Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church's journey began in the 1920s on the losing end of a poker game. For reasons hard to understand, when the husband of our church's founder, Katherine Tessman, wagered her and lost, she honored the bet. She left the husband who gambled her away and married the one who claimed his prize.
Only God could redeem something this messed up. And he did. Somewhere amid the rough, horrid waters of this leg of their journey, Katherine and Albert Tessman gave their lives to Christ and committed to sharing the story of love and grace and redemption that they had experienced.
Out of their small home in Bellwood, Illinois, Katherine Tessman followed the calling God placed in her heart, hung a sign on their door that read "Bellwood Gospel Tabernacle", and opened a Sunday School for the children in their neighborhood. The kids came in droves.
In 1924, Rev. Katherine Tessman was designated the first missionary to Bellwood by the Epiphany Baptist Church, and the little church was renamed "The Light of the World Rescue Mission." Sunday School attendance soon reached 100, straining the capacity of the little church/home. The ministry included weekly worship service, Sunday School, welfare work during Depression days and visits to the jails of Melrose Park, Maywood, Elmhurst and Bellwood.
This ministry continued for 20 years. After Albert Tessman's death in 1944, Katherine, in an effort to ensure that the work would continue after her death, asked the Classical Home Mission Board of the Christian Reformed Church to take over the work.
This relationship with the Christian Reformed denomination deepened the church's foundational understanding of the Bible as the inspired word of God. It also tapped into the denomination's strong Dutch heritage, its deep roots in the Reformation, its commitment to missions and its belief that all members are called to live 24/7 lives that reflect their faith.
Though the years, the church continued to grow. In the 1960s, when that growth brought a need for more space, a large parcel of land in a new Elmhurst neighborhood provided that space. Once the church was established in its new home in Elmhurst, God impressed upon the congregation's heart the importance of reaching out to its neighbors through the development of two significant ministries that would change forever the face and future of Elmhurst CRC: Little Lambs and Coffee Break.
Under the direction of Senior Pastor Bert DeJong, who was called to serve Elmhurst CRC in the early 1980s, the church experienced the impact of continued expansion in membership and programs. By the turn of the 20th century, it became obvious that the congregation would again face the challenge of ministering effectively within the constraints of a facility that could no longer provide adequate space for its existing members, much less new opportunities for ministry.
Today, Elmhurst CRC opens its arms and doors to a much broader congregation from its highly visible and welcoming location facing Roosevelt Road. Another new stop on its journey and one that links the church's past to its present and future.