Oberlin welcomes new church fellowship

Monday, August 19, 2002
The sanctuary at Oberlin Community Fellowship was polished to a high sheen by members of McCook's Egan Park Baptist Church in preparation for the opening worship service June 2.

OBERLIN -- For two years the citizens of Oberlin and those traveling on U.S. Highway 36 through the Northwest Kansas community have passed by what was once a vibrant and active church. It remained empty, waiting for a new day and a new opportunity to come.

That day arrived Sunday, June 2, when the Rev. Bobby Cornelius and his wife, Billie threw open the doors once again to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Several months before, Mike Roth, then a member of the Egan Park Baptist Church search committee, had called Bobby, his former pastor, and asked him to candidate for a vacancy at Egan Park Baptist Church in McCook.

The Rev. Bobby Cornelius stands by the marquee that shows the service times for Oberlin Community Fellowship at the corner of Frontier and Penn Ave., in Oberlin.

(Roth served as a youth leader at a church in Deer Trail, Colo., where Cornelius served as pastor for nine years.) Cornelius and Billie, thought it over, prayed about it and, calling Roth back, declined to apply but suggested that Mike throw his name in the hat. Roth did so and is now serving as the interim pastor. He also continues to serve a camp ministry at The Marina at Red Willow Lake during the summer months.

But that is only part of the story.

Knowing that Bobby and Billie had been involved in new church ministry for 15 years, and keenly aware of the still empty church building in Oberlin, the congregation at Egan Park proposed to bring the couple to the Kansas community.

"The Holy Spirit said 'Come and look," explained Pastor Cornelius. "And so we came."

Egan Park members were supported in their efforts by a North American Ministry offering, a resource for starting new churches.

Immediately impressed with the Oberlin community -- its cleanliness and its friendliness -- the Cornelius' have not been disappointed since answering the clear call of the Spirit.

"Pastors in town have welcomed us most cordially," said Cornelius, "and the townspeople have opened their doors and been very accepting."

When asked what his response is to the charge that there are already enough churches, Cornelius shared, "Studies reveal that America, often considered a Christian nation because of the influence of the founding fathers, is in actuality, the third largest mission field in the world, second only to China and India."

"We've got to have that personal relationship with Jesus," he explained. "Being born in the United States does not automatically make you a Christian, or guarantee you a place in heaven."

Being involved in new church or church planting ministry has taught Billy and Bobby that "Miracles are accomplished on a daily basis. And needs are met, day-by-day."

The church in Oberlin was ready and waiting for the Cornelius' arrival. Crews from Egan Park cleaned, dusted and polished all of the hardwood pews and gave it that "feeling of family."

"A church that is warm and welcoming is a church that people want to go to," said Cornelius. "Yet it must speak the truth of the gospel. We have somehow wandered from the teaching of a grace-based salvation to one of works. We need to know and to teach that grace is the free gift of a loving God, provided by a sacrificial savior."

"I am living proof that God can take everything about your life, the good, the bad, whatever, Jesus can take it and use it." said Bobby, pointing to a tattoo on his forearm.

"I was on a mission trip in Brazil when I realized that the person who got that tattoo had been transformed, and that's a lesson many of us need to learn." Cornelius gave his life to the Lord while he was a teenager, then took his own path for many years, before returning wholeheartedly to the Lord and discovering the transforming power of a forgiving God. He and Billie married in 1959. He worked for AT&T for 41 years. They have one son, Frank, daughter-in-law, Karen and two grandsons, Christopher and Samuel. They live in Las Animas, Colo., where Frank is an associate director of missions.

Oberlin Community Fellowship meets each Sunday at 10:30 a.m. for worship. Sunday School begins at 9:30 a.m. The Wednesday evening service is at 7 p.m. and plans for a Sunday evening service are set for "when the weather cools off."

The phone number at the church is (785) 475-8969.

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