Tonawanda News — Over the years, he’s been on a number of mission trips, visiting the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and other areas, taking part in internships in various churches and starting a nursing home ministry program in Williamsville as part of the practical experience for his master’s degree. Feeling a call to plan a church, he started looking throughout the region and felt drawn by North Tonawanda.
“I like the small city atmosphere of North Tonawanda, the community that lives here,” said Richbart, who grew up in and currently lives in Sanborn. “I felt it was a place that needed a church. I want to make an impact on the community.
“We want it to be a place where people feel comfortable, no matter who they are, what they’ve done, their race, whatever. They’re welcome here. We want to help people grow in their relationship with God in this community, in NT.”
The leadership team of iHope Community Church will include the Richbarts and worship leader Joel Dibble. Mike Richbart, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in intercultural studies and Biblical studies from Houghton College, also serves as youth director at the Vine Wesleyan Church in Depew. He will be leading a youth group ministry at iHope Community Church starting in early October.
“I think a lot of the time kids are just looking for a place to hang out with friends and a place to have fellowship that’s not filled with the temptation of alcohol or other things,” he said. The group will start with grades seven through 12, with the potential to split into two age groups as time goes on.
“I feel like a lot of people talk about God’s love, but not too many are open to showing it in the community or to others,” Mike Richbart said. “I hope in the youth group and the church we get those who actually care about people and show love for God and their fellow people.”