The Pleasant Valley Church of Christ first met in the year 1908, in large part due to the efforts of Mrs. Elizabeth Ellis of the Catcher Community. For some time a group of Christians gathered together in the Ellis home on the Lord’s Day, but this proved inadequate and something better was needed. At her own expense, Mrs. Ellis purchased a small frame house in Catcher for the group to use. She then invited C.H. Dorian to come and hold a gospel meeting and help the group organize as a church. This was done and the fledgling congregation soon added it’s first new member, Mr. R.F. Lovel.
Within a few years the congregation was again in need of a more suitable place to meet. An acre of land on Catcher Road was deeded to the church on April 8, 1912 by Merton Tilman West and his wife, Mary, and a new building was quickly under construction with Dick West as principle contractor. Others who helped with construction were Elmer Bridges, Harry Whitfield, Randolph West, and George Berkley (Bert) West. By September it was complete, and a dedication service was conducted by the congregation.
The new building was on Catcher Road, 0.7 miles south of Kibler Road in Van Buren, Arkansas. The little congregation worshipped here for the next four decades–years marked by hardship and struggle as two world wars and a great depression took their toll. Sunday morning attendance rarely exceeded 20 people these years, and midweek Bible study in wintertime often found six or seven Christians gathered around the stove to keep warm. The building sat near a small stream, and in rainy weather the church grounds were sometimes under water. Some of the older members today remember being carried to the church steps to keep from getting their feet wet. Despite difficulties, the little group of Christians kept faith with Christ and with each other. They were family.
Preaching was provided for many years by brethren who supported themselves at other jobs during the week and preached on Sundays. Sometimes no preacher was available, but the congregation still met each week for Bible study and the Lord’s Supper. A highlight of each year, as far back as records are available, was the summertime Gospel Meeting. These meetings were designed to teach the Gospel to those who had not heard it, and great emphasis was placed on advertising and on inviting people to come and hear the good news.
In the mid 1940′s, the members decided to move to a better location. A building fund was started August 4, 1946 and built up for when it would be needed. That time came during the first week of October 1952, when the congregation physically moved it’s old building to the present location at the corner of Catcher Road and Kibler Road. The land was donated by Shorty and Ellistine Collins of Westville, and was a great improvement. The new site was not subject to flooding, and was on a more traveled road, the main route between Van Buren and Kibler. At the time of the move, attendance averaged around 40 people. Since then, the congregation has grown steadily, resulting in four seperate building programs to keep up with the need. Attendance now averages just over 300 people on Sunday mornings.
Bobby Parks was the first preacher to work with the congregation full-time, starting in 1977. He had served for years as a part time preacher before this. Others who have served full time include Wendell Heffington, Jerry Almond, Jim Bullock, and Roger Russell. The congregation has a strong youth program. Church elders are Douglas Cannedy, Delmar Lewis, Nathan Almond, and Paul Parks.
The congregation has had an active Jail Ministry since 1991. Every Tuesday evening, inmates at the Crawford County Jail are invited to a period of Bible Study led by Doug Cannedy, one of the church’s elders and an Associate Chaplain at the jail. Each inmate is given a Bible to keep. The class emphasizes God’s love and salvation, and man’s responsibility. Over 30 people have been baptized since the program began.
Since 1996, the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ has conducted a strong mission outreach in the nation of Nicaragua. Each year, a team of about 20 workers led by Manuel Centeno, deacon in charge of Spanish Evangelism, journeys to Central America at their own expense to teach and preach the Gospel. A new congregation was established in the city of Granada, and over 70 people have obeyed the Gospel to date. This congregation established their own eldership in the year 2000. They are only the second congregation in that country to have done so.
Work with Spanish speaking people is not limited to other countries; an active program of work has also been ongoing in the Western Arkansas area since 1995. Assemblies in Spanish are held at the church building on Sunday morning. They now have their own auditorium. Attendance averages between 25-30 people, most of whom have obeyed the Gospel as a result of this effort. A main goal of the work, in addition to teaching the Gospel, is to teach Christians how to teach others. Arby Centeno, Spanish Speaking Minister for the congregation, directs this work under the oversight of the church’s elders.
Mission efforts by the congregation are not limited to the Spanish speaking world, however, and the congregation has actively contributed to the support of missionaries in Nigeria, the Philippines, American Samoa, Australia, and a number of other countries.
This brings us to the future. The Pleasant Valley congregation continues to reach for the future while being firmly grounded by those who have gone on before us. What began as a small country congregation “down in the valley” has now sprouted into a growing church that continues to be used by God. Pleasant Valley now has three builldings it uses constantly. It also has continued to acquire land for future growth and, Lord willing, will continue to do so. Pleasant Valley has the wonderful problem of growth. Again, they are about to “outgrow” their auditorium and are beginning plans to build a newer, updated place in which to meet. However, the future is not just about numbers, it is about souls and being God’s people! This has been our past and will continue to be our future.
Throughout it’s history, the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ has never known a division. When asked why, Bobby Parks, former minister and elder, attributed the growth and unity of the church to it’s members long standing tradition of peace, love and toleration of differences of opinion. The congregation enters the Third Millinnium eager to continue it’s long history and tradition of service to God and man.
–We want to thank Glynn Parker, who allowed us to use his article for this work. Any changes made were tied to role changes.
Original art work painted by longtime member Ronnie Matthews. All four paintings were donated to the church. They were presented to the church upon the dedication of the church’s new “Outreach Center” in 1997 and hang in that building.