For the past 32 Thanksgiving days, the doors of Roanoke Baptist Church have been opened from 9 AM to 10 AM for anyone who wanted to join them in giving thanks.
James Bachman, pastor of Roanoke Baptist Church, had an experience with a Russian Olympic skier nearly 40 years ago that made him decide a Thanksgiving Day service was essential.
This skier was a Christian and had worked diligently to make the Olympic team, hoping for a chance to escape his homeland. His parents had been severely persecuted in Russia for their faith. The Lord enabled him to make the team. During a meet in Austria he was able to slip his bodyguards and flee to the embassy, where he was granted asylum. He was finally given permission to come to the United States of America, where he acquired a job as a ski instructor.
On his first Thanksgiving in America the Russian skier was hitchhiking his way north in Michigan to the ski resort where he had been employed.
Knowing God had so greatly blessed this great country, he envisioned the churches would be packed on Thanksgiving Day. He arose early and stopped at many churches in Grand Rapids, only to find the doors locked. He traveled north to the next city of Rockford, finding all the churches empty and locked also. Discouraged but not defeated, he came to Cedar Springs and saw the First Baptist Church right on the highway. He stopped and rattled the locked front door. Pastor Bachman was inside, and hearing the noise, opened the door. The stranger asked him in broken English if there was a Thanksgiving Day service. Pastor Bachman explained that they had had a service the previous evening. He welcomed the stranger in and after praying together, they got acquainted.
Hearing the skier’s story and seeing his disappointment, Pastor Bachman made a commitment that as long as he was a senior pastor the doors of his church would be open every Thanksgiving Day morning, and so they have been.
This Thanksgiving Day Pastor Bachman and his wife will be in Germany visiting their missionary son Mark and his family. An assistant pastor will conduct the Thanksgiving Day service at the Roanoke Baptist Church at I-469, Exit One, from 9 AM to 10 AM. Besides much giving of thanks, the story of the Russian skier will be relayed by tape. The public is invited.