By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
There's a new church in town, and it's congregation hopes to become a part of the 'Highway of Holiness' that is Interstate 35.
'We wanted to be on the highway,' said the Rev. Gary Pemberton, pastor at Water Life Christian Center at 5106 S. General Bruce Drive in Temple. 'Not just because of the exposure, but because of what God is doing there. He wanted us to be on I-35.'
Pemberton's not alone in believing that I-35 has divine preference. In the 'Light of the Highway' movement that caught the media's attention in 2007, hundreds of people claimed I-35 to be the road referenced in Isaiah 35:8. That winter during construction projects at various sites on I-35, believers prayed, exclaiming the prophecy in Isaiah was coming true. They prayed for 35 straight days on the roadside in the Interstate's major cities, from Dallas to Minneapolis.
'All over the world people know the name of I-35,' Pemberton said, though he's not familiar with the 'Light of the Highway' movement. 'They know that God's going to move His spirit. It (I-35) is what He'll use to bring the North and South together, and we want to be a part of it.'
Pemberton said his congregation at Water Life is Christian.
'Jesus is the heartbeat behind everything we do,' Pemberton said. 'We want to exalt Jesus; touch people with the love, light, and power of God; empower believers to be all they can be in the power of Jesus; and impact the world.'
They are charismatic in nature. The dozen people who attended a Feb. 10 prayer service expressed faith through speaking in tongues and walking in trances.
'The power of the Lord is with us,' Pemberton said.
God's healing power is of special importance to the church.
'We've seen in first hand,' Pemberton said. 'There are adopted children in some of our families who have serious problems, one with brain damage and another born addicted to crack. We've prayed, and God has done amazing work with them.'
Pemberton, his wife Susan and David and Jannie Tallarigo of Temple were the first four members of the church.
'We started to meet in 2007 at the Tallarigo's house,' Pemberton said. 'And we started to pray for healing, deliverance and restoration. Then we started to grow.'
As the group grew, it continued to meet in households until a building became available.
'It used to be Grapplers Lair, a karate school. My son took lessons there,' Pemberton said. 'We got it in March and started doing renovations.'
The church opened for Sunday services last fall. It's grown to include Bible studies, Wednesday night prayer activities and a youth outreach program.
Attendance averages 15 to 40.
'I'm excited about being involved,' said member Lenny Bowes of Belton. 'I'm looking forward to seeing our church get involved with the community and start helping people.'
Long-term outreach plans include the launching of a church-supported food pantry.
'It's one of the programs we're most excited about,' Pemberton said. 'We're at the size now to where we can take on a project like that.'
Pemberton's congregation also wants to help bring the unchurched to Christ.
'What we're here to focus on people,' Pemberton said. 'And give them what they need to become the people God wanted them to be.'
And that means taking the church beyond the walls of its new building.
'We're meant to be in the streets, out in the work place and the market place,' Pemberton said. 'The spirit of God is everywhere.'