What does a heart for a community look like?

The beginnings of a dream

Over ten years ago Jamie and Marj Hamblet moved to Bismarck, ND to be part of a youth ministry at an evangelical church. Four years later they moved to the community of Isabel, South Dakota, to pastor the local NAB church.

Jamie continued leading a men’s Bible study in the Bismarck area, traveling each week through the community of Mandan, population 20,000+.

Mandan is on the west side of the Missouri River, the opposite in many ways to the capital city of Bismarck on the east side.

When Jamie and Marj initially moved to the area in the mid-2000s, they wanted to live in Mandan, but were persuaded to live closer to their church in Bismarck.

God was doing something, though, in their hearts. “Mandan was very much like the community I grew up in,” comments Jamie. “It has a refinery. It’s a blue-collar town. The people you see are parents with a couple of kids, who don’t have life all together. They are just trying to get by, going through the motions without a lot of hope.”

For over a decade, God was forming that passion of the Hamblets for Mandan into action. In late 2017 Jamie resigned his position in Isabel. They moved to Mandan. “God was calling me to plant a church. I didn’t know how, when or with whom. I don’t even consider myself to be a church planter” He got a construction job and Marj began to work at a facility caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

A dream becomes action

About the same time the Elders at Century Baptist met with Regional Minister Randy Jaspers, sharing their sense that God was calling them to start something new.

Paul Nather, Century’s lead pastor noted, “Over the past decade, I would say, the Lord has been moving in ways that had put Century in a position to plant a church. As a congregation that had grown to become externally-focused we are always looking for ways in which we can reach the needs of our city. Our leaders knew that the next step was to fully engage in the church planting movement.”

Would Century be interested in being part of something in Mandan? “We were really focused on planting in the south end of Bismarck,” says Paul. “We have a large number of Century families that live in that area as well as strong partnerships with schools down there.  When we heard that Jamie was interested in planting in Mandan, we didn’t shut down the idea of Bismarck, we just let God expand our vision!”

Jamie spoke with Paul, then with the Century Elders. They began to talk, to listen, to pray. They began to take steps. Attendance at a conference emphasizing multiplication. Plans for formal assessment.

“At that point, planting a church in Mandan was still an idea,” observed Jamie. “Yes, we were getting to know the Elders and the congregation.” But then another catalytic event happened. Century was given a gift for church planting. That became another God-push. “God means business. And He means business NOW.”

“Each step of this process has been a new one for us at Century,” Paul added. “We are, in no way, church planting experts.  What we do know is that when you finally say yes to the Lord, fear flees as He begins to open doors and leads and guides every step of the way.”

A dream becomes reality

Sunday, December 8 marked the first worship service of Disciples Church, following weeks of preparation by the launch team. Three missional communities also meet. Another will likely form soon.

Disciples Church gathers for worship in the industrial end of Mandan, in one half of a remodeled, metal building . . . next to a tattoo parlor.

Disciples Church emphasizes the values of gospel, family and mission. “We want to have meaningful worship, relationships and roles that impact our community,” says Jamie. “We ask two questions: What do you need? How can we help?”

A pastor with a heart for a community. A church looking to partner with others in their community in new ways. Some comments and a gift encouraging action.

What is God stirring in your heart for the people where you live?


Randy Jaspers

Northern Plains Regional Minister