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Harvest Church celebrates 10 years ‘in the city’

By KAREN THIEL

For the Daily News

In 1978, 26 people worshipped in a barn on Slatestone Road. Tad Tankard says he remembers the first service like it was yesterday. He was a tobacco farmer then. He never dreamed that, 32 years later, on the first Sunday of 2020, hundreds of Harvest Church members would celebrate 10 years at their new home “in the city.”

Harvest’s first pastor, Maynard Waters, led the congregation until 1997, six years after the group moved into a larger building next to that barn. Church elders, praying about Waters’ successor, turned toward Tankard, also an elder.

“They said ‘you’,” Tankard remembered. “I told God, ‘If you’re speaking to me, you’ve got to confirm it to me… and the congregation’.”

Tankard prayed for a sign – that three pastors who didn’t know him would echo the elders. Within months, visiting pastors from Virginia, Alabama and North Carolina singled him out during services, saying he was God’s choice as the next pastor. The congregation made it plain that they agreed. Tankard — a graduate of Bath High School and ECU, a Marine Corps veteran and a tobacco farmer for 20 years — accepted God’s call.

AT THE HELM: Harvest Church Pastor Tad Tankard, pictured here with his wife Treva, had a vision 20 years ago of building a church on West 15th Street. After 10 years, that vision became a reality, and the church is celebrating a decade in the city this year. (Dana Jo Photography)

Returning from a hospital visit in 2000, Tankard passed the “old Lowes building” on 15th Street “and I saw the word ‘Harvest’ above it. I kept seeing that image (but) didn’t tell anyone, not even (his wife) Treva. Then I had two dreams… no building or property, just people of all colors and backgrounds who just wanted to worship and serve God. And I heard a voice saying, ‘I want it to look like Heaven.’”

Once he shared that with Treva, the elders and the congregation, and then endured ten years of site refusals, funding denials and construction delays, that vision become a reality. “When God has a plan, He will make a way,” Tankard said.

Harvest members and attendees now benefit from contemporary Bible-based worship services and sermons, personal prayer, youth programs, seminars, concerts, guest speakers, leadership training, food and prison outreaches, study groups, retreats, the Celebrate Recovery program and a brand new degree-granting Christian Voice School of Ministry.

“We want to bless this city… so when He opens a door, we’ll walk through it,” Tankard said.

PRAYING: Harvest Church Associate Pastor Brian prays with the family of Joeseph and Crystal Hollingworth. (Karen Thiel)

Washington resident Joyce Coward says she came to Harvest for the Celebrate Recovery program. Arriving from Chicago in 2013 after fleeing a domestic violence situation, she said life “wasn’t really that great… I had another relationship issue here, and felt like I had nobody.”

After attending a few CR meetings in 2014, Coward said she “liked the people, the atmosphere and I didn’t see anybody judging anyone.”

She noted that the “hurts, habits and hang-ups” addressed in CR included domestic violence. Because of the recovery she obtained there, Coward has recently begun volunteering at the Ruth’s House domestic violence shelter. But she didn’t simply stay in Celebrate Recovery.

“I was already looking for a church… so I showed up one Sunday and loved it from the first service. I felt a connection, like this was my new family. It’s been totally life-changing,” she said.

That’s one of the things Tankard loves about what’s happened at Harvest.

“Our whole vision is that ‘the kingdom’ isn’t about church but, rather, church is a vehicle for the kingdom of God,” he said. “It is God who fulfilled this vision. There’s nothing we’ve done except love people and preach His word.”