History of Sauk Village Bible Church 1959-2009


In the mid-1950’s, God laid this Scripture (Proverbs 29:18) on the heart of Pastor Wayne Child of Lansing Bible Church when he looked south on Torrence Avenue to the newly incorporated village of Sauk Village (1957) and saw “fields ripe for the harvest”.

“Where There Is No Vision, The People Perish. . . .” Proverbs 29:18

As a result of Pastor Child’s vision, in early 1959, a small group, led by Ken Eenigenburg from the Lansing Bible Church, met in the home of Joe and Dean Brison to discuss the possibility of establishing a fundamental, bible-teaching church in Sauk Village. Once this small group decided that it was God’s will to begin start a church, Reverend Charles Svoboda of the Illinois Bible Church Mission was called in to help organize the church’s formation. Under his leader- ship, a Sunday morning Bible Study Class was formed. The Bible Class steadily grew and on March 8, 1959, the first Sunday morning worship service was held in the Sauk Village Fire Department. The Fire Station was not the most desirable place to meet and, a short time later, the newly formed congregation arranged to meet in the Village Hall instead.

Under the guidance of Reverend Svoboda, a constitution was written and adopted by the congregation and on October 7, 1959, Sauk Village Bible Church was chartered by the State of Illinois. At that time, a call was extended to, and accepted by, Kenneth Blackford to serve as a part time pastor. In a January, 1960, Business Meeting Ken Eenigenburg made a motion that those regular attendees who wished to affiliate themselves with Sauk Village Bible Church on a permanent basis so state this desire and, in doing so, would become the church’s Founding Members. Those Founding Members were Pastor & Mrs. Kenneth Blackford, Mr. & Mrs. Joe Brison, Mrs. & Mrs. Virgil Brison, Mr. Jerry Gutekunst, Mr. & Mrs. John Ritsema, Ms. Maxine Mauck and Mr. Ken Eenigenburg.

God’s blessings and the congregation continued to grow and by 1960 a house, located at 22239 Clyde Avenue, had been purchased to serve as a temporary “house of worship” until such time land could be purchased and a new church building could be built. This house, located next door to the home of Jerry and Jackie Gutekunst, would serve the congregation for the next five years.

In June, 1960, a new graduate of Moody Bible Institute, James B. Mason from Belfast, Ireland, accepted the challenge of becoming the church’s first full time pastor. Pastor Mason and his family moved into the house on Clyde Avenue in September, 1960. On Sunday mornings their home became the church with the morning worship service held in their basement and Sunday School Classes held in their bedrooms, living room and kitchen. The Sunday School classes also spilled over into the Gutekunst’s basement next door. In the years to come, Jerry Gutekunst became known for his avid declaration that “Sauk Village Bible Church had the best Sunday School in the Sauk Village!”

It soon became a goal of the newly chartered congregation to purchase land on which a church could be built. In November, 1960, a land fund was started for just that purpose and in February of the following year (1961) negotiations were begun for a 1-1/2 acre plot on 223rd Street that would eventually become the home of Sauk Village Bible Church. Through the generous efforts of Pastor Olen Baxter and the people of the Lansing Bible Church, the purchase of this site was made possible. Pastor Baxter took the overall measurement of the plot, divided it into small squares and then, based on the purchase price, determined what each small square of land would cost. Then, one Sunday morning the members of Lansing Bible Church pledged money to purchase one or more of these small squares. With God’s Grace and Pastor Baxter’s plan, the entire purchase price was raised on that Sunday morning and the land was purchased by the Lansing Bible Church.

In May, 1962, after serving Sauk Village Bible Church for two years, Pastor Mason was called by the Lord to the pastorate of another church. During the search for a new minister, the pulpit was filled by Ken Eenigenburg and a few guest speakers. The pastoral search took almost a year, but finally in April, 1963, prayers were answered when Pastor Donald W. Wood of Broadview, Illinois, accepted the church’s call. Pastor Wood chose not to move to Sauk Village. Only he and his son made the hour’s trip to the church each Sunday. Three months after Pastor Wood’s arrival, the Lansing Bible Church transferred the land title to the Sauk Village Bible Church and on August 11, 1963, a groundbreaking ceremony was held to initiate the building of a new church facility. Under the supervision of Ken Eenigenburg, who was a construction contractor, the church members built the new church building in less than a year’s time. The dedication of the new building took place on Sunday, July 12, 1964. When the congregation moved into their new building, the face brick that we see on the church today was not yet installed. The money to purchase the brick was raised in a Sunday School contest spearheaded by Sunday School Superintendent, Jerry Gutekunst.

The house on Clyde Avenue, which had served as the congregation’s church home for five years, was rented out for three years and then sold in March, 1967.

Pastor Wood remained as pastor until January, 1968. Then, in March of that year, the congregation called Gene White to serve as an interim pastor. Later, the church offered Pastor White the position of full time minister, but he was unable to accept.

Pastor James Parker accepted the call to become the part time pastor of Sauk Village Bible Church in February, 1970, and a year later, in March, 1971, his pastorate became full time. The church continued to grow and in August, 1972, it was financially able to purchase a house to be used as a parsonage. It was conveniently located on a lot that abutted the church’s property. Pastor Parker and his family were the first occupants of the parsonage and they lived there until Pastor Parker resigned in November, 1977.

For the next seventeen months, the pulpit was filled with various guest speakers while the Pastoral Search Committee sought God’s Will in finding the right person to lead the church. They found that person in Pastor Salvatore Roggio. Pastor Sal and his family began their ministry at Sauk Village Bible Church in April, 1979, and continued to serve for the next seven years. It was during Pastor Sal’s tenure that the three mobiles were purchased. They were purchased from Lincoln Elementary School in Chicago Heights at the cost of $1.00 each plus the cost of moving them from the school property to the church property. In 1983 the church sponsored a Laotian family who lived for a period of time in the basement of the parsonage until they could be permanently settled elsewhere. Then, In the June, 1986, Pastor Sal announced his resignation, telling the congregation that he felt God was calling him back to New Jersey to start a new church there.

During the time of Pastor Sal’s tenure, several people were added to the Church Staff. In September, 1979, Tammy Bilyeu was hired part-time as Church Secretary. In July, 1983, David E. Eenigenburg, son of Ken and Evelyn Eenigenburg, was brought on staff as full time Youth Pastor. Peggy Hastings was added to the church staff in April, 1986, as Assistant Part-Time Church Secretary to help her daughter, Tammy, with her responsibilities in the Church Office.

When Pastor Sal left in the summer of 1986, Youth Pastor Dave Eenigenburg was asked to be an interim pastor for one year. When that year was up in July, 1987, he was offered the position of full-time pastor, which he accepted. Pastor Dave started the very successful Awana Program for the youth of the church. Three years later, in November, 1990, Pastor Dave left Sauk Village Bible Church when God called him to pastor a church in Sherman, Texas. After Pastor Dave left for Texas, his mother Evelyn took over the leadership of the Awana Program. Since Pastor Dave and his family never lived in the church parsonage, the church leadership decided to rent out the house to the Steve Gutekunst family (son of Founding Member Jerry Gutekunst), who eventually bought the house from the church.

Upon the departure of Pastor Dave, Pastor Peter Worries accepted the position of interim pastor for the Sunday morning Worship Services and the Wednesday night Prayer & Praise Hour. At around the same time, Bill Merhtens agreed to speak in the Sunday evening services. Both of these men continued to serve in these positions until the beginning of February, 1991. In the months to follow, the pulpit was filled with numerous guest speakers, while the church looked for and listened to candidates for the pastorate position. Then, after much prayerful searching, the Lord brought Troy Eads to the church in August, 1991. Pastor Troy established a leadership team and made some much needed changes in the ministries of the church.

In March, 1992, Tammy Bilyeu resigned her position as part-time Church Secretary due to her deteriorating health. Her mother, Peggy Hastings, then took over the Church Secretary position. Also in 1992 the Awana Program was cancelled.

In 1993 the sanctuary was completed remodeled. The stage was enlarged, a new sound system was installed, the old nursery room at the back of the church was removed to make room for a new sound booth, the pews were replaced with attachable cushioned chairs and the color scheme changed from brown & beige to green & mauve. And a much needed central air conditioning system was installed.

In the fall of 1994, the Sunday evening worship service was cancelled due to an apparent lack of interest. However, small Bible Study groups were established to meet the needs of the congregation at a more personal level. These small groups were successful in spurring on the spiritual growth of many of the church families. A year later in October, 1995, Jamie Koesema joined the Church Staff as writer and director of “Heartland”, a program for Kindergarten through 4th grades, designed to creatively teach the Gospel. “Heartland” met during the Sunday morning worship service and
became even more vital to the Christian growth of the church’s youth when, in January, 1996, Sunday School was suspended for all ages. During this time, other programs were also developed for older children and teens. These programs met at various times during the week. During this period, a church band called Foundation was formed. Original band members were Jim Peterson (drums), Robert Peterson (keyboard), Jay Jones (bass guitar) and Jon Jones (lead guitar). Original vocalists were Jan Gutekunst, Jason Geagan and Robert Peterson. Eventually, Kathy Eads joined the band as keyboardist and, when Jim Peterson moved to Texas, Eric Cook took over as drummer. The band continued to play on Sunday mornings until it disbanded in 2003 when the paths of the last three members took them in other directions.

In August, 1996, Pastor Troy Eads announced his resignation to the congregation, stating that God was leading him to pursue a career outside of the ministry. He would still serve the Lord, but not as a Pastor. Although Pastor Troy officially stepped down as Pastor in September of 1996, he continued to fill the pulpit on Sunday mornings until the following May. He also remained an Elder. In the meantime, Peggy Hastings retired as Church Secretary on November 1, 1996, and she and husband Frank moved to Tennessee. She was replaced by Ann Birch.

In February, 1997, Robert Sweeney accepted the church’s call to the pastorate, but could not assume his roll as the new pastor until May. One of his first acts as Pastor was to establish Quarterly Business Meetings.

In August, 1997, Ann Birch resigned as Church Secretary. Florian Wrice was offered the position which she accepted. Several other changes occurred in the church over the next year or so. In January, 1998, an amended Constitution was adopted to include church policies and procedures and staff job descriptions. Also in January of 1998, “Salt Mine”, a ministry for teens, was started in the Fellowship Hall on Friday nights with music being played by the church band. In May, 1998, it was decided that the Elders and Deacons would meet separately instead of together. Around this time period, Evelyn Lange started TNT (Tuesday Night Thing) for the young people of the church and Florian Wrice established the Praise Dancers, which featured several young girls of the church. Unfortunately, congregational attendance, and hence giving, dropped substantially during 1998. As a result, in May of that year, the salaries of the Heartland Director and the Janitor were cut in half and the Church Secretary’s salary was reduced by 25%. Then, four months later, in September, the Heartland Director’s position and the Janitor’s position were eliminated from the Church Staff. And it did not come as any surprise when, two months later, Pastor Sweeney submitted his resignation to be effective on November 29, 1998.

For three and half years, from the time Pastor Sweeney left in 1998 to April of 2002, Sauk Village Bible Church was spiritually fed and led by Elders Chester Wrice and Troy Eads, along with occasional visiting speakers. Although this was a difficult time for Sauk Village Bible Church, God’s grace was always present and the doors never closed. Then in 2002 a new voice was heard in Sauk Village Bible Church. It was that of Pastor Bob Ossler, who, in addition to being a minister, was also a Chicago Fire Department paramedic and Chaplain. At the April, 2002, Quarterly Business Meeting the congregation voted to make Pastor Bob the new part-time Pastor. Pastor Bob’s compassion for lost souls and his gift of evangelism impacted everyone with whom he came in contact. Many new souls were saved and the church began to grow once again. With great joy, Sunday School was reinstated in August of 2002. Pastor Bob served Sauk Village Bible Church for three years; he left in February, 2005, to pursue an evangelistic ministry to a fuller degree.

When Pastor Bob left, the congregation felt that Elder Chester Wrice was ready spiritually to step into the pulpit as the next part-time pastor. He accepted the position in February, 2005, and was ordained by the church in July, 2005. In the four years since Pastor Wrice began to “shepherd the flock” he has grown as a minister and as a leader. The church is truly blessed to have him as its minister. In
April of this year (2009), Pastor Wrice was laid off from his long time job at Pitney Bowes. Although it came as a shock, he feels that this was the God’s plan and that the time has now come for his service to the church to become full-time.