Published: April 28, 2014
Not long after reopening a tiny Woodland Park church in 2012, recently ordained minister Ken Hellmer saw it was time to alter his battle plan.
An Iraq War veteran coming off a 22-year stint in the Air Force, the retired master sergeant found himself presiding over a physical plant in rough shape and a congregation too small to fund necessary improvements.
At Peak Life Church, 201 N. Boundary St., faith wasn't a problem. Finances were.
"We got to a point where we were stagnant and we really needed manning and resources," he says. "We needed reinforcements."
On Tuesday, the cavalry arrived - a 15-man crew bearing trees to be planted, rocks to be arranged and irrigation lines meant to address the stagnant water that pools at a low-lying spot near the foundation of the building. The reinforcements came courtesy of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, which donated an estimated $15,000 worth of labor and materials for its annual service project - creating a new landscape in a single day.
Hellman, 46, is inclined to see it as a sign from above.
He entered the seminary in 2007, within a year of a tough deployment to Iraq, where he was an airfield manager attached to the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Mosul.
"You got mortared daily," he says. "My job was to make sure I kept that runway open."
He did, and when Hellmer returned to the U.S., he embarked on a new mission.
"I felt called to serve," he says. "What capacity I couldn't really tell you until I went down the path."
Through the Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God, Hellmer was assigned to revive a 40-year-old church most recently used as a daycare service. He handled some of the renovations himself, and although his fledgling church once accommodated up to 60 parishioners at an Easter Day service, attracting worshippers to the sanctuary became a challenge.
After a merger in January, Peak Life dropped its name and became the Woodland Park campus of Colorado Springs' Radiant Church - resulting in a boost in attendance that grew the congregation from 20 to 30, suggesting new life.
The free landscaping job came as a result of a chance meeting at a Colorado Springs Home Depot between Patrick Tanton, executive pastor of Radiant Church in Colorado Springs, and Dustin Hamilton of Sunflower Landscapes, who was looking for a service project on behalf of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado.
"It's nice to get up here and help them out," Hamilton said Tuesday while supervising the crew of landscapers.
Hellmer says he'll take all the help he can get while continuing to grow his flock.
"My heart is just to reach people - whatever God wants. We just want to keep moving forward," he says.