The Legacy of Mt. Olive For well over 100 years, the congregation of Mt. Olive has worked together to meet the needs of people within the confines of our church building(s) and to make a difference for Jesus in the greater Peoria area.
Yesterday and Today
From its humble beginning in various homes and store fronts in 1904, God has blessed and added the increase to the work of Mt. Olive Missionary Church. We “dare not despise the day of small beginnings” because we’ve seen God’s faithful direction to this day. Even when Satan tried to thwart the effort, God intervened and turned bad into good.
At this time, Mt. Olive is in its third location. The first church building, 36x48, was erected in 1907, “the first church in the city to be constructed of cement block” as reported a local newspaper. It was located at 619 McBean St, on a lot donated by the first pastor, Rev. & Mrs. S.D. Burkey. The lot sat next door to their home on Webster St. The church prospered and was filled to capacity so necessary expansion began in December of 1930.
In 1954, after a ravaging fire, the congregation built a brick structure on South Madison Park Terrace where they worshiped until 1978 when they moved to the current location located at 5718 N. University St.
Our church, Mt. Olive Missionary, saw many needs in the community and answered God’s call for action.
In 1929, Mt. Olive opened a second location called Olivet (Little Olive). The congregation originally met in a 40x60 tent which was erected on California Street. Later, it renovated a saloon on the corner of New York and Lake Streets and eventually built a building of its own on Moneta St. In July 1934, twenty-two Mt. Olive members transferred their membership to become charter members of Olivet. A member of Mt. Olive, Rev. Earl Leonard, had just graduated from seminary and became Olivet’s first pastor.
In 1933, Mt. Olive asked their first missionary, Clara Klint, who was on furlough from Africa to conduct a Sunday School class in East Peoria to determine if the area should be considered for a church plant. The classes met in East Peoria Community High School. Eventually, Mt. Olive purchased a lot and built a 30x54 basement. R.G. LeTourneau, a prominent manufacturer in Peoria and member of Mt. Olive, donated a steel roof and the Bethany Missionary Church building was dedicated on November 1, 1937. Again, several Mt. Olive members transferred their membership to Bethany and gave many years of leadership to Bethany. Rev. Earl Leonard was again called to be the first pastor of this new church plant.
Growing the Service Community
Mt. Olive’s rich tradition does not include it own 4 walls and Church plants. Members in the past and present have assisted in growing community organizations
1. South Side Mission – In 1926 Rev. Lugibihl assisted Miss Helen of the former Hope Mission. The goal was to begin a new mission center. Rev. Lugibihl built equipment and dedicated the first building which would later become the South Side Mission. Upon the opening of the facility several from Mt. Olive volunteered in teaching Sunday school, baptisms, marriages and more for Peoria’s underprivileged. We, as a church, continue our support of the South Side Mission today in various ways.
2. Prison Ministry – Under Rev. Lugibihl guidance a group of members held monthly meetings at Peoria County Jail. One man was converted in the prison ministry, attended Mt. Olive and later went on to become the Directory of Prison Ministry. Our current Deacon Chairman participates in the prison ministry today.
3. Peoria Christian Center – It was the vision of Rev. Dan Demmin of Mt. Olive to have a recreational facility and meeting place for young people in the Peoria area. His vision became a reality when the Peoria Christian Center was officially founded in 1948. Today the Christian Center offers and an excellent facility and programs with Christian emphasis to the youth of Peoria and surrounding communities.
4. Peoria Rescue Ministries – Two widow ladies from Mt. Olive had a passion for the down and outers of the city. Helen Durdel and Florence Holzschuh rented a building on Adams St. A cup of coffee and donut were given in the name of Jesus to all who dared enter and claim the nourishment. This small beginning in 1955 has flourished and become a major ministry in the community. Today Peoria Rescue Ministries encompasses the Rescue Mission, Empower Life Center, Barnabas Center, Esther House, Victory Acres, and the International Ministry. Several members from Mt. Olive serve in different capacities in these ministries to this day.