Gospel work in Marion began in 1951, after a brother and his wife moved to the area because of employment. When Ronald Borrett took a position at Collins Radio it marked the beginning of outreach work in the Marion community. A woman named Mrs. Fields who was confined to a wheelchair and suffered from bone cancer, was contacted. She was unable to leave her home to attend meetings, so brother Borrett gained her permission to have gospel meetings in her home. He shared the preaching with Oliver Smith. Mrs. Fields was saved in 1953.
Another couple from a nearby town had been reached in the early fifties through gospel efforts by Oliver Smith and Paul Elliott. Other efforts were held in outlying towns during this time with blessing in salvation. A third couple, who lived about 15 miles from Marion and were in fellowship in the Manchester assembly, also supported these efforts. Meetings began in Marion proper in 1957 when a small room above a railroad union hall was rented. The first remembrance of the Lord Jesus Christ occurred on March 11, 1962 with 20 believers gathered to the Lord’s Name,
From this humble beginning others were saved, baptized, and added to the fellowship, and some passed on to glory. When the present writer and his wife moved to the area in 1967, along with another couple also coming for work, the assembly had grown to 25. By this time a new hall had been built, and the opening meeting took place in early 1967. In those early days in the new building, there was room to spare, and a composite floor in the auditorium made for some noisy and interesting experiences. Thankfully, in time, the hard, old floor was carpeted and the situation improved!
Of all of the series of meetings held in the Gospel Hall, one series in particular stands out. In 1978, there was a deep burden for souls, and the saints had been urgently entreating the Lord for their children and others. Meetings were planned for late March and early April. Just prior to the start of the meetings, a young girl without assembly connections was invited to regular Sunday night gospel meetings. After attending several meetings she professed to be saved just a week before the series was to start. Mr. John Slabaugh and Mr. William Lavery came to preach the gospel. From the first night there was a stir, and another soul was saved that first week. Meetings continued for six weeks with blessing each week. By the end of the series 17 souls had trusted Christ. The week after they ended, another young teenage girl was reached as well. God was good, and some of these souls came into assembly fellowship, with a few remaining to this day. Others moved away, some drifted away, and one young man simply disappeared without telling anyone where he was going. So in that series we saw good seed sown, some on good ground, some on stony ground, and some by the wayside.
Since then, more than 25 different servants have participated in gospel series. A number of others have come for special series of ministry meetings, and others have visited on single nights and Lord’s days. Mr. Norman Crawford visited for a particularly memorable and outstanding series in ministry on the “Feasts of Jehovah.” The subject was rich with teaching on the Person of Christ and was presented in an interesting way. Series like this helped mold the hearts and lives of the young, and encouraged us all to live for Christ.
Many of the Lord’s servants who have visited the assembly are now home in the glory. Mr. John Slabaugh made Marion his residence in his last years until the Lord called him and his dear wife home to be with Himself. One servant who spent much time in the early years helping establish the saints was Mr. Herbert Dobson, who lived in the Chicago area. He had a worrisome way of leaning forward at the very edge of the platform, but despite the worry that he would fall, his visits were always lively and helpful. Another memorable visit was from Mr. Clay Fite, who held his audience spellbound with his unique presentation and connection to his listeners. On one such visit, during the era of the hard composite floor, a young mother was trying to keep her daughter quiet, but a small, round object got away, rolled down the aisle, spun around in front of the platform several times and finally came to rest. Mr. Fite never missed a beat, and at the end of the meeting he came down, picked up the little toy and delivered it to the red faced mother as he walked to the back.
Today there are about 70 in fellowship with a nice mixture of ages and genders. With over a dozen seniors beyond the four-score mark in the fellowship, there is much awareness that, apart from the Lord’s soon return, the potential decrease in numbers is a reality that we have to face. One of the factors contributing to the increase in numbers has been job opportunities in the Cedar Rapids/Marion area, along with the proximity of the University of Iowa in Iowa City, where several in fellowship make their home. Some drive over 80 miles one way to be able to attend meetings and are faithful to the assembly gatherings. Another factor in the growth of the assembly was the construction of the Linn Manor Care Center, which opened its doors in 1979. Many have come to reside in the home, and others have come to help with their care. Since its inception, several of the workers, as well as a couple of the residents, have professed salvation. One of these dear saints was received into fellowship but has since gone home to be with her Savior.
As we look for future blessing, our greatest need is the continued presence of the Lord, with His power being manifested in our individual lives. A burden was felt several years ago to reach out to our young people, and with this burden began an annual weekend of ministry. This effort has attracted up to 100 young folks from far and near. Despite the fact that it is held the last week in January, we have never had to cancel because of bad weather, althoug one year we did dismiss early so people could get back home.
One thing that has consistently characterized the believers over the years is their love for the lost and outreach work in nearby communities. For over 30 years a children’s work has been conducted in Palo, a town about 20 miles from Marion. There is also an ongoing work with those who speak Spanish in West Liberty, about an hour away. A younger couple who speaks Spanish lives in the area where the brother is a school teacher. The wife and her parents came from El Salvador. For the past nine or 10 years, younger brethren have conducted a one night meeting in the county jail where approximately twenty inmates gather to hear the Word of God. Only God knows how many hearts have been touched by hearing His Word.
There are many things that could be said concerning the planting and growth of the Marion assembly. One very pertinent fact remains: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!” May the Lord grant to all of us devotion to His Divine Person and faithfulness to follow in His steps until our days on earth are ended.