RUMFORD — The Rev. Justin Thacker said there’s a miracle of sorts taking place at a former department store on Congress Street.

“I’m thrilled to see people working together. We’re really excited,” he said Thursday afternoon from what is now the Praise Assembly of God Church at 89 Congress St.

The 7,800-square-foot space has been vacant for about three years since the Family Dollar Store moved to Mexico. Now, it is slowly being transformed into a sanctuary, fellowship hall and Sunday School room.

It’s all on a pay-as-you-go plan, because Thacker said he doesn’t believe in debt.

Although the floors still need carpeting, and a couple of walls must be installed to divide the various function spaces, the church opened Dec. 19. Ever since, church volunteers have been working to turn the vacant space into a warm, caring place of worship.

Thacker, 32, a Maryland native, graduated from a Missouri Bible college in 2003. When he moved to the Rumford area that year, just six people attended the Assembly of God Church.

It began in the Mexico Town Hall in 1984 and then owned a building in Rumford Center. There were 30 to 50 attendees when it moved to Congress Street. Now, there are closer to 70.

Moving to a main street location has done exactly what Thacker had hoped.

“Moving downtown, this is where the people are,” he said.

Accessibility was difficult for some in Rumford Center, particularly since Thacker’s church also serves as the major food pantry for the town of Rumford three mornings a week.

Providing a food pantry has been a way for Thacker to meet people, and to sometimes mentor or tutor young people, as well, he said. He is a former teacher and also served as assistant administrator for the Oxford Hills Christian Academy in Paris.

He estimated that half his time is ministering to church members and half to others who need a little help along the way.

Within the next few months, he wants to lease the upstairs 12-room space where offices, a Sunday School room, and a teen room can be located. And in the long term, he hopes to launch a Christian school upstairs.

But for right now, the first floor sanctuary is getting coats of paint, and the many pieces that make up a church are being put into place.

An official dedication of the new church has been scheduled for March 6 when the superintendent of all 107 Assembly of God churches in northern New England will attend. The night before, on March 5 from 4 to 8 p.m., a hymn-sing of both old standbys and contemporary Christian music will be held.

The church holds services at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Sundays, a family night on Wednesdays, and a prayer meeting at 5:30 p.m. Saturdays. A guitarist, drummer and pianist play at services.

Thacker, who was ordained in 2010, and his wife, Mary, a Lewiston native, met while she was living in Maryland. She provides private nursing care.

Thacker believes the church’s success can be attributed to the caring attitude coming from the church.

“We love to help people. We care about them,” he said.

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