Everence lends a hand to Florida church project

Church and finance |

New worship facility for community focal point in Fort Myers

Iglesia mennonita arca de salvación

Iglesia Menonita Arca de Salvación, Fort Myers, Florida

David and Madeline Maldonado weren’t sure how the new church building they’d planned and hoped for was going to be finished.

The congregation they co-pastor – Iglesia Menonita Arca de Salvación in Fort Myers, Fla. – was building a new worship facility after getting a loan through Church Extension Services.

Construction started in the spring of 2011 but stopped a few months later when the loan money ran out with only a shell of the structure built.

As they talked with Church Extension Services about the need for more funding, the Maldonados were advised to ask Everence about a church loan. Since then, Everence Association took over the administrative responsibilities of CES.

Everence agreed to loan the amount needed to finish the building to Ark of Salvation, as the church also is known, and managed the construction project.

Everence is experienced in loaning money to churches for expansions, new buildings or other specific needs. When people buy annuities from Everence, they’re supporting the church loan program.

Work resumed on the Ark of Salvation building in February 2012. The church’s new home was ready in time for this year’s Easter services.

The fact that David is a licensed commercial contractor helped when he and Madeline approached Everence for a loan, said J.B. Miller, Everence Vice President of Investment Products. “We worked closely with him and the congregation to assess the cost of finishing the project. We came up with a number,” Miller said.

Church service
Madeline and David are deeply involved in the Mennonite Church and in outreach in their community, which made this particular church loan all the more gratifying from the Everence perspective.

Ark of Salvation is “very engaged in the community,” said Michael Horn, Everence Director of Charitable Products and Church Loans. That emphasis on helping local residents with their day-to-day needs in addition to their spiritual lives was a factor in Everence granting the construction loan, Horn added.

Madeline serves on the board of directors for Mennonite Mission Network and will become chairwoman of the board this fall, said Marty Lehman, Associate Executive Director of Churchwide Operations for Mennonite Church USA. Madeline also was named recently to the Goshen College board, and David is moderator-elect of Iglesia Menonita Hispana, a council of Hispanic Mennonite churches.

“They’re very involved, churchwide,” Lehman said. The Maldonados have served as mentors for other pastors, and “there are so many stories of ways they’ve touched people in their community.”

Miller said, “The congregation will be a real anchor” in its neighborhood – even more so now because of the new building.

Miller and Lehman were among those on hand for a dedication service at the new building on April 28. “It’s an incredibly vibrant congregation,” Miller said, with a healthy mix of ages, including many families with young children. “It’s a great reflection of how the Mennonite Church is growing today.”

The congregation was formed in the mid-1980s. Worshippers formerly met in a house on the property where the new church was built. Weather permitting, services often took place outdoors.

“It’s nice to be able to put them in a building that can serve their needs better,” said Horn.

Church crowd in the lobby

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Everence staff

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