Calvary Chapel in process of buying vacant Lebanon Elks Lodge

Since its closure two years ago, the Lebanon Elks Lodge building might finally be filled with activity once again, but it won’t be for Elks meetings.

The Lebanon Calvary Chapel has entered into an earnest money agreement with the lodge for the building and expects it to close by the end of the month, said Tom Sanderbrink, pastor.

Sanderbrink said the trustees of the lodge are great people and have been very helpful during the process.

“They’ve allowed us to come in and start pressure washing, and they’ve been very accommodating; they’re really gracious,” Sanderbrink said.

Lebanon Calvary Chapel currently holds its winter services at Seven Oak Middle School, and summer services at their outdoor property off South Santiam Highway.

After they move into the Elks building, Sanderbrink plans to continue hosting its summer service outside on their park-like property, with its weekday meetings and winter services held in the building.

Lebanon Lodge No. 1663 was founded in 1944 and its 34,557-square-foot building was erected in 1949, with a ballroom added in 1975.

The lodge closed about three years ago due to financial difficulties and first listed the building for sale at $1.25 million in 2015.

The church is purchasing the building for $500,000, but a lot of work needs to be done on the inside, Sanderbrink said. He expects it to consist of a two to three phase construction process.

This is not the first time he’s had to renovate property for his church.

Sanderbrink was an assistant at Calvary Chapel in Cottage Grove when he was asked to consider planting a church in Lebanon, he said. When he prayed about it and drove through town with his wife for the first time, they both knew it was right.

“We didn’t know anybody, but we knew we were supposed to be here,” he said.

The couple moved to Lebanon in 2004 and remodeled the old hotel building on Main Street downtown, and opened the Lebanon Coffee Company (now The Lobby), where they hosted their first services.

Lebanon Calvary Chapel had to move several times because — by God’s grace, he says — they kept outgrowing their meeting locations until they purchased the property on Santiam Highway, he said. They built up a covered lawn and children’s area that hosts outdoor services and barbecues.

“When we bought it, it was rough,” he said.

Thousands of hours have been invested into building up and maintaining the outdoor location, Sanderbrink explained.

He estimates his congregation is around 400 people with 60 to 100 kids, and they’ve been saving up to construct a building on the property. In fact, they had everything lined up and were ready to “pull the trigger” on construction when they discovered the Elks building for “considerably less” than what they were about to pour into the new building.

Calvary also owns the Upper Berlin Community Church that they use for Bible studies and such, he said.

Sanderbrink was a drug dealer by the time he gave his life to God in 1982, he said. At the time, he was separated from his wife and was ready to give up on life.

“I didn’t want to be married anymore, and I just was looking for life in all the wrong places,” he said.

But all that changed when he walked into an Albertson’s store in Portland.

“I just walked in the doors and all of a sudden it was like the spotlight came on in my heart going, ‘Hey, you’ve been looking for God in drugs and relationships and positions and possessions,’ and none of it satisfied because I went pretty whole hog after those things. It was just very empty,” he said.

A stranger approached Sanderbrink and began talking to him. Again, he said it was all by God’s grace.

“He led me to the Lord right in front of the produce department in front of a pile of cantaloupes,” he said.

Today, Sanderbrink has the same wife, four children and 17 grandchildren.

His wife, Sherry, had at first thought his conversion would be a temporary thing, he said.

“My wife’s known me since I was 12, and she watched me be like a cardiac monitor all over the radar screen of life, trying this, doing that,” he said.

After three months of watching the change in his life, she decided that was also what she wanted, so she gave her life to the Lord and the two were baptized together, he said.

Their youngest son, Tommy, is also a staff pastor at Lebanon Calvary Chapel.

Through Sanderbrink’s life journey and Calvary’s growth, Sanderbrink stresses it is all due to God’s favor and grace.

“He’s just been so kind to us,” he said. “It’s all him opening up doors, closing doors, leading, blessing, bringing people, all of it.”