A Brief History of Alma, Arkansas
The Work Begins
In 1965, it looked like prospects were excellent for organizing a branch Sabbath school near Alma, as the result of Bible studies that had been conducted by Ralph Wheeler (Jameson, 1965). However, nothing more was done until 2007.
Alma Group Started in 2008
In 2007, Ozark church members, hoping to start a church in Alma, asked the Ozark church to be their sponsor. At their church board meeting on July 15, 2007, the Ozark church voted to do so and said they would supply them with quarterlies and other things they would normally use as members of the church (Fisher, 2007). The group was officially started on April 12, 2008 (Simpson, 2009), with approximately forty-five adults and children from Fort Smith and Ozark churches in attendance.
Alma SDA Company Organized in 2010
The group began renting a storefront at 731 Fayetteville Avenue in Alma, for their meeting place and by the end of 2009 they had thirty to thirty-five people in attendance every week. On February 20, 2010, the Alma SDA Company was organized (Simpson, 2010). That year they purchased the building they had been renting so they could make improvements by building a baptistry and completing a new sanctuary. There was room to seat sixty people and still have space for Sabbath school rooms and a fellowship hall (Alma, 2010). Renovations were completed and paid for by the end of 2016 (Alma, 2017).
Wall Damaged and Building Condemned in 2019
On Wednesday, June 12, 2019, construction-related activities were being carried out by Steven Beam Construction, Inc. on the property adjacent to the Alma church. The contractors dug too far when digging the footing for a wall between the church and the city’s new parking lot on the corner of Walnut St. and Fayetteville Ave. They hit the church’s foundation along the south wall, making it too dangerous to keep the building standing. The wall began to collapse and the building was condemned and determined unsafe for entry (Beaumont, 2019). The members were not even allowed to go in to remove any contents. Alma mayor, Jerry Martin, said the contractor went against the city’s wishes. He said the city’s engineer told the contractor to lay the footing for the new wall in 12-foot segments. “For whatever reason, the contractor went in there late one evening and they ended up digging the entire length of that wall,” Martin said (Claybrook, 2019).
The members were able to meet at the Community center the first Sabbath and then began meeting in the Methodist church. Meanwhile, the Conference Associations department gave the information to Williams Law Firm in Gentry, and they began negotiating on behalf of the Alma church to come to some kind of agreement as to whether the city would repair the damages or make a settlement payment (Downs, 2019). At the end of July 2019 Elder Burnham Rand received a letter from Jerry Parsons, the City of Alma building official, issuing a demolition order. The city engineer advised that the building was unstable and “likely to fail in an uncontrolled manner.” The church was asked to proceed with demolition immediately to “reduce risk of injury to persons and damage to property” (Parsons, 2019). “It’s been very hard because, emotionally, there are a lot of things that you want to retrieve,” Rand said. “It was so compromised, you couldn’t identify it, but everything was just taken to the landfill” (Claybrook, 2019).
Alma’s New Church in 2021
Soon after the accident which led to the demolition of the church building, the contractor whose crew had inadvertently undermined the building, called. “Pastor, I feel so badly about the loss of your church, I want to do something for you. Whenever and wherever you rebuild, I want to donate all the labor required to make your foundation.” Months and months passed. Doors opened and closed as the members investigated potential properties. Finally, in God’s providential timing they acquired a new location on a four and a half acre plot.
Early on, however, they discovered in a downpour that they were shoe-top deep in water in the gravel parking lot. By then, most of the funds were depleted and they really needed a resolution to their parking lot problem. Not knowing how he would respond, they called the contractor. “We were wondering…we have purchased a church building, so we won’t require the foundation work you so graciously offered, but we sure need a parking lot. Would you be inclined to help us with that?” they asked. The pastor, Burnham Rand, remembers cringing and breathing a prayer about then. “You bet!” came the quick answer.
A couple of months later construction began. Considerable excavation improved the grade of the land to allow good drainage, framing was in place, concrete was poured and finished. Now, by God’s blessing and the generosity of the contractor, they have a wonderful parking lot. The church opening was delayed until the middle of February 2021. The members praise God for the miracle of the new Alma Seventh-day Adventist church building! (Connections, 2021)
(2010, Jul. 1). Alma Church. Arkansas Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists.
(2017, Jan. 1). Ibid.
(2021, Feb/Mar). Alma’s Added Blessing (adapted), Connections, p. 6.
Beaumont, Kevin. (2019). Letter from McClelland Consulting Engineers, Inc. to the Alma Seventh-day Adventist church.
Claybrook, Emma. (2019, Sep. 17). Alma Church Condemned After Contractor’s Mistake. Retrieved from 4029tv.com.
Downs, Marjorie. (2019, Jul. 8). Email.
Fisher, Betty. (2007, Jul. 15). Church Board Minutes.
Jameson, J. S. (1965, Sep. 22). Southwestern Union Record, p. 2.
Parsons, Jerry. (2019, Jul. 26). Letter to Pastor Burnham Rand from the City of Alma.
Rand, Burnham. (2019, Sep. 17). Alma Church Condemned After Contractor’s Mistake. Retrieved from 4029tv.com.
Simpson, Chris. (2009, Mar. 9). Alma SDA Company. Retrieved from eadventist.net.
Ibid. (2010, Feb. 22).