The congregation at Lord of Life Lutheran Church has something special to rejoice as they gather for Sunday worship.

The church, which was founded more than 30 years ago, paid off its final loan on the church and land it sits on. To celebrate, the Lord of Life Lutheran Church will hold a Mortgage Burn on Sunday during its regular worship service at 10 a.m. at the church, 2000 Lancer Drive in Rapid Valley.

Tables adorned with decorations, wine and bread will replace the pews, and during the service, the mortgage papers will be burned. Following the service, a meal and celebration will take place. Former congregation members, pastors and others who played a key role in the formation and preservation of the church over the years will attend the celebration.

Lord of Life Lutheran Church formed in 1984 as a mission church. At the time, the congregation of 204 met in temporary locations before purchasing land and a building in Rapid Valley. The church is now located on a lot with park-like features and a playground that children and families enjoy year round.

However, to solidify the permanent home, it put the church deep into debt. Four years ago that debt still sat at more than $200,000.

“As we looked to the future that debt was strangling any chance of having longevity in the church,” said Joe Hauge, a member of the church and volunteer church treasurer.

The church created a debt reduction plan, which updated the congregation annually on how much and how often payments would need to be made. Now, the church is celebrating their hard work, dedication, and support of one another to be debt-free. The final payment was made this month, Hauge said.

“It was coming together with that vision and that dream and working hard,” Hauge said. “It’s pretty close to a modern miracle.”

The loan brings with it a good feeling, said the Rev. Bruce Baum, interim pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church. He added a debt that large is a big burden to a small congregation.

“Four years ago, we had a $240,000 loan and we managed to pay it off in a little under four years,” Baum said. “We knew what we needed to raise, so it was a matter of every Sunday people giving what they could. It was simply dedicated, unselfish giving of the congregation that made this all possible. I’m proud of them.”

Baum and Hauge said the church also received outside donations from people who aren't members of the congregation. 

“Every time I think about it, I’m totally blown away that there are people generous enough to step up and help a good cause,” Hauge said. “Those donations were significant, and they really fired up and encouraged everyone else to see what they would be able to do as well.”

To Baum, the dedication and hard work he’s seen is phenomenal.

“The people are so proud of this church, they are enthusiastic, work well together,” Baum said. “There’s a closeness among the people. It’s been a joy to be their pastor.”

And according to Hauge, it’s been a joy to have Baum lead the Lord of Life Lutheran church congregation.

“Pastor Baum is a big part as to why were able to do this. When he came to us four years ago, it was with the idea that he wanted to help us get that debt down. That was the kind of legacy he wanted to leave, too,” Hauge said.

Along with Baum’s passion for Lord of Life Lutheran Church over the past several years, Hauge noted that several charter members of Lord of Life Lutheran Church still are members, attesting to the dedication of the church family.

“Those folks have been here from the first day the church came together, have gone through the good and the bad, the ups and downs,” he said. “They had the vision that this church in Rapid Valley would have a long-term impact for our community.”

And a long-term impact it has had.

Hauge, who has been a member of Lord of Life Lutheran Church for nine years, enjoys the small-town atmosphere the church offers.

“All the members of the church know each other well and they take care of each other,” Hauge said. “Even though we’re in Rapid City, in a big community, it’s like being in a small town church. Our members appreciate that. I know our family does.”

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