Golden Lampstands of Iowa - West Union

 
West Union
Many truly great things begin in a small way. This was true of the Assembly in West Union.
The Gospel of the grace of God was first preached in the area in 1941. Brethren Louis H. Brandt and William Warke pitched a tent in Volga, Iowa, about 18 miles from West Union. Three souls were saved by God's grace - two sisters and a sister-in-law. These three had been previously exercised about the second coming of Christ and were telling others about this great event, although they had never been born again.
July 10, 1942 - Brethren Louis Brandt and George Gould pitched a tent In the town park in Wadena, about 6 miles from West Union. After a few weeks of meetings, the opposers of the Gospel persuaded the town fathers to have the tent removed, as it was on town property. One good-hearted woman from the town offered her lawn for the tent. Opposition continued and no souls were saved. Mr. Wahls writes that he remembers the Garnavillo Christians had an 'open-air' meeting in this town a year or two previously. The meeting was held on the sidewalk near a grocery store, and a nice little crowd had gathered to listen to the preaching. The owner of the store was furious. He came out and stopped the meeting, and asked the question, "Who gave you permission to preach here?" One of our number spoke up, "The Government of the United States." The owner of the store replied, "Then get out on the street, you are standing on my property." We moved out into the street, the crowd remained, and the meeting continued.
Mr. Warke passed through the town of Clermont, 11 miles north of West Union and wondered if the Gospel had ever been preached in this little town, nestled in the valley near the Turkey River. He mentioned this to Mr. Brandt; their exercise increased, and in July 1943 these two brethren looked for a yacant lot in this town, but it was like Jericho, "straitly shut up." Then they proceeded east four miles to the town of Elgin On their way to Elgin, Mr. Warke said to Mr. Brandt, "We will ask the Lord for the best lot in town." The Lord gave it to them--a lot between a barbershop and the city park. There was opposition, and one night the tent ropes were cut. When the brethren came the next day, they found the tent down; and on close examination, they found such a smooth cut that they concluded that only a razor could have been used. However, in questioning the barber, it was denied. The tent was put up again and remained standing until the meetings closed on August 26th. Christians from Garnavillo supported these meetings.
There was quite a little talk and gossip in the town and in the surrounding area. It was said the evangelists were after the people's money and that it would cost $500 to get saved, etc. Orin Nutting, who had been saved a few years previously in a Salvation Army Meeting in Chicago, was working for Herman Boyer, a farmer near Brainard. They heard about the meetings In Elgin and all the stories about the money, etc., so
out of curiosity they went to the meeting. When Orin heard the gospel clearly preached, he was impressed.
Because he saw that it was the true gospel, he called on his brother Gene near Brainard, and his brother Bill, and tried to persuade them to come to the meetings. Bill was not persuaded then, but Gene went the next evening. He heard nothing about money, but was impressed with the gospel and especially the large Two-Roads Chart that hung on the wall. He saw that he was on the outside of the door and on the broad way that leads to destruction. The next day he called on his brother Bill and persuaded him to come along one night. Earlier Bill gave the excuse that his car was old, as it was during hard times, and that he didn't have the gas to come. After once hearing the gospel, however, nothing more was said about an old car and no gas. On the way home from the meeting, Gene asked Bill if he would go again the next evening. Bill said, "Yes, I'll go one more night because I have a question to ask those men." As they were on their way to the meeting the next night, Bill said to Gene, "Those men came to see me today." Gene asked "Did you get your question answered?" Bill replied, "Yes, pretty quick." Whatever the question and answer was matters little, but Bill evidently was convicted and saw his need of salvation. The result of these meetings was the salvation of Gene, Bill, his wife Doris, Melvin Nutting, and their mother, lovingly called by many, Grandma Nutting. George Walvatne and family of West Union came to these meetings. George and his daughter Arlene had been saved a few years previously in some meetings held in a country church by a traveling evangelist. Thus the interest in the Walvatne family was stirred as well.
On October 31st of this same year, Brethren Brandt and Warke obtained the use of the basement of the Opera House in Clermont. Interest was good and some from the town and the surrounding area came to these meetings as well as some from West Union.
Beginning March 19, 1944, meetings were again held by these brethren in the same building. Interest was good and Vernal Walvatne was saved. Mrs. Lila Barnhouse was under deep conviction.
After those meetings closed, Bill and Doris Nutting of Brainard opened their home for gospel meetings, inviting their neighbors--among them the Lester Cram family. Two of the Cram boys walked to the meeting the first night carrying a lantern. They brought back a good report and the next night the whole Cram family came and continued nightly. The result of these meetings was the salvation of Lester and his wife Leta, and Mrs. Lila Barnhouse.
August 17, 1944- Mr. Brandt and Mr. Warke put up the tent in West Union near the watertower. Those meetings went on for four weeks. Four professed to be saved. A good-hearted woman of the town came early every evening, bringing candy and the daily newspaper for the preachers--rather unusual. There was a severe thunderstorm one night interrupting the meeting. The wind and rain were fierce. Mr. Brandt went out in the rain and pounded down the stakes to tighten the ropes. However, the tent would have gone down, but every man grabbed a tent rope and hung on until the wind abated. Later in the night, another storm brought the tent down, destroying it for further use. Another tent was secured and the meetings continued.
October 22, 1944 - Louis Brandt and Sam Hamilton started meetings  Clermont. Two were saved in those meetings.
In late December of 1944, Henry Wahis accompanied Louis Brandt on a visit to the homes of those people who had shown interest in the gospel and to the homes of those who had professed to be saved.  They gave them Choice Gleaning Calendars. In visiting in the homes, they could see that those who were saved had no place to go on the Lord's Day, but were like sheep without a shepherd. On April 8, 1945, Henry Wahis and Robert Brandt rented the basement of the Opera House in Clermont and held Gospel meetings on the Lord's Day evenings, seeking to gather the sheep together. Those who had been saved in meetings at Elgin, Brainard, West Union and Clermont attended as well ae others that were interested.
After a few Sunday night meetings, George Walvatne suggested having these Sunday night meetings in his home in West Union, which was more centrally located than Clermont. After some meetings in the Walvatne home, Bill Nutting suggested meeting in their home, alternating with Walvatnes. The Christians now were inviting neighbors and friends to attend the meetings. Some of the Howard family became interested. Mrs. Elsie Howard remembered some tracts that had come in the mail from Garnavillo, perhaps a year or more before. She had not read them, but had put them away carefully. After hearing the Gospel preached in the Nutting home, she looked up these tracts and read them eagerly. After a few weeks, Mr. Brandt and Mr. Warke started a series of Gospel meetings in the Nutting home and then moved to the Oak Grove schoolhouse nearby. Elsie and John Howard and Norris Walvatne professed In these meetings. After these meetings closed, the regular Sunday night meetings held by Henry Wahls and Robert Brandt continued until the Assembly was formed. Later, other Garnavillo brethren shared the Sunday night meetings for some time.
January 28, 1945 - Louis Brandt and Oliver Smith had meetings in Hawkeye, a town about eight miles west of West Union. As usual, there was much gossip in the town such as "These men are after your money and will get your farms." However, the meetings continued until March 24th, with good interest. One young couple came regularly for a while and was quite concerned about their condition before God, but turned back and did not get saved. Two others professed faith in Christ.
June 24, 1945 - The first baptism was held in a stream at Echo Valley State Park; 14 were baptized - George Walvatne, Arlene, Gladys and Vernal Walvatne, Bill and Doris Nutting, Gene and Grandma Nutting, Mrs. Lila Darnhouse, Mr. Ohman from Hawkeye and four from Garnavillo. Mr. Brandt did the baptizing. It was a cloudy afternoon and after quite a few had been baptized, it rained heavily for a short time. The baptism continued, even though the stream rose and driftwood was coming down the stream. Grandma Nutting was the last to be baptized. One of her sons tried to persuade her to wait, but she pushed him aside and was baptized. This was a great day and long to be remembered.
August 18, 1946 - 2nd baptism at Echo Valley State Park. Those baptized - Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Nutting, Mrs. George Walvatne and Norris, Elsie and John Howard, Lester and Leta Cram and Mrs. Averil from Arlington, and four from Garnavillo.
January 1947 - Mr. Brandt and Mr. Wahls commenced a series of gospel meetings in the Lester Cram home near Brainard. A severe blizzard stopped the meetings for one week, but they continued after the roads were cleared. Willard Peck was then contacted, attended the meetings, and was saved on March 1st.
March 2, 1947 - In the Cram home that day, the West Union area Christians met for the first time as an assembly. The first hour before the breaking of bread, that morning Mr. Brandt spoke in ministry to the Christians while Mr. Wahls spoke to the children in another room. Those who comprised the meeting at that time were Mr. and Mrs. George Walvatne, Arlene, Gladys and Vernal Walvatne, Lester and Leta Cram, Bill, Doris, and Gene Nutting and Mrs. Glen Smith. The assembly meetings were held for some time alternating in the Cram home, the Walvatne home, and the Bill Nutting home.
The Freiden School was sold at auction and bought by the West Union Assembly. They had it moved to its present location at the end of East Elm Street. The building was put on a solid foundation with a basement, like Israel in II Chronicles 5:9 when the Ark was brought into its resting place in the Temple. "They drew out the staves----and there it is unto this day."
Since then, gospel meetings have been held at various times by different evangelists. Souls continued to be saved and were baptized and added to the assembly.
Yearly, on July 4th at the fairgrounds where meetings are held in a large open-sided auditorium, the assembly invites the neighboring assemblies of Iowa and Wisconsin to share with them a precious time of fellowship over God's word, with good food and fellowship added at mealtime.
Forty-two are now in fellowship from 19 families. Six have gone home to be with the Lord.
At the present - 1985 - The Assembly has outgrown the building. It is no longer large enough to comfortably accommodate all that come
regularly. The brethren are seriously considering enlarging the present building or building a new one.