by Jami Becher
This Old Church - The people of West Pawlet, Vermont, voted
to close the only church in town. But the Lord had other plans. See how God
took a layperson named Lyandon Warren, made him into a North American Mission
Board missionary, and now is using him and a century-old New England church
building to change an entire community. Download
North American Mission Board missionary Lyandon Warren moved from North
Carolina to West Pawlet, Vt., to plant Mettowee Valley Church. Photo by Matt
As a bi-vocational church planter, NAMB missionary
Lyandon Warren rises early for his job at the local dairy farm in West Pawlet,
Vt. Photo by Matt King
The white, clapboard church in West Pawlet sat
empty for two years after members of the former United Church made the
difficult decision to close the doors. Now it's a vibrant and growing church.
Photo by Matt King
Steven Baker (right) spent many a Wednesday night with missionary Lyandon
Warren talking about God while his kids were in Bible school at the church.
Baker and his wife both gave their lives to Christ at the first service of
Mettowee Valley Church. Photo by Matt King
“I just hated to see the church close,” said Annice Perry. “It was very hard
to deal with emotionally. I just wanted to keep it going somehow, but we didn’t
see any hope, so we just started praying about it.”
Almost 1,000 miles away in Rutherfordton, N.C., dawn was breaking in the
heart of a young pastor named Lyandon Warren. “It wasn’t an ah-ha moment,” he
says. “God developed the desire in my heart to plant a church in West Pawlet
Members from Piney Isle Baptist Church, where Warren was serving as an
associate pastor, had been to West Pawlet on a couple of mission trips.
“When we came back the second year, we could really see that God was at work
in the town,” Warren said. “There was more enthusiasm about Vacation Bible
School. People were asking questions, they were very curious about all the
activity going on at the church.”
The old church stood vacant for two years, but new life began to emerge when
the Perrys met Terry Dorsett, director of missions for the Green Mountain
Baptist Association, and the decision was made to turn the church over to the
association for revitalization.
“I didn’t want to see the church turned into an antique store,” Tad Perry
said. “So I asked Terry what would happen if this didn’t work? He said, ‘I
don’t know, we’ve never had a church revitalization fail.’ So that was a real
encouragement to us and prompted us to pray even more.”
A few months later, Dorsett spoke in a chapel service Warren attended. “He
laid out the case for ministering in Vermont,” Warren recalls. “At the end of
his message he asked the question, ‘What would keep you from serving in
Vermont?’ and I couldn’t come up with a compelling answer. I knew then if God
wanted me and my family there we should
God confirmed the call in Kim Warren’s heart as well, and the couple pulled
up their western North Carolina roots and moved away from family, friends and a
strong church community to what surveys show is the least spiritual state in
the United States. The Warrens came to Vermont as North American Mission Board
missionaries. Lyandon began working bi-vocationally as a dairy farmer.
“The culture is a little bit different here,” Warren said. “Things are
smaller and slower, so we started out by just trying to get to know people. We
began a program for kids called Bible Buddies and a weekly Bible study for
adults. Word began to get out that God was doing something here, and we started
to see lots of new faces.”
One of those new faces was Steven Baker, a father of three, whose children
attended Bible Buddies.
“I got off work about the time Bible Buddies started on Wednesdays, so I
would stop by on my way home to check on the kids,” Baker said. “Pastor Warren
was there on Wednesday nights, too, so it gave us an opportunity to have some
good conversations. Pastor Warren built a wonderful relationship with us, and
we were really anticipating the church opening.”
Mettowee Valley Church held its first service on May 6, 2007. The service
started at 10:30 a.m. and at 10:25 there were only six people present.
“I didn’t think anyone was coming,” Warren said. “Within five minutes, 35
people showed up and God did some amazing things in that service.”
Several people came to know Christ in that first service, including Steven
Baker and his wife. “The Lord moved on both our hearts and we gave it all to
Him,” Baker said. “We were a functional family before, but now we’re
functionally set up to serve the Lord.”
Since that first service, the church has continued to grow.
“The Lord has done things beyond our wildest dreams,” said Annice Perry. “I
thought if we got 20 people we’d be doing good, and now it’s 50 to 80 or
“Some people may say ‘why invest resources in a town of only 600 people,’”
Warren said. “But Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and nine
out of 10 people in Vermont don’t know Christ.
“At Mettowee Valley Church we’re passionate about getting out into the
community and sharing that Jesus saves. I think that’s really what God’s
Jami Becher is a writer for the North American Mission Board.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC