Like many journeys, ours has been a great adventure. Here are a few of the highlights to help you understand a little of our journey. We hope to hear a little of yours as we get to know you.
The Original Vision
Gerry and Jamie LaFond were residents of Tolland with their two children, Dana and Jeremy. Gerry was a businessman and an elder at the River of Life Church in Windsor, CT. In 1994, Gerry felt the beginning of a call from the Lord to plant a church in Tolland with an emphasis on the presence of the Lord, love for people, a love for the community, an expression of God’s Holy Spirit, and a commitment to telling others about the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In May 1999, the Windsor church encouraged Gerry and Jamie and a few other families to start a bible study group in their home in Tolland. By September of that year nearly 40 people were gathering regularly.
In December of 1999 they decided to rent a small space in the Twin Ponds complex on Rt 195 and start regular Sunday services. Pastor Gerry’s motto was, “If this is God it will grow.” And it did.
In late 2000 the growing congregation moved to larger space on the bottom floor of the complex as people came to know Jesus and gather together in community. Pastor Gerry was well aware that the success of River of Life was not going to rest on church planting expertise, church growth programs or slick marketing. He was convinced that the most important thing was to follow Jesus in everything. When asked how he lead the church, he usually responded, “I pray, I listen, I do.”
Pastor Gerry unexpectedly died in June of 2003. After much prayer, seeking the Lord, and discussion among the leaders, Weston and Karen Brooks were called as Lead Pastors for our young congregation.
Weston and Karen had joined River of Life in early 2001 and became part of Gerry’s leadership team. Weston had previously spent over 15 years in business, much of it in the investment industry.
Weston and Karen continued the vision with the same passion for the presence of the Lord, making Jesus the center of everything, loving people, living by grace through the Holy Spirit and sharing the Good News of Jesus.
The Lord continues to amaze us with His grace and His favor. Many are responding to the invitation to believe the Good News of Jesus Christ. His presence is with us and we are witnessing healings and other miracles done by God in the name of Jesus.
The Lord has added many to our church family and in 2010 we acquired additional space and renovated for a newer, larger gathering space that seats 300. Our congregation is diverse and from all age groups. We have many families with young children, we have young adults and college students, and we have those from the older and wiser generations.
In 2011 we partnered with The Happy Church in New Haven to support Love A Lot Children’s Home in Ghana, Africa with a vision to raise orphans in the love of Jesus and, where possible, work to see them adopted into loving families. 8 children have now been successfully adopted and the home is currently caring for another 8 children. We now have land and are constructing a new home that will house 30-40 children. We also opened the Missions Cafe with all profits going to support this important work.
In 2013 we launched The Life Academy, a educational facility that offers training for ministry as well as community learning for sustaining healthy marriages, family relationships, financial education and much more.
We also believe the Lord has directed us to focus on loving the University of Connecticut community. He is opening many opportunities for us to encourage students to believe in Jesus and to work with other student groups to reach this community with the Good News of Jesus.
In the last few years we have found ourselves caught up in an amazing move of God across Connecticut and New England to unite many local expressions of His Church in worship, prayer, love for one another, and a shared commitment to share the Good News of Jesus with everyone in our beautiful state.
In speaking of the community of believers, Proverbs 31:25 says, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Or as another translation says, “bold power and glorious majesty are wrapped around her and she laughs with joy over the latter days!”
We find this to be true for us as we look forward to seeing more of God’s glorious plans fulfilled as we follow Jesus wherever He may lead us.
And we invite you to be part of this great adventure with us!