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Tiny Churches, Big Hearts

Wayside chapels may seem like a relic from 50 years ago, but those tiny churches, many built and maintained by Christian Reformed people with a big heart for reaching out, still receive thousands of visitors each year.

The Living Water Wayside Chapel, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, attracts more than 10,000 visitors annually—even though it only accommodates six people at a time. Built in 1969 by the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Christian Reformed church, it is a place for rest and meditation. Measuring just ten feet (3 m) square, it is also the site of up to 30 weddings every year.

Louis Denbok, a Niagara CRC member, maintains the chapel but said it is difficult to get any work done due to the steady stream of visitors. “People come by the busload,” he said.

A plaque at the chapel states that the money donated (about $7,000 annually) goes to spreading the gospel. Recent funds were distributed to Back to God Ministries International (BTGMI) and Christian Reformed Home Missions.

The chapel is located on the Niagara River Parkway halfway between Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

In Atwood, Mich., north of Traverse City, the Wayside Chapel was built by Atwood CRC in 1968. Measuring 12 x 8 feet (3.5 x 2.5 m) feet, it is a rest spot for travelers and the site of an occasional wedding. It is open and lit 24 hours a day. The chapel is located off Route 31, just south of Atwood.

One of the older chapels is the Blue Mound Wayside Chapel, built by the nearby Luverne (Minn.) CRC. It opened in 1963 and by the end of its first summer had seen 40,000 visitors. Gospel tracts and materials from BTGMI are available there. Located two miles north of Luverne on US Highway 75, near the Blue Mound State Park, it seats six to eight people.

But building wayside chapels is not just an old idea. Rene Nydam, a member of Oak Harbor (Wash.) CRC, just opened a tiny church near her farm on Whidbey Island. Her son Hank drew up the plans and with the help of some friends built the Whidbey Wayside Chapel. The building, located on Highway 20 between Coupeville and Oak Harbor, can seat a total of 12. Bibles and Psalter Hymnals are scattered among the pews.

Other tiny houses of worship connected to the CRC include Usk Pioneer Wayside Chapel, built by Terrace (British Columbia) CRC; Paradise Valley Chapel, near Yellowstone National Park, maintained by Bozeman (Mont.) CRC; and Calvary Wayside Chapel, maintained by Calvary CRC in Pella, Iowa.

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