History

The growth of a community many times brings with it an opportunity for the growth of a new church work. Kansas City's newest suburb in the early 1950's was in GrandviewMissouri.

Just 40 minutes from downtown Kansas City. The new suburb, just two miles south of Grandview, would become known as Belvidere Heights. Along with the developers, S. Axtell and S. Enos Axtell, who envisioned the reality of Belvidere Heights community was another dreamer. This dreamer was Reverend Monte Peterson from the First Baptist Church of Belton, Missouri, just south ofGrandview. Before the first homes were completed in Belvidere Heights in 1952, Reverend Peterson was beginning to share his dream and the dream of the Blue River Baptist Association to form a new church in this projected suburb. Peterson's leadership over First Baptist Church in Belton began in 1948 and by 1952 the increased membership brought he necessity of two morning worship services. By 1953 Peterson’s vision for further expansion and outreach for the cause of Jesus Christ, would involve the dream of the mission church in the Belvidere Heights suburb.

Ground was donated for the Belvidere Heights mission church, of First Baptist Belton, by Enos Axtel, one of the developers of the Belvidere Heights community. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on a Sunday afternoon September 27, 1953. First Baptist Belton backed the building of the $12,000.00 structure. The new mission would remain a subsidiary of the Belton Baptist Church until such a time as the group was deemed able to conduct its own affairs.

On June 27, 1954 the first service was held, led by Dr. Peterson. Sunday School was held continuously. However, services were canceled at times due to the lack of an all-weather road leading to the church, which was at the top of a hill, and the lack of a heating system, as well as the limited supply of gas at the time.

Rev. Davis, known as Ray, was a student at Central Semi nary when he was called by First Baptist Belton to preach at the Belvidere Heights Mission. He, his wife, Dixie and their three month old son, Paul, lived on the campus of Central Seminary when Ray accepted the call as the pastor of theMission congregation. Ray began his preaching responsibilities and became very committed to the reaching of this community for Jesus Christ. They immediately had services on Sunday morning and evening, as well as midweek services.

The struggles of a new work were compounded due to a poorly constructed building which had poor heating and was foundationally unsound. This steel structured, brick building should have served the congregation well. However, the basement flooded with each rain and other safety issues would force he future destruction of the building. The Mission suffered normal growing pains with seemingly slow progress, which caused some to doubt whether the work would ever be more than a vision. However, with an increased acceleration of new home building in 1956, many new members were added.

In 1958, the Mission had grown sufficiently to warrant organization as a church. September 21, 1958. Belvidere Heights Baptist Mission became Belvidere Heights Baptist Church. A constitution was adopted, officers were elected and Rainford Davis was called to be the pastor. It was organized with 63 charter members.  In October 1958, Belvidere Heights Baptist Church made a request to the Blue River Baptist Association for full membership and affiliation.  This would also mean that the church would be a member of the Missouri Baptist General Association and the Southern Baptist convention. Rev. Davis would continue to be very actively involved and supportive of the Blue River Baptist Association.

Pastor Davis and his family were able to complete his schooling and purchase a home in theBelvidere Heights area. Little did they know then, that they would remain in the Belvidere Heightscommunity the rest of their ministry days. Yet, the fruits of labor in the field and the changes in the community brought more and more families to the church. The original building, constructed in 1953-54, was inadequate for the number of persons attending and by September 20, 1959 two morning worship services were being held and the building had to re re-arranged to accommodate the attendees. The church also investigated and purchased a home just north of the church for additional Sunday School space, which was filled and over-flowing immediately.

The establishment of a building committee was in place by 1961 and by July 1, 1962 ground was broken for a new auditorium with additional educational space. The church was also operated with the highest financial integrity. The construction of the new auditorium was under written by the selling of church bonds, of which over $100,000 were sold very quickly to members of the church.

Waiting on the construction of the new building did not mean that the church was sitting idle. Even prior to the building committee's recommendation to build, the church was running 113 in Sunday school as an average attendance in 1960 and had 262 attend Vacation Bible School with 29 baptisms that year.  They also conducted a two week long revival which resulted in 23 professions of faith and 5 additions by letter to the church.

In May 1964, great joy filled the hearts of the members of Belvidere Heights Baptist Church as they participated in the dedi cation of the new building God had allowed them to complete. the bonds that had been sold and the assistance from the Miss ouri Baptist Building Fund gave further vision to this church to each the community.

Pastor Davis voiced the joy about the new building like this: "We are all thrilled with our new building. With adequate facilities now in which to grow and worship, using our old building for educational space, the church is truly beginning to reach out to the hundreds of new prospects for which we have not had facilities to minister to previously."

The church reached its highest growth in the period of 1964-1970 with over 500 members added to the church. Some of he growth was a result of the many evangelistic efforts promoted under the prayerful motto to be "The Church that Cares For You."  This church showed that it cared by conducting annual revival meetings, sponsoring a bus ministry that reached hundreds of children, as well as Sunday School, Training Union, Royal Ambassadors, Girls in Action, Baptist Men and WMU.

Pastor Davis showed he cared by his correspondence with all persons and his visitation. He put a priority on his preaching and teaching ministry. He saw that the deacons were instructed and provided a role model for them in daily conduct. He made himself available, when possible, to conduct training for other church leaders and their congregations in the specific skills of leading and sharing the precious message of Jesus Christ to the lost. He also led the church in Lay Witness opportunities.

Pastor Davis was very active within the Belvidere Heights community. He worked with the local aldermen for the benefit of the community. The church even allowed the local school district to utilize their building while the Belvidere Elementary School was being built.

Belvidere Heights Baptist Church faced a great challenge when Richards-Gebaur Air Base had personnel changes in 1970 and the church lost 50 families over a short time period. The church faced the loss of key leadership people, but God kept the church moving forward and the church began to recover. Pastor Davis continued to pastor the church through the times of transition and change until his retirement December 31, 1989. He served this church for 35 years and his love, encouragement and wisdom continues to be an asset for the church. Pastor Ray passed away on July 29, 2008 at the age of 83.

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