World War II is rarely seen as the source of a blessing. However, it was just that for Des Moines Gospel Chapel. The strictures of war made it imperative for Christians attending Hope Gospel Chapel to curtail gasoline consumption. For attendees driving up to Seattle from Sunnydale, Rainer Valley and the greater Renton areas, this meant finding a place closer to home. A group of local families graciously opened up their homes, unknowingly planting roots for a congregation that would later be known as Des Moines Gospel Chapel.
The early years
For several years, the South Seattle families gathered in homes for Sunday Remembrance meetings and midweek prayer. A neighborhood Sunday School was started in the Woodmont Beach district, and the congregation began to grow. By 1948, the need for a more centralized meeting place and collective Sunday School became apparent.
After meeting in various locations, from Highline High School to the old Manhattan District School, the families arranged use of the Odd Fellows Hall in Des Moines. Real blessing came from this move, as it brought the families into the center of a community where there was one Protestant church and one small Catholic church. It was not long until the Sunday school was twice the size of the adult meetings.
The first vacation Bible school
The summer of 1951 marked the first daily vacation Bible school (DVBS); at the time, it was held the first two weeks of summer vacation. Those who observed the early years of DVBS called it "a wonder and tremendous blessing." Children flooded in from neighboring communities, with numbers in the region of 400. Thanks to the support of families, neighbors, missionaries and invested community members, Des Moines Gospel Chapel has continued to offer DVBS for over fifty years.
Setting down permanent roots
In the mid 1950s, the congregation began looking for a permanent place to build in the Des Moines area. The land they obtained was from an early pioneer, and the prior site of the First Methodist Church established in Des Moines in the 1800s. While the original building was long gone, it seemed significant to the families that the Gospel was again going to be preached from where it had started out. The church opened its doors in 1955.
A rich legacy
Today, Des Moines Gospel Chapel is still being blessed by the faithful servants who carried out the Lord's work more than a half a century beforehand. At no time can we say we have come to a place where we have attained perfection. We can only look back and say with reverence, "This is the Lord's doing." It is marvelous in our eyes.