BY MICHAEL REISIG –
The Calvary Baptist Mission began in January of 1952, when members of the First Baptist Church realized that, due to the topography of the city, a certain section was more or less isolated from the existing Baptist Church. The mission continued to grow, and in May of 1966, the Calvary Baptist Church was formed.
The present minister is Kenneth Vonk, who was born in California but lived all over the U.S. before coming to Arkansas 20 years ago. He grew up in Louisiana until the age of 16, then moved to Washington State and joined the Navy in 1978. After his time in the Navy he lived in California until 1994. During that time he met and married his wife, Carol.
“I worked for companies in California and Arkansas, eventually finding a position in Batesville, working in engineering,” Vonk explained. “I was later transferred to Mena and U.S. Motors. God took us from California to Batesville, Ark., so we would have more time to attend church. I began to teach Sunday School and work on committees in the church, and just generally have more time to participate for God. But it was when we moved to Mena that I certainly felt the calling from The Lord to serve as a preacher.
“I started at Dallas Avenue Baptist Church but shortly after, I got a call to preach, serving as an interim pastor at Board Camp Baptist Church, and later at First Baptist of Grannis,” he continued. “It was then The Lord brought me to Calvary Baptist. I began as a guest preacher and was then voted in as an interim pastor. In August of this year, I became their minister.”
Vonk said his is a church that believes in the word of God and The Holy Bible – a church that accepts people from all walks of life, and a church that is focused on spreading the love of God throughout the community and the whole world.
“Calvary Baptist members are loving and accepting, and they are very willing to help one another and the community,” he explained. “We go out of our way to make people feel welcome and comfortable. We do work out of country as well and the church has gone on several mission trips to other states and countries, but at present we are concentrating on mission opportunities here in Polk County.”
Pastor Vonk explained that they have three services a week – Sundays at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Wednesday evenings at 6 p.m. where the service is followed by a potluck dinner. There is also a Sunday School at 9:45 a.m.
“We offer a nursery and wonderful facilities for children, and we have events such as movie and game nights,” he said. “And we have an upcoming BBQ at Janssen Park on Aug. 31, which is free to the public. We have a terrific group of people praising and worshipping The Lord. We’d love to have folks come out and join with us as our church grows in service to the community and The Lord.”