AP NEWS

Canvas Church prepares for Columbia Falls expansion

August 25, 2018

Canvas Church, currently based out of Kalispell, plans to expand into Columbia Falls in early September, when the doors open for the first Sunday services at its new campus.

Since its rebranding in 2014, the church has swelled from around 550 attendees to well over 3,000 at the Kalispell campus and around 160 at its branch in Cutbank.

Now the leaders of the church hope to fill a need in Columbia Falls, Creston, the Canyon and beyond, and the pastors said the members currently commuting from those areas to Kalispell have voiced their excitement at having their home church move closer.

“It’s Columbia Falls people putting on the Columbia Falls church,” said Canvas Kalispell’s Lead Pastor Kevin Geer.

According to Geer, he and other church leaders began planning for the expansion into Columbia Falls when he joined the staff around six years ago, but had to wait for God’s timing and provision to make it happen.

“Columbia Falls is just a great city and it’s ripe with opportunity,” Geer said.

The pieces began coming together at the beginning of this year, when the superintendent of an abandoned Assembly of God church in Columbia Falls donated the empty building to Canvas.

What Geer didn’t know about at the time, he said, was his personal connection to the building: many years ago, his grandfather served as pastor there, and it’s where his parents were married.

“It’s a surreal kind of thing,” Geer said. “I love Jesus. I’m a religious person, and it still blows my mind what we see taking place.”

The next challenge the church faced in the expansion was appointing the right pastor to shepherd the new congregation.

They found their answer in Al Esquivel, a church member who was, at the time, enjoying a successful career in medical supplies sales in the Flathead but who also boasted the qualifications and background needed for the role.

Esquivel attended Life Pacific College, a bible college in San Dimas, California where he received pastoral training before going on to obtain his master’s in business administration from the Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California.

Esquivel and his wife, Amy, moved from their home in Ventura, California to Kalispell four years ago and soon after found Canvas Church in Kalispell.

The couple and their three young daughters got involved in various ministries throughout the church, growing in faith as well as responsibility among their church family.

Over time, Esquivel said he began to feel a tug on his heart to leave his job and take on a leadership role within the church.

About a week after securing the building in Columbia Falls, Geer sat down with Esquivel to discuss how they felt God was directing them and came to the conclusion that Esquivel was perfect for the job.

In May, he and his family moved to Columbia Falls in preparation of the new campus’ opening.

“I feel like it’s an honor and a privilege, and what an opportunity to be a part of something God’s doing,” Esquivel said.

He and a community of volunteers have spent the last several months remodeling their new building on Third Avenue West to fit their needs.

The sanctuary can hold an estimated 140 people, but Esquivel said he anticipates at least triple that number to walk through the doors when they open.

The church will launch with three Sunday morning services at 9, 10:30 and 11:50 a.m.

While the sermon will be delivered via video streaming from the main campus in Kalispell, the church will feature a live worship team performing the same style of music led by Worship Director Kaitlyn McKinney.

The new campus will also offer a full children’s ministry for kids from pre-K to fifth grade led by Children’s Director Breann Moon.

As lead pastor, Esquivel said his role will be to walk along people on their spiritual journey, doing life with them and providing guidance and direction to his teams and the greater Columbia Falls community.

The new building’s construction still needs work before its anticipated opening Sept. 9.

However, thanks to volunteers and community members donating their time, services and materials, the “Canvasizing” process of the new building should be finalized on time and under budget, according to Esquivel, though he declined to give an estimated cost.

He said he also has a team of 60 volunteers from the Kalispell campus committed to attending and helping get the church up and running on Sundays and, eventually, on Saturdays as well.

For more information about Canvas Church or to make a donation, visit http://canvas.church/.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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