Kneeling in Paradise

Volunteers and staff at God's Country Cooperative Parish have been on their knees both praying AND working to rehab a former school into a center for ministry. ~Facebook/God's Country Cooperative Parish

Staff and volunteers of God’s Country Cooperative Parish are on their knees at work and in prayer.

Michigan Area Communications

God’s Country Cooperative Parish (GCCP) is located in the north-central area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They are undergoing a vital change as the Parish’s seven congregations have taken on the challenge of acquiring and refurbishing what was an abandoned school building on the south side of Newberry in Pentland Township.

Randy Hildebrant, a Church and Community Worker assigned to the Parish by the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, reports that GCCP was able to secure this 9,600 square foot building through a generous donation, earlier this summer. The building hadn’t functioned as a school since the 1970’s and was being used as storage for furniture and other things the school district no longer needed. Many of its windows were boarded up, there was damage to the roof, and pipes leaked. Nevertheless, Hildebrant asserts this building is critically needed for the GCCP to become an even more vibrant ministry for the area they are serving, as it has restroom facilities, numerous classrooms, and a large lunchroom.

The building, known for years as the Pentland School, is already being used to store the many items that resource ongoing local mission work, including lumber and other supplies. The bulk of GCCP’s work consists of building ramps for home-bound elderly in the area, widening doors in homes to make them handicap accessible, and doing a variety of home repairs. During the summer, much of that is done by Volunteers in Mission who come to the parish for several days, spending their nights and eating meals in the Newberry UMC. Once refurbishing of Pentland School is complete, all of that VIM activity will be hosted out of that building.

Earlier this year Randy Hildebrandt was honored with the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award by the Newberry Chamber of Commerce. ~photo courtesy GCCP

Yet, such an opportunity isn’t without its urgent challenges. Hildebrant and GCCP trustee chair, Ivan Darling, point out that $9,460 is needed immediately to clear the building of asbestos and to repair plumbing and electrical wiring.  A tunnel under the building also has to be cleared. Hildebrant says he is planning to be trained and certified to safely remove asbestos.

The  building must also be cleared of old school desks, artwork that hung in classrooms, antiques and other miscellaneous items. To help make this happen, a cash-and-carry sale is scheduled to take place at the building on Saturday, September 16, beginning at 9 a.m.  A lot of these items are believed to have intrinsic value for persons who attended the Pentland School when they were children. Already, several of the classroom desks have gotten some attention from area residents because of the names children inscribed on the desktops as they sat there back in the day.

GCCP has Mission Interns at work in the community this summer. Interns (from left to right) Jim Young, Matt Johnson, and Michael Stroven will be going back to college in the fall. ~photo courtesy of Randy Hildebrant

Darling, well suited to be a trustee chair, is a graduate of Michigan Tech and Texas A&M. He taught engineering at Michigan State University before retiring up north. He served his country as an army engineer, building air fields, bridges, and underground command posts. 

Darling describes another challenge being faced on the Pentland School yard as an over-abundance of spotted knapweed. This invasive weed, he says, kills off grass and must be chemically eradicated.

According to Hildebrant, there are still openings for Volunteer In Mission groups to come to GCCP in the summer of 2018. Those interested should phone him at (903) 630-3213 or email him at

The United Methodist churches that comprise the God’s Country Cooperative Parish are Grand Marais, Germfask, McMillan, Newberry, Engadine, Hulbert and Paradise. More about their life and outreach in next week’s MIConnect.



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