Ben Bielenberg is a Calvary Alum (CBC ‘13) working as a missionary in the small town of Blue Mound, Kansas. He and his wife, Krista, have three children. Through connections made at Calvary, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Pastoral Studies, Ben got involved with Village Missions, whose mission statement is, “helping country churches thrive.”
Ben and his family moved to Blue Mound so he could be the head pastor of Federated Church right in the center of town. He is the first pastor in a long time to actually live in town; “the previous pastors lived in Kansas City and would drive down every Sunday to do service. They never lasted very long doing that.” Because he lives in town, Ben has gotten several opportunities to build relationships with the community in ways such as serving on the local volunteer fire department.
It is because of Ben’s relationship with the community that the Blue Moon Youth Center has been so successful. The building which Blue Moon is located in today was originally built in 1947 as a local theater. Several people throughout the years have attempted to utilize the building as a theater, but because of the nature of a small town, businesses tend to die pretty quickly. When Ben realized this space was just sitting empty, he quickly brought it to the attention of his church board, saying, “Why is nobody using this space? We should be using it!”
In the summer of 2018, the Federated Church purchased the building from the city and began construction to update it. Many people were so excited for the new community center to be built that they were willing to put in time, effort, and money into helping turn it into something great. Even the people who were not regular church attenders joined Ben during construction. This gave Ben more opportunity to build relationships with community members outside his church. In the summer of 2020, Blue Mound was hosting a car show when a stranger stopped by to show off his car. While there, he heard about the community center. He loved the idea and wanted to help. He turned out to be the owner of a theater equipment company. He happened to have old (but still in good condition) theater equipment on hand. The man decided to donate that equipment and even had his employees help set it up.
Today, the Blue Moon Youth Center is being used nearly every single night. “Throughout the week there are various Bible studies which meet there, and every weekend we show movies for free—a different movie on each night.” They charge a dollar or two for food and snacks. This makes it a great and affordable place for families to hangout on the weekends. There are really only two other businesses in town aside from the Blue Moon Youth Center: one of them is a local restaurant and the other is a bar. “We have a bit of a running joke that we’re in competition with the bar to see who has more cars in the parking lot each night.”
Ben attributes the success of the youth center to God. “He clearly orchestrated it all from the beginning. I mean, nearly everything we use at Blue Moon was donated.” Even the timing was clearly God’s work. Ben was able to get to know the locals and become one of them. “Anytime an outsider comes into town to start a business, it doesn’t last long.” God has used the time Ben has spent amongst the community to build trust and lasting relationships, leading to many conversations about the Gospel.