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A gift from beyond: Georgia church receives large grant from Michigan businessman who died in 2011

Hope Fellowship Pastor Barry Crocker stands beside a sign on the property where a new church building is going up. Hope Fellowship received a grant of nearly $800,000 to help with costs. (Index/Roger Alford)

CUMMING, Ga. — A Michigan businessman who died more than a decade ago is helping a Georgia congregation with the cost of a new church building.

Construction crews were at the future site of Hope Fellowship on Monday, preparing to pour foundations for what will be the first permanent home for the five-year-old church plant.

Pastor Barry Crocker said the late businessman John C. Lasko is playing an instrumental role in the project, though he died in 2011 at age 90.

Lasko had sold the company he founded, Republic Tool and Die in Belleville, Mich., a year before he died and created what came to be known as the John C. Lasko Foundation Trust dedicated solely to building church sanctuaries around the world.

“It says a lot about his heart for God’s work,” Crocker said Monday, standing on the periphery of what will be Hope Fellowship, which is scheduled for completion by year’s end.

Hope Fellowship began as a group of believers meeting on Sunday evenings for worship, Bible teaching, and fellowship.

“After several months, we sensed God’s leadership to start a new church,” Crocker said. “We officially launched in May 2018.”

The church plant had met at Liberty Middle School in west Forsyth County until the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Georgia and administrators closed their classroom buildings. That’s when the church plant moved to a storefront.

In May of 2019, members began looking for property for a permanent home.

“We were able to raise $275,000, and in January 2020, we purchased 6 acres debt free,” Crocker said. “We continued to raise money and began developing plans for the new building.”

The congregation held a groundbreaking service in July of 2022 and started site development work shortly afterward.

It was at that point that the church applied for the grant from the foundation. Last month, word came that Hope Fellowship had been approved for $782,678 to cover the cost of the 200-seat sanctuary.

Crocker said the total cost of the project, which includes a fellowship hall, classrooms and office space, will be about $2.5 million.

“We have raised almost $1 million, not including the $275,000 for the land purchase, in the last three-plus years,” he said. “We have been approved for a loan for $1.5 million through Waters Edge Services, but with the grant and what we have been able to raise, we will likely not have to borrow more than about $500,000.”

Despite the cost of construction, Hope Fellowship, from its founding, has continued to help fund missions beyond Cumming by giving through the Cooperative Program as well as the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong special offerings.

“I’ve always been very mission minded,” Crocker said. “My wife’s grandfather was a Southern Baptist pastor, and he told me that if you support missions, God will support you. I took that to heart, and we’re seeing it here at Hope Fellowship.”

Crocker said the Lasko grant was an encouragement to him and the congregation.

“We feel like it was God confirming our ministry and our direction,” he said.