From Our House to His House
A History of Emmanuel Church International
Psalm 127:1 says “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it:…”
This passage is primarily directed toward the family, but it applies to the church as well. Throughout the New Testament we see that God uses the family to illustrate how He deals with the church. Just as the family is the symbol of the church, a strong family directly benefits the church.
We must realize that it is not our labors that create success, for the Lord alone builds the house. This is true for your family and it is true for the house we call our local church. Your labors are in vain unless the Lord builds the house.
Kathleen Norris, the contemporary poet/essayist said “Home ought to be our clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.” It all starts in the house, as it did in our house, some fourteen years ago with a mission to “Equip People to Make A Difference.”
From a historical and biblical perspective, there was the upper room of a house in a city called Jerusalem where 120 souls received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And from that house sprang forth a movement that even today is unstoppable. For they “continued daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46, 47)
Could it be that the message here is…that when there is love, harmony, spiritual and social interaction in all our houses, the Lord adds to the church! ……hmmmmmm. In Romans 16:3—6 the apostle Paul admonishes the Roman church to greet Priscilla and Aquila, his fellow workers in Christ and likewise greet the church that is in their house.” The apostle Paul also writes to the Colossian believers to “greet the brethren who are in Laodicea, and Nymphas and the church that is in his house.” Yes, church starts in a house; your house.
Prior to the launching of Emmanuel Church International, our founding corporation, Emmanuel Ministries International, Inc., was created in Chattanooga, TN. Our current pastor was its President and CEO, and still serves in that capacity today. The ministry was founded in the early eighties for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid to the country of Liberia West Africa which was ravished by civil war. The ministry provided relief aid in the form of food, clothing, and medicine to numerous Liberians who had become homeless or displaced as a result of the war. Our pastor’s wife, Lillian, personally made numerous trips to Liberia during the height of the war to personally escort relief items to the needy, sometimes even having to go through dangerous rebel territory to achieve her objectives.
The ministry later expanded its outreach in West Africa to include the refugee camp of Buduburum in the country of Ghana. The ministry’s efforts in Buduburum led to the establishment of a local church on the refugee camp under the leadership of Pastor Rose Cummins. Pastor Cummins, affectionately called “Mother Rose” by many is also an ordained elder of Emmanuel Church International. The Buduburum church continues to thrive even to this day.
But this was only the starting point of what God had in store for our pastor and his wife. For all of these years of serving other church ministries and reaching out to others in West Africa, God was preparing them for what was to become a phenomenal work in the Greater Baltimore Metropolitan area.
However, it was not in Baltimore that our pastor received the call to the pastorate. For the Lord had already spoken to him while in Chattanooga, TN and declared that ‘I have called you to pastor.’ When our pastor heard the call however, he thought it meant that he would become a pastor in Chattanooga, TN. For while in Richmond, VA he had been shown a vision by the Lord in which the Lord said to him, ‘your ministry will be established in a city where you have never been before.’ So, when he moved to Chattanooga, he thought that this must be the place. However, five years after arriving in Chattanooga, our pastor prayerfully moved the family to the Baltimore area.
After moving to Baltimore, we affiliated with other ministries, where our pastor served faithfully in various ministry leadership positions. However, twelve years later, while returning from a business trip, our pastor received a word from the Lord saying ‘the time has come to launch a new ministry’. It was impressed upon our pastor by the Holy Spirit that he should ‘…write the vision and make it plain.’ He began writing the ministry plan God gave him which included the church’s purpose, mission, faith, core principles, and philosophy of ministry statements. These statements served as the platform from which the ministry was launched.
Our pastor started out with a sense of great excitement about what God was going to do in this new ministry. However, he also felt a deep sense of uncertainty as to what would lie ahead. But he was reminded of the call of Abraham. How God instructed Abraham to leave his country and his kinsmen; that he was to go to a place where the Lord would show him. And so, our pastor left believing that the Lord would direct his every step.
The road has not been easy for our pastor and his family. For just two short years prior to launching the ministry they lost their oldest daughter, Valerie Lynette Taylor. The ministry was a partner in a subdivision development which bears her name. The subdivision was named Valerie Manor. But the Lord held this family together through this tragic ordeal. Although painful, God used this experience to strengthen this family’s faith as never before. And so, our pastor stepped out on faith to launch the ministry. He had to rely upon his family’s personal resources to fund the ministry initially, but God continued to give our pastor favor in all his dealings. Upon launching the ministry, our pastor also made a personal commitment to not receive a salary from the ministry until the ministry had found a permanent home. So for the first 9 years of his pastorate, our pastor was focused on positioning the ministry financially to be able to acquire a permanent site which we could call ‘home’. He also served for a number of years as the church’s chief musician, even so, without receiving a salary.
The ministry began with the calling of a community meeting of friends and acquaintances. Our pastor used this opportunity to share his vision with those that were in attendance. It was from that meeting that the ministry was birthed.
In September 1998, our pastor and his wife, along with their daughter, Laurie, and a few friends began worshiping in the basement of the pastor’s home. But in reality, Emmanuel did not start first in the basement of his home. It started firstly in our pastor’s spirit. No wait, let me back up. It first started in heaven for the bible says “except the Lord build the house…” The Lord built it first in heaven and then gave the pattern to Pastor Lin, just like He gave the pattern for the Ark to Noah and the pattern for the Tabernacle to Moses. The church soon outgrew the pastor’s house.
On October 18, 1998 the first public service was held at Deer Park Middle Magnet School in Randallstown, Maryland. The church was named Emmanuel Ministries International Fellowship. Upon the leading of the Lord, our pastor began looking for a permanent site for the ministry. After finding the site where we are currently located, he was met with tremendous opposition. He was told that our church was too small to afford any sizeable purchase of land. He was turned down by numerous banks in the community. But he would not accept ‘No’ for an answer. Finally, the Lord led him to a small bank near Westminster, MD where he had already prepared the hearts of the bank’s officers. After making his presentation to the officers, the bank agreed to fund the purchase of the 5.97 acre site. His next challenge was finding the funds to develop the site. But our pastor learned that whenever there is a will there is a way. He knew that with God all things are possible. The Lord later opened a door of opportunity that brought our pastor and a local developer together. From that meeting a partnership, Portrait Emmanuel, LLC, was formed. This faith-based and private industry collaboration birthed what is now Valerie Manor and our current church location. The name of the church was later changed to its current name, Emmanuel Church International.
Initially, we worshiped in a 75 year old dilapidated house on the property which was crudely renovated. The driveway to the property was filled with potholes. We endured the rain inside and outside the house. Our women quickly adapted to our new home. They would bring a pair of shoes to walk through the mud to get to the house, and then would change shoes once inside. Buckets were kept in strategic places to catch the rain pouring through the ceiling. But we enjoyed each other immensely, and the fellowship was rich. In 2005 we broke ground for our new building which we grand opened in 2008.
The building in which we now worship is only Phase I, our multi-purpose center. Phase II which is already in the planning stages, calls for the development of an expanded multi-purpose and family life center, with additional classroom space for many of the ministry’s outreach programs. The county planning commission has already approved the project. Phase III will consist of a Worship Center which will be built on donated land adjacent to the multi-purpose and family life center. We know that the vision is for an appointed time, and that in due time, God will bring it to pass.
The Lord has also since given us an even more permanent presence in Liberia West Africa, with the establishment of Emmanuel Church International in Buchanan Liberia under the leadership of Pastor Sylvester Barclay.
Our church has successfully launched the first phase of its education program called Emmanuel Early Childhood Learning Center which is state licensed and certified to teach children 3—5 years old.
Our pastor humbly recognizes that all glory belongs to God, as the vision is not his, but the Lords. Hence, “The Vision Is Always Greater Than the Man”.
Frederick W. Robertson, the 18th century British clergyman, said “Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other. It is the place of confidence. It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts. It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule.”
God has brought us from the basement of our pastor’s house to this house, which is His house; the Lord’s house. This, the Lord’s house, is now collectively our home. It is here that we worship the God of our salvation. It is here that we rejoice over sinners who have come home. It is here that we dedicate our babies, marry our sons and our daughters, and celebrate the life and legacy of our mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers called home to be with the Lord.
We have much to be thankful for as we celebrate the Lord’s faithfulness unto us. As the songwriter says of our God:
“Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”