The First Free Will Baptist Church of Desoto was started on April 3, 1966 by Rev Charles Moyers. The first services were in an old hospital building. There was operating room, 2 offices, kitchen, bathroom and a sun porch. There were people saved during this period. In September of 1966 the mission church moved to a storefront on De Soto's south main street. It was here the church was organized on June 20, 1967. There was an auditorium with a bathroom, one Sunday School room downstairs, and more rooms upstairs. The history is broken down into three phases: The Church in the Valley, The Church on the Hill and The Church That Won't Quit. The possibility of starting a Free Will Baptist Church in De Soto had already been discussed in the late fifties by Rev. Rolla Smith and Rev. Billie Buster. However, no willing workers could be found. Years later two Free Will Baptist families, unknown to each other, moved to the De Soto area. They tried different churches and found them friendly and warm, yet they felt like God had no work for them there. The Henry Stephens family started attending a Free Will Baptist Church in Festus where Rev. Charles Moyers had pastored. Brother Moyers had just resigned when, during a casual conversation with Sister Eudora Stephens, he was asked if he would be interested in starting a church in the city of De Soto The next day Brother Moyers called her back and asked if she was serious. As it has been said, the rest is history. Brother Moyers went over to see the Rider family where he found Danny working beneath a car. Danny said, "Yes!" before he ever came out from under the car to see who he was talking to. No money . . . no building . . . along with many other obstacles can be overcome when the man of God has willing workers.On April 3, 1966, they started in the valley of De Soto in an old hospital building rented for $40 per month. Madison County Association of Free Will Baptists paid for the first three months' rent. The first musical instrument was an accordion. Song books were donated and theater seats were loaned from Twin City Free Will Baptist Church. There were fourteen charter members to begin with. Someone had to take the first step of faith or else there would be no other ministries to follow. In June of 1967 Brother Moyers resigned and the church called Brother Charles Miller, better known as "Charlie" Miller, from Desloge.
The church would enter a new phase of work under Brother Charlie's ministry. He had preached a revival earlier for the church, though he was not yet an ordained minister. Brother Miller brought his family, wife Imalea, son Charles (Chuck), and daughter Janice (Jan), to serve the Lord. It is a great work to start something from nothing. As any farmer can tell you, it's a long process to plant the seed, see it break through the earth, and then bring it to a full-grown, fruitbearing plant. This is what the Miller ministry and church family would be confronted with. The Psalmist said, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." Biblical convictions, bone-weary work, extraordinary faith, and burdens for the lost would be the testimony of this church for the next twenty-five years.Under Brother Miller's leadership the church moved from the valley below to its present hilltop location. A basement building to start with, the church went through three building phases and grew to an attendance of over 100 almost overnight! Once again, God surrounded the man of God with willing workers. While some preachers complain about their deacon board, Brother Miller wept and rejoiced with his. Most of the work on the church building was done by its members. A better group of trustees would be hard to find. They worked during the day at their jobs and on the church building at night and weekends.Young converts became seasoned laborers in the field. They sacrificed in their giving, continuing in prayer and witnessing in their living. By the early 1970s the church had grown to over 150 while supporting the Missouri Cooperative Fund and mission work beyond what God requires. Satanic attack was common during these times, but God always blesses willing workers.As with any ministry, changes took place during these years. Brother Charlie became full-time and ministries such as the Joymakers were added. The altars were blessed of God and some were baptized in the Joachim Creek before the baptistery was built. Older saints, such as Bill Reeves and Sophia Ackerson, along with the younger converts growing in the Lord, made this a special place.The sign above the altars tells it all, "This is none other but the house of God and this is the gate of heaven."
Some churches start out on fire and end up in a slow burn, while other grow big, only to fall in their pride back into mediocrity. On August 1,1992, after a prosperous twenty-five years, Brother Charles Miller's ministry at First Free Will Baptist Church of De Soto came to an end. He was the only pastor many of the church had known. There will always be a special bond between the long-time pastor and the church on the hill. With overwhelming support the church voted to build on its solid foundation. It would begin a third phase, a new beginning, with Brother Bob Thebeau, and his family, wife Kathy, sons Ben and Brett, and daughter Amy.One of the greatest challenges a church must face is the challenge of "Change." Change in church life, as in physical life, is inevitable. Some refuse to be supple, as is a young branch bending and swaying, accepting its changing environment in order to reach maturity. The De Soto church accepted change. Brother Bob accepted the challenge before him. His ministry had included several small churches, De Soto would be the largest by far. Though he must have felt he had to try to fill the shoes of the former pastor, that was not so. God's use of Brother Bob's ministry was not to start a new church, nor take a young church to its full growth. The ministry would be faced with expanding upon a church that God had already had His hand upon.An associate pastor was added in 1994. Brother Chuck Lotz ministry resulted in many souls being saved. He was called to the mission field in 1999. A youth pastor position was then created and filled by Brother Rick Pirtle. Preachers come and go, but willing workers must remain to continue the work. As long as the church holds to Biblical principals, spiritual worship, Christian fellowship, has a burden for the lost and willingness to spread the Gospel, it will be on top of the hill until the Lord calls her home.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.