Starting With A Miracle
Christian Outreach Church began in 1970 at the height of the charismatic renewal, a movement which encompassed all the historic denominations of Christendom. Charismatics were saying that the gifts of the Spirit were to be manifested in ministry today. Bob Heil, a Lutheran pastor in Herculaneum, Missouri, became a beneficiary of just such a ministry. Missionary Linn Haitz was instrumental in the miraculous healing of Bob's severe, chronic back problem caused by a crushed disk. His relief was instant and permanent after Linn laid hands on him and prayed.
Praise the Lord Fellowship
That miracle and a thorough study of the Bible launched Praise the Lord Fellowship, which was the parent ministry of Christian Outreach Church, Christian Outreach Day School, Bible and Literacy League, Christian Outreach School of Ministries, the International Leadership Training Institute, and a number of others. The Scriptures convinced Linn and Bob that signs and wonders were to accompany preaching, and that the New Testament spoke of an experience of an infilling with the Holy Spirit.
Bob held meetings for people who wanted to learn about the biblical basis for present-day signs and wonders. The incomparable Lord Jesus and the great salvation He has provided on the cross have always been the central message of PTLF. Letitia, Bob's wife, served alongside him, adding her remarkable gifts of organization as well as hospitality. Bob and Letitia began to write, publish, and mail a newsletter, eventually to many thousands of people who requested it.
Bible and Literacy League
Without any help from a denomination or missions agency, Linn faithfully continued his missionary work. To provide the needed help, Bob established the Bible and Literacy League which later helped start The Love Basket, an international adoption agency. Linn had a vision to visit the out-of-way places not frequented by the majority of American missionaries. He braved alligators, piranhas, and jungle conditions, reaching villages on foot, and preaching the beloved Gospel of the Kingdom with signs and wonders.
Christian Outreach School of Ministries
Bob and Linn also founded the Charismatic Mission School with the intention of training missionaries quickly to fill the great need worldwide for apt preachers of the Gospel. Within one year the name was changed to Christian Outreach School of Ministries, to reflect the growing curriculum. From the day the doors opened men began to plead for training as leaders for the stateside church. Courses were added that would help students graduate with skills in preaching, teaching, apostolic, and prophetic work in the United States.
A Christian Community and Christian Outreach Church
Students were coming for training, bringing their families with them. They purchased lands and homes to become tax-paying citizens of the county. Some found themselves in mini-communities where their proximity to other student families facilitated fellowship among them, and allowed them to reach out to bless those who were their new neighbors.
The students desired to have a congregation which practiced the things they were learning in their classes. To fill that need a church was formed. Its first pastor was Roger Kuhn, followed in rather quick succession by Roger Schlies (pictured standing at top left of photo), Charles Schism (pictured immediately below), and Ralph Harnagel. Each of these men brought their unique gifts to the foundling church.
During the brief vacancies between pastors Bob would flll the pastoral role. His active traveling and teaching ministry, however, made this too stressful for Bob and not entirely satisfying to the congregation.
In addition to the students who moved here, a few people from the local area were drawn into the fellowship. Various attempts at local evangelism included a radio program and house-to-house visitation but in those days, the community was only slightly responsive to these efforts.
Rod and Ayako Billups moved to Goldman, to become part of the Center's ministry. Ayako had had a dramatic vision of the work at the Center. When she and Rod walked onto the campus she immediately recognized the place as the one she had seen in her vision. Besides his scintillating tenor voice, Rod brought with him a passion for charting the Center's vision and planning for the future. Most of all, Rod and Ayako labored much in prayer on behalf of the Center's work.
Summer Bible Camp
For many years COC hosted a summer Bible Camp with well-known speakers and teachers. Camp offered a well-rounded, daily program of teaching, activities, and evening services under a big tent.
At right is a typical morning worship session here led by Susie Emmett Wiener. That was usually followed by a couple hours of teaching.
Then lunch would be served in the Fellowship Hall. Letitia Heil, (right) ever resourceful and amazingly energetic, oversaw a crew of volunteers that prepared delicious, ample and even memorable meals, not only for lunch but also for breakfast and supper. As many as 200 people would be fed at one time.
In the early days of the charismatic renewal, people sought places that allowed them to experience Spirit-filled worship, the gifts of the Spirit, and the fellowship of like-minded people.
Hundreds came to the Center, and many experienced healing miracles, deeply refreshed relationships, and tremendous encouragement. Many received callings to serve as missionaries, pastors, and teachers. The work of the Spirit cut across all age groupings. One summer a family came for a couple of weeks, and was then planning to visit Disneyland, but the teenage boys convinced the parents to stay for another week of camp instead of going to Disneyland.
Summer Bible Camps were filled with excitement. The worshiping assembly often expressed so much exuberance that our neighbors could hear them up and down the valley. To our knowledge, though, no one complained.
After the evening services many people spent an hour or more enjoying fellowship with each other. The snack bar would be open, and sometimes Al Hyatt would lead worship "under the stars" with his talented guitar accompaniment.
In time, the renewal developed charismatic churches around the nation and the deeply-felt need for our camps waned. Attendance began to sink. Our facilities, which were "good enough" in the early days of the great enthusiasm, now began to discourage attendance. As it did not seem wise to upgrade the cabins, and as the perceived need for the camps declined, COC bid farewell to the camp program.
Nevertheless, the prophetic promises about the "Center," which were demonstrated so richly at the camps, still continue. COC was to be a light set on a hill, with its beams going all over the world. It was to be a haven in the storm for torn and broken people. That is continuing to the present.
Among the speakers at the camps was Nick Ittzes. While still in Columbus, Ohio, Nick had been brought into the renewal through the ministry of Rod Lensch. Rod was also associated with COC in its early days. He is an apostle who is known for his dynamic and content-rich prophetic expositions of Scripture.
Bob and the other leaders asked Nick to join the ministry here. Nick moved from Columbus, Ohio to become part of the staff at COC. He taught extensively in the School of Ministries and seminars, emphasizing the message of the Kingdom... that healing was part of the atonement. He also brought with him a small but full-service print shop, developing it to produce the growing body of course outlines, publicity, and other materials.
Bob named him co-director of the Center, as well as director of development, in which post he ultimately raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the work.
Pastoral Leadership Seminars
Pastors who were coming into the renewal of the Spirit sought out Bob for advice and teaching. They had questions about everything from charismatic worship to baptism to the second coming of Christ. Bob began to conduct Pastoral Leadership Seminars not only at COC but also at remote locations. Pastors received great refreshment and vision for their ministries. When held at the COC campus, the pastors also received the bodacious repasts once again prepared by Bob's wife Letitia and her crew.
Dave Martin joined the Pastoral Leadership Seminar program to administer it at a professional level. The seminars were strengthened by Dave's ability to reach out to attenders, and with Dave's administrative skills and his eye for tracking a multitude of details. Eventually, Dave also taught in the School of Ministries as well as serving as its administrator for a season.
Christian Outreach Day School
In 1977 Dave and Joan Lorenz (photo at left with Tim Griffith) at Bob's invitation started a school for children in grades K through 6. It expanded to grade twelve by 1983. The first high-school graduation was held in 1984.
Later, the school dropped the word "Day" to avoid teasing about CODS being some kind of a fishy place. COS is now implementing a shift into classical education which may be more successful than other approaches at giving the tools of learning to the student.
We are especially praying and working for revival at our school because we desire to graduate young people with the fire of the Holy Spirit upon them.
COS has been known not only for its partnership with parents, but excellent graduates, and the tremendous loyalty of its staff that has allowed it to stay open in spite of great financial hardship.
Worship Life of the Congregation
In the earliest days of COC, Randy Hartwig led worship. He was enrolled as a pastoral-ministry student. Bob Heil would also lead worship; but he kept praying that the Lord would provide a worship leader actually called to that ministry.
Dave Lorenz was God's answer. Dave was not only a fine musician, but also had a heart dedicated to worship. He set in place many of the fundamentals of the congregation's worship ministry, and developed a team to lead worship. He also raised up excellent choirs and ensembles in our school. These distinguished themselves by winning major awards in statewide and national competitions.
Among the students admitted to COSM was a group of four young ladies who had formed a singing group they called Friends of the King. They "took to the road" to lead worship and present concerts in numerous congregations. They applied to COSM to strengthen their foundations in scriptural theology. They desired to attend the school as a group. One of them, Mary (Leino) Mahder, was not really old enough to be admitted as a student, but after the leadership heard their testimony and performance they made an exception to allow Mary to enter.
They contributed tremendously to the congregation's worship life, bringing with them an infectious anointing, a biblical purity in their words, riding on waves of beautiful music that they had composed. They are shown here with Dena (Lorenz) Stromstad, rehearsing for a service.
In 1984 Dave felt compelled to devote his full-time energy to CODS. Dave turned over the worship ministry to Tom Kraeuter. (On left, Tom and his wife Barb in their earliest years at COC.)
Tom continued along the foundations laid by Dave, and the worship life of the church prospered under his leadership. Tom has since become internationally recognized as a teacher of worship and of the dynamics of a consecrated Christian life. Phil Mahder worked in close partnership with him as they expanded the technology to support worship. Today, Phil Houser and Phil Mahder work together helping churches design and install state-of-the-art sound and video systems around the country.
In 1998 Tom asked that we name Mary (Leino) Mahder with her husband Phil to lead the worship team. Mary had been a member of Friends of the King, and was eminently qualified to lead the worship team. Demand for Tom kept increasing, and he also had the burden to write. He now has eighteen books to his credit.
The strength of the worship life continued. Phil and Mary modeled the power of a godly marriage while, at the same time, providing effective leadership to their team. Mary is an outstanding musician, here shown (twenty years ago) giving Christa (Ittzes) Upton a piano lesson.
Mary and Phil are highly dedicated to the Lord, and right in line with the excellence first modeled by Bob Heil and Dave Lorenz. Like Dave, Mary also directs our school's choirs, small vocal ensembles, and coaches the soloists... and sweeps the field with first-place awards in statewide and national competitions.
In the fall of 2008 Dan Kennedy was appointed to head up the worship team. Dan brings great musical talent to the team and he is a prayer-warrior. He is powerfully anointed with the Holy Spirit and teams up with pastor Nick to encourage the congregation to pursue and manifest gifts of the Spirit. Dan has a vision to broaden the worship life of the church, incorporating music out of a wide range of traditions. One of his goals is to add more instrumental musicians, dancers, banners and other arts to the team. We believe that worship leading is a prophetic function, and as such carries the "reward of the prophet" when it is received with faith and honor (Matthew 10:41).
The worship team consistently demonstrates our philosophy of ministry by including age-groups from youth to seniors. Here you will find oldsters (such as the Senior Pastor) enjoying the thrill of outstanding rock drumming and youngsters learning to appreciate the classical hymns of the church. And the littlest members of the congregation are honored and their gifts are received. We ecourage them to pray, trusting God for miracles and prophetic words.
Sounds of Sonshine
Other ministries, such as Sounds of Sonshine, led by the talented songwriter, teacher, and children's playwright, Ginny Griesse and her husband Bob, traveled extensively as "Christian Troubadours," bringing Gospel ministry to churches in the midwest.
The impact of this ministry continues. A thirty-year-old dream of Ginny's is coming to pass now and that is the publication of her songbooks. She teams her singable music with theologically sound and spiritually inspiring lyrics that both children and adults love to sing. The sainted Dr. Oswald C. J. Hoffmann (the Lutheran Hour Speaker for almost fifty years) thought so highly of Ginny's work that he personally encouraged its publication.
Pillars from the North
Dave and Mona Houser moved their family from Hardwick, Minnesota to join the work of the Center. In short order Mona's gifts in music were discovered. Many a fine pianist has come from her tutelage. She is also an indispensable part of our school's music program, serving indefatigably as their chief accompanist. Upon his arrival here, Dave was received into the Center's leadership. His strong commitment to the Word of God, wisdom, and fearless demonstration of the Gospel of the Kingdom, have given him a valued place in steering the COC ship. He has a special gift for providing information about issues facing our nation.
Not much after the Housers, LeRoy and Marcia Petersen also moved here. LeRoy enrolled in our Christian Outreach School of Ministries, in order to receive training for the pastoral Ministry. Dave Houser had been their pastor up north and now their relationship was renewed. Before long, LeRoy was employed to take care of maintenance. Marcia taught in CODS, and LeRoy taught the Christian Instruction course to the boys. In addition, LeRoy led a home group and did counseling, weddings and oversaw many of the congregational meals. LeRoy had come to COC in order to receive pastoral training. Eventually, Leroy was ordained as assiistant pastor at COC. In 2008 LeRoy accepted a call to United Lutheran Church in Greenbush, Minnesota, a thriving member congregation of the Association of Free Lutheran Churches.
The Buendorfs followed, and immediately helped with numerous aspects of the ministry. In short order, both Randy and Sandy were employed at Bible and Literacy League where they could follow their passionate commitment to missions, and to serve together as a couple. Randy, a talented musician, began to play bass and sing on the worship team. For three years, Randy also worked as principal of CODS.
Phil and Paul Mahder launched COSM video to record and disseminate the courses of the Christian Outreach School of Ministries. Though over half of the work was lost in our fire, there are still numerous videos bringing strong, biblical teaching to people in various parts of the world. Former students write us to this day of the life-changing power of their COSM classes and the tapes are still in circulation.
Ministry and Financial Development
Nick, having been asked to serve as director of development, began direct-mail fundraising and other programs. Dozens of congregation members and students helped with various aspects of the programs, such as assembling mailings and conducting "phonathons." Nick received personal guidance from Carl Hiteshew, who launched the initial development work for the Christian Broadcasting Network and 700 club. Nick also extensively studied material from DACI, the Development Association for Christian Institutions.
With able assistance from Connie Wood, he produced a Multi-Image Slide Show. These were all the rage in the seventies. Ours used six, computer-operated slide projectors showing on a 21-foot screen and included full stereo sound. Nick and his family (as well as Bob on occasion) carried the thousands of pounds of equipment from one end of the U.S. to the other, and showed it to any group wanting to see it. We featured it at our summer camps, and it was always part of the program at our seminars.
In 1983 Paul Schwandt became the executive director of COC and helped put the financial management of the Center on track. He and Nick spent many days into the wee hours sorting out the financial picture of the multiple ministries. That contributed to our financial stability.
Some time later, a friend in Minnesota who had seen the multi-image presentation, gave $100,000 to the Center. Shortly after, an anonymous donor gave $150,000. These gifts not only covered some urgent debts, but they were also a major reason why we were able to build our school building debt free. Most of the Center's support, however, has come from the many who have faithfully sent contributions, some for years.
A Missions-active Church
Christian Outreach Church and School have always been active in missions. We are grateful, because it's God's honoring the work of His Spirit among us. One of the inevitable fruits of revival is a renewed passion for missions. Bob Heil often mentioned the Moravians who gave all they had in the cause of the Lamb.
In the summer of 2008, Nick and Judy were part of a music outreach with fifty other singers and musicians as part of the St. Louis Gospel Outreach Ministry, led by Michael Šust. Included in the team was a group of teens from COC. Their most memorable ministry took place in Brno, in the heart of "Moravian County." They felt the power of a spiritually charged atmosphere in the area- no doubt left over from the days of the Moravian missionaries of over a hundred years earlier!
The congregation contributes faithfully and generously in missions support, and, in addition many members have gone on short-term mission trips. They have traveled to do everything from construction to preaching. Several members are now career missionaries overseas.
Shown above are Nick and his wife Judy and the Roger Harsh family in the Czech Republic. Roger, who had graduated from the Christian Outreach School of Ministries, and his family have a very active and effective ministy in Czech, as well as the gypsies in former Russia. Their main thrust has been to strengthen marriages and families.
Arsonist Hits the Center!
On October 31, 1988, an arsonist destroyed the Fellowship Hall, our main building, home of our school, the place where COSM classes met, and when the weather got too cold to use our summer chapel, the place for Sunday worship. It was a well-worn but beloved repository of many happy memories.
But what the devil meant for evil God turned into our good. Victory Church in Pevely graciously extended not only their condolences but also invited us to use their facilities until we could rebuild our own. For a while we held afternoon services at Victory.
Rebuilding began almost immediately. There were three phases. The first was to enclose the summer chapel, insulate it, and install central heating and air conditioning.
Second, a series of small offices, nursery, cry room, and lobby were added. Most of the work was done by members of COC and Construction Workers for Christ. Paul Schwandt, LeRoy Petersen and Everett Stoub helped guide the project. Nick collected congregational input, not only for the Chapel, but also for the Third Phase, building the Classroom facility.
The third phase began before the Chapel was even completed. At Frank Block's recommendation, we invited architect Bob Horn to help us design a new classroom building. It was built very economically, at considerably less cost than a smaller metal building would have been, and complemented the octagonal chapel. An attractive tower and plaza area connected the chapel to the education building. LeRoy Petersen served as construction overseer. By God's grace and with Paul Schwandt's financial wisdom, the facility was completed debt-free.
Major Staff Changes
Bob had been asking Nick to assume the Senior Pastor's office and Directorship of the Center. Nick was loath even to consider that. He suggested to Bob, "It would be really good if you got as clear a word from the Lord about stepping down as you did to start this work." God gave Bob exactly such a word, twice, through people who knew nothing of our deliberations. With such assurances both Bob and Nick were at peace about such change.
Bob Heil Goes on to Glory
After Bob turned leadership of the Center over to Nick, he and his wife, Letitia, moved to Columbus, Ohio, where Bob continued to develop courses and contacts for the International Leadership Training Institute.
Bob contracted cancer and passed on to glory in 1994, to be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him. We are here today because of his vision, selfless generosity, and courage. His son Douglas with his wife Yai (photo on left) have continued the work diligently so that today ILTI serves in over seventy nations in over twelve languages.
In summer of 2009 the chapel was dedicated to become the Robert W. Heil Memorial Chapel, to remind us of Bob's vision, courage, and tremendous personal sacrifices that allowed the Lord to raise up PTLF, COC, and all its allied ministries.
Nick assumed the leadership of the Center in 1989. He was strongly committed to the values established by Bob such as a careful, biblical approach to theology using sound hermeneutical principles. Bob's desire to see Christians nurtured into maturity and fruitful ministry has also continued.
Nick has increased the emphasis on Christian Education as well as the Arts.
As an experiment, and to fill a gap in the cultural life of Central Jefferson County, as well as hoping to attract students to COS Nick organized a one-week-long Day Camp for Strings, each of two summers. Dr. Brandon Christensen, Carolyn Bottila, Katie Benyo, Jessie Renata Roth (below right), and Nick taught violin. Dr. Christensen, at that time assistant professor of violin and viola at Southeast Missouri State University, brought a tremendous expertise and much support to the camp.
In addition to daytime classes and recitals, there were evening concerts with wonderful receptions and refreshments, organized at great personal effort by Donna Roth and her crew of volunteers. Mona Houser was the main accompanist.
Roy, Joni, and Holly Ramsey did most of the fundraising to make the camps possible, then, on top of that prepared wonderful hot lunches at their expense so the students wouldn't have to make do with brown bags.
LeRoy and Marcia worked hard on the physical arrangements, including a hospitality room for the teachers, and individual practice rooms complete with full-length mirrors for the students.
We were surprised that the day camp, though very successful in its own right, had no measurable impact on the COS enrollment. Because of the lack of response, we have at least temporarily discontinued the day camps. In spring of 2008 Nick took on the role of development director at COS, as yet another attempt to strengthen the school financially.
Where to... now?
God has already written our future history, but we seek Him daily to be able to follow Him more closely. As the Gaithers used to sing,"We do not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future." May we always bring honor to His name, and hold forth the incomparable Gospel of Him Who died for us and rose again!
At this time Nick and others are connecting us with Global Awakening, an international ministry that is powerfully stirring up Signs and Wonders among the believers. Nick, his wife Judy, his son Brian and his "daughter-in-heart" Angelica with their two little boys, attended the "School of Impartation and Healing" in Colorado, led by Randy Clark and Bill Johnson. Nick reported that school exceeded his greatest expectations, and its impact is being felt in the congregation. Since the return of those who went to the School, the congregation is seeing a thrilling increase in healings as part of the Kingdom message.
Our thanks to Mona Houser who assisted Nick greatly with developing this history of COC.
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