mount Hope is involved in a food distribution program in which 4 times a year, members of all generations from the church unload and provide thousands of pounds of food to long lines of our townspeople who are in need. In addition, the church has provided clothing drives, bake sales, arts and crafts ladies creating and providing items, and holiday events for children and families. As an example, Mount Hope recently hosted a Halloween “Land of Candy” outreach event. The turnout came to be more than four-hundred people, driving in and out of the church with bags of candies and smiling faces. Mount Hope received a plethora of positive feedback from people sharing how blessed and touched they were, and the event was definitely a celebration for the church and Jesus himself.
The Portland community is not the only group of people that has been blessed by Mount Hope Church. George Peter defines missions as, “...a specialized term. By it I mean the sending forth of authorized persons beyond the borders of the New Testament church and her immediate gospel influence to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in gospel-destitute areas, to win converts from other faiths or non-faiths to Jesus Christ, and to establish functioning, multiplying local congregations who will bear the fruit of Christianity in that community and to that country.” Mount Hope Church thoroughly represents this idea of missions. Pastor Joe Robbe, when talking about the topic, stated that, “We’re a strong mission giving church. We have supported missions from day one and we have given approximately, in the past 30 years, about 1.2 to 1.3 million dollars. We’re currently helping to build a grade school in Ghana, West Africa. [In addition] we have taken teams over to Africa, we have shipped over thousands of pounds of food, [and have] gone over to distribute the food. [Furthermore] we have gone to a prison, an orphanage, schools, to churches [to give out the food]. [For schools] we [have taken] a lot of supplies and soccer balls and things for kids to play with. I believe God has really used us to make an impact in parts of West Africa”. Mount Hope Church continues to be a blessing to the people in Africa. Even back at home, the church emphasizes the importance of missions. To implement that, the children’s ministry makes children aware of the importance and essence of missions, they have images of missionaries and moments of missions trips, and they invite missionaries to share what they have been doing for different countries around the world.
It is evident by now that Mount Hope Church has been greatly impactful with the ways they portray the love of Christ. Let’s shift the focus towards the people who attend the church. I have attended this church since 2013, and have grown up with a majority of the people who still attend the church to this day. I’ve had the blessing of experiencing the transitioning from being a child in children’s ministry to helping within that ministry, along with the many others. I consider everyone as a part of my family, as that is what the church is ever so built upon: family orientation. In addition, I have gotten to meet and experience people of all ages and generations. I’m proud to say I am a part of the younger generation of this church. Someone of the slightly older generation would be Angie Cassel, who is in charge of the children’s ministry and is overall one of the most devoted members of the church. She shared to me a message for people outside of our church. “I want people to know that they are welcome just as they are. That it's not their job to ‘change themselves’ in order to come get to know God and His people. Church is just as much a place for the broken, where you can come to find healing and wholeness, as it is a place for those who are already on God's path for their life. The work doesn't all happen in the building but it's in the building that you meet others who will encourage and support you. Our church is a place where you will hear about the truth of the Bible, about the love of The Savior, and about the grace and peace that can belong to every person if they chose to do things God's way.” From children’s ministry to Pastor Joe Robbe’s empowering messages to the loving family atmosphere, Mount Hope has been able to reach multiple generations of people and impact them in remarkable ways.
“I see the hands that hold God's word
And fold in prayer to seek His will.
I see the feet that walk the path
And offers of praise as from lofty hill.
I see the hands that serve Him well,
The ears that seek to hear His call,
The mouth that speaks truth and wisdom,
The busy feet that carry the message to all.
I see the heart that was priked and entered
When God's man answered the gospel call
And yielded His life as a humble servant,
A man who is willing, as was Apostle Paul.
I see all of this as he stands in the pulpit,
An instrument through which God speaks
The words of wisdom, of love and peace,
To lead and guide all those whom God seeks”
This poem by Judy Crowe captures the true essence and blessing of a pastor. Not only has the church been able to experience this, but Pastor Joe Robbe as well. When asked the question, “How do you explain the feeling you have when you guys enter the church, service, or message?”, he answers with this, “It’s like eating a dessert. All the hard work is done. The sermon preparation and everything you did during the week to lead up to Sunday morning. Sunday mornings, generally, are the fun times.” He then goes on to explain and provide examples of his investments of people throughout the week, such as Marriage Counseling. He then goes on to say “You see some of those people and you see them with a smile on your face and you know that you made their life a little bit better.”
Taking everything into account, Mount Hope Church has made a positive influence on the Portland community, foreign countries, and within their church. From charity to simply just showing the love and compassion of God towards the people, Pastor Joe Robbe, his wife, and the church as a whole have been more than a blessing.
To end this off, Pastor Joe Robbe provided me with a message he would like to share to the community or anyone who needs to hear it. “We are going through a very difficult time with this pandemic. There has been a lot of civil unrest and a lot of political unrest. And I go back to that issue of Hope. There’s a lot of things or organizations that people can get involved in, or ways to spend your time. But not all of them offer Hope. The church, the Bible, what Jesus did on the cross for us, offers Hope to all mankind. Regardless of our situation, circumstances, where we live, how old or young we are, we can always always have Hope. Hope that is greater than this life and hope that can go into eternity. And that Hope like the Bible says, is like an anchor to our soul. It steadies us. There’s nothing greater we can offer people than the hope of eternal life that only comes through with a relationship with Jesus.”
This essay is part of a writing project by students in Chandra Polasek’s ELA class at Portland High School. The project asked students to focus on elements of their own town while getting students engaged with the community. The essays were written with the intention of being published in The Portland Beacon.