Barn razed to make chapel possible at New Life

Lisa Depies
New Life Dream Center staff and clients celebrate the demolition of an old chicken coop on the program’s farm in rural Geneseo. The building will be replaced with a prayer chapel.

As an endloader knocked over an old chicken coop in rural Geneseo, the women from New Life Covenant’s Dream Center could hardly contain their excitement.

The women cheered, clapped and captured the moment on video before rushing to snap a celebratory group shot in front of the building, which was demolished on Aug. 16.

“This is just so tremendously exciting,” said Alice Altiery, a pastor at the Dream Center. Volunteers currently are raising funds to replace the now-demolished building with a small chapel.

Founded in 2002, the Dream Center is part of an outreach program operated by the Chicago church New Life Covenant.

As part of the church’s mission outreach, it runs a 15-month program designed to help drug-addicted women reform their lives by becoming clean and sober and developing a relationship with Christ.

The initial five months of the program are spent in Chicago, followed by five months at the church-owned farm located on Hwy 82 between Geneseo and Cambridge, and then five months back in Chicago.

Nine program participants live at the farm, and finding quiet times for themselves can be difficult.

For many of the Dream Center women, the chicken coop was a place where they could spend time in solitude with God.

“We use to have to schedule time alone (for the women),” said Altiery.

The building’s run-down state meant when it rained or snowed, the women would have to battle the elements to find privacy.

“Having this place to pray and have little services will mean the world to us,” said Altiery.”

While at the farm, Miriam, a previous program participant said God gave her a vision that someday it would be a prayer chapel, explained Debby Ivey a Geneseo resident who regularly volunteers at the farm.

Volunteers decided to try and make Miriam’s vision a realty.

Originally, volunteers had hoped to convert the barn into a prayer chapel, but the building is in such poor condition it’s more cost effective to tear down the structure, said Ivey.

The plan is to purchase a building kit and construct a prayer chapel. Ivey said she hopes funds for the project can be raised by Labor Day.

Altiery said she envisions the planned chapel being a place that will help bring “serenity and peace” into the lives of Dream Center women.

“It won’t be the same as going to a regular church, but it will be our own little place  ... a sanctuary for the women,” she said.

“We’re excited about what has happened to this little farm. God’s got a big smile on his face,” Altiery added.

A fund for the chapel has been set up at First United Methodist Church in Geneseo and anything raised above and beyond what is needed will help defray day-to-day operation costs at the farm.

For donation information, contact Ivey at 944-2050.