Since 1936, Christians in East Peoria have congregated at a church on Leadley Blvd., currently owned by Last Harvest Ministry Church, as a spiritual Sunday tradition.
“You can’t beat the sound in the church,” Last Harvest pastor Bob Martin said. “It’s not your typical church. We’ve had a lot of people put it in books since we’ve been there.”
The church, formerly called Bethany Missionary Church, held its first Sunday School service Dec.6, 1936. Conceived as an idea in 1932, the original congregation held its first tent meeting in 1932 on Route 24 near Leadley Blvd. under the leadership of Rev. S.J. Grabil, the district superintendent of the Missionary Church Association.
Church services moved to East Peoria High School March 5, 1933 when the organization held its first official Sunday School with 33 people and was led by missionary Clara (Klint) Joder.
Bolstered by the encouragement of Rev. Walter Lugibihl of Mount Olive Missionary Church in Peoria, the congregation grew to 30 by Easter of 1933.
The church moved permanently to Leadley Blvd. in 1936 and held its first Sunday School Dec. 6 of that year.
“It’s a wonderful church,” Heather Martin, pastor Bob Martin’s wife said. “I love it. The people that have come and went there have been very good people. It’s nice to have church there.”
A steel roof that was originally a Quonset hut was transported by river barge from Chicago to East Peoria in 1936 as a donation from R G. LeTourneau.
“They floated the front section across the Illinois River, which caused quite a stir because it was non-union people that did it,” Heather Martin said
During the construction of the roof there were fights at the construction site between Peoria steel workers and the non-union workers assembling the project.
On Nov 14, 1937, an auditorium with the roof was added and “the little steel church,” as it would be nicknamed, was given a dedication by Dr. Harry Rimmer.
The final addition was given a dedication on Thanksgiving Day of 1947.
Bethany Missionary Church moved shop to a new building in 1967 and the current building on Leadley Blvd. switched owners.
Between the time Bethany Missionary Church left and Last harvest bought the building in 1999,
the church was owned by East Peoria Christian Church and a apostolic church.
“We were having church in Pekin and our pastor left us,” Heather Martin said. “My husband had a calling to minister and we started doing it house to house. We eventually decided to get together and buy a building. That one was the one the Lord layed upon our heart.”
Heather Martin said that, despite the small appearance of the building, it has plenty of size for Last Harvest.
“When you get inside, you realize that it is much bigger than it looks like from the outside,” Heather Martin said. “Being metal, you have a different type of acoustic; I love it when it rains because you can really near it on the roof.’ Last Harvest holds church at 10 a.m. Sundays at 223 Leadley Blvd in East Peoria.