MOON LAKE – Five women stood outside the doorway of their church last week and watched as the "good Lord's rain" pelted the unfinished parking lot and building materials littering the church grounds.
For years, the women and other Moon Lake Christian Fellowship Center worship groups have met for prayers and ministry outside the developing shell of their church.
The 200-member congregation set out a manger scene each Christmas when the lot was only trees and scrub. They doled out free food and clothes to the needy from a table next to the concrete foundation. They attended a wedding under the steel reinforcement beams that would someday hold up a roof.
The idea for this church was born more than a decade ago. After years of hope, faith and the hard work of volunteers, the 3,000-square-foot sanctuary is now just a hook-up to the county sewer and electric grid away from being complete. That should be done by next month, as long as they can raise $10,000 for impact and contractor fees.
But this weekend, instead of meeting for Sunday service in the pastor's garage or the nearby civic center, the congregation will hear its first sermon on the church's grounds.
Today's topic: the Ten Commandments.
"It's time to leave Egypt," said pastor's wife Marie Tuller, 56, as she and the other women watched the rain Wednesday.
"And move into the promised land," finished Arienne Galbraith, 37.
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Ten years ago, the Florida Association of General Baptists bought an acre off Moon Lake Road with plans to build a church for the worshippers at the Moon Lake Christian Fellowship.
The next year, the congregation planted a wooden cross into the grass by Moon Lake Road to mark where the sanctuary would stand.
Half a decade passed and the wooden cross still sat there, engulfed by the same trees, now taller, that crowded the lot years before.
By then, the General Baptists had withdrawn their funding from the project, claiming it never really took off.
Pastor Lad Dubovsky took the church's construction into his own hands. In December 2005, the Moon Lake Christian Fellowship's leader took out a second mortgage on his New Port Richey home and bought the land for $50,000.
"What can I say, I stepped to the plate," said Dubovsky, 58, who receives no salary as the church's pastor and works part-time as a mental health counselor with Catholic Charities in Spring Hill. "It's a matter of putting your heart where it's going to help people."
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The same month Dubovsky bought the land, a little girl – he doesn't remember her name – came by the wooded lot with her mother to admire the congregation's nativity scene.
She put 39 cents in the manger next to a replica of the baby Jesus.
"She said 'I want to help build this church,' " Dubosvky recalled.
The quarter, two nickels and four pennies are pressed into the foundation at the front of the church. The coins serve as a reminder of all those who have given their support over the past decade.
The church, built with cinder block walls, has the simple look of a sanctuary built on a no-frills budget. Volunteers painted, moved dirt and donated building supplies, saving the church hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"It was like one miracle after another miracle," Dubovsky said.
That's how he and his congregation explain all the good that comes their way. They call on their Lord's blessing for all their needs. When it rains, they pray their congregation will drive home safely. When a member is sick, they hold hands and ask that he be healed.
When a reporter comes by to write an article, they sing Amazing Grace and lay their hands on the reporter's notebook. With eyes closed, they pray aloud that their church's story is told.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 435-7312.