St. Stephen the First Martyr Mission Accessible

Lima, Ohio

St. Stephen the First Martyr Mission

Founded 1999


Serviced by diocesan clergy

Diocese: Diocese of the Midwest

Deanery: Indianapolis Deanery


3560 Shawnee Rd
Lima, Ohio 45806


Parish Contacts

Home: 765-450-5680

Lay Leadership

SDn. Joshua Hodges
Contact Person
Home: 567-204-0812


General Location
Lima, OH is in the northwest quarter of the state of Ohio, midway between Dayton and Toledo on Interstate 75, and midway between Columbus and Fort Wayne.  In the Lima area are over 150,000 people, Ohio’s largest lake, the Neil Armstrong Space Museum, Ohio State University’s largest branch, Ohio Northern University, Lima Technical College, the Univerity of Findlay, Northwestern College, Bluffton College, and Winebrenner Seminary.

From the North
Take I-75 south to the last Lima exit, called BREESE Road (also for Fort Shawnee), exit #120. Turn RIGHT (West) on to Breese Road, and go straight through the light at Dixie Highway (highway 25).  Stay on Breese Road for one mile or less to a main intersection with a light at SHAWNEE Road.  Turn RIGHT (North) on Shawnee Road, and our little church is only a few yards up on your left.  The address is 3560 Shawnee Road.

From the South
Take I-75 north to the first Lima exit (also for Fort Shawnee), called BREESE Road, exit #120.  Turn LEFT (East) on to Breese Road, and go straight through the light at Dixie Highway (highway 25).  Stay on Breese Road for one mile or less to a main intersection with a light at SHAWNEE Road.  Turn RIGHT (North) on Shawnee Road, and our little church is only a few yards up on your left.  The address is 3560 Shawnee Road.

From the East
Take US-33 west to the hwy 117 exit toward HUNTSVILLE/LIMA. Turn RIGHT (north) on hwy 117 toward Lima, and stay on 117 for about 25 miles, to Lima.  You will come to a major intersection where 117 crosses highway 309 (there is a Speedway and a McDonalds at the
intersection).  Turn LEFT onto highway 309 (it also happens to be a continuation of 117), just to the exit for I-75 south.  Take I-75 south to BREESE Road (also for Fort Shawnee), exit #120.  Turn RIGHT (West) on to Breese Road, and go straight through the light at Dixie Highway (highway 25).  Stay on Breese Road for one mile or less to a main intersection with a light at SHAWNEE Road.  Turn RIGHT (North) on Shawnee Road, and our little church is only a few yards up on your left.  The address is 3560 Shawnee Road.

From the West
Take US-30 east to the hwy 309 exit toward LIMA. Take 309 (called Elida Road) all the way past the Lima Mall to the intersection of 309 and CABLE Road.  Turn RIGHT (south) on Cable Road and take it past Allentown Road, Market Street and Elm Street, until Cable Road ends, at its “T-crossing” with SPENCERVILLE ROAD (also called highway 117).  Turn RIGHT (West) onto Spencerville Road, which quickly curves south, and changes name to SHAWNEE Road.  You will quickly come to an intersection (with a funeral home and a “Pony Keg” liquor store)
where 117 and Spencerville Road go off to the right, but GO STRAIGHT through the intersection, staying on Shawnee Road.  Stay on Shawnee Road past Fort Amanda Road and across Railroad tracks until you see a large facility called “Apollo Career Center” on your left.  The church will be on your right shortly after Apollo Career Center.  The address is 3560 Shawnee Road.  (If you get to Breese Road, you have gone too far.)

Schedule of Services

6:00 PM Great Vespers.
Saturday Evening

9:30 AM Divine Liturgy followed by social hour.
Sunday Morning

Parish Background

The metropolitan area which centers around Lima has a population of over 150,000 people.  Lima has the most affordable housing in the US.  The cost of living is well below average, and the area provides an excellent place for families to establish roots.  While the area is saturated with Roman Catholic churches and every Protestant denomination, the Orthodox faithful of Lima have no Church of any jurisdiction to attend, and the general population of Lima have no Orthodox witness of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, until now.

In February 1995, through the impetus of Dayton’s St Paul the Apostle Church (led by Fr Ted Bobosh and Les Homan), over 150 letters were sent throughout the Lima area to seek interest in starting an Orthodox Mission there.  Simultaneously (in fact on the very day His Grace Bishop Job received the letter explaining those letters), Fr Mark Hodges was meeting with His Grace to discuss future ministry and mission opportunities.  At that meeting, His Grace mentioned that Lima might be a possible place of ministry.  The negligible response to the Lima letters left things at a stand still, until….

In November 1995, Fr Daniel Rentel, Dean of the newly created Columbus Deanery, unexpectedly received an inquiry into Orthodoxy from the Lima area.  In response he authorized contacts to be pursued and Vesperal services to be conducted.  The Deanery also contributed $100 “seed money” for advertising costs.  A progress report was to be made in less than two months.

A plan was quickly set up to meet people in homes, visit area campuses, meet area pastors, journalists, and to search for a fitting place to meet and worship.  A detailed log of each day’s work was kept.  It quickly became clear early on that there was strong interest in an Orthodox Mission.  Finding a place to meet, however, proved more difficult.  Just as we were about to give up on meeting before Christmas, an area Episcopal priest introduced himself by saying, “I’ve been praying for an Orthodox Church in Lima for five years now.”  His church rented its lounge/chapel area for our use.  We immediately began planning our first “Advent” Vespers service.  Invitation flyers were sent to those previously written to.

On December 21, 1995, thirty-four people gathered to worship the Triune God at an Advent Vespers service, held at Christ Episcopal Church in Lima.  Most attendees were not Orthodox, but were seekers interested in converting to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  There were also several Orthodox, from Greek and OCA backgrounds.

The Diocese of the Midwest contributed $150 each month for mission efforts, and those funds allowed us to produce a concise introductory pamphlet, “For Our Visitors,” and an easy-to-follow Vespers booklet with all music included, as well as to worship with beautiful icon prints of Christ the Light and Mother of God and Child.  With Vespers words and music in hand, nearly all attendees—Orthodox and not-yet-Orthodox—sang out with joy.  God blessed us, through the prayers of the Theotokos, and our patrons the Prophet Daniel and the Three Holy Youths.  The personal interest and positive spirit which overflowed that night was an appropriate beginning for the Orthodox Church of Lima.

A second, “Epiphany” Vespers was planned.  Everyone who had expressed any interest was called.  We also sent out Orthodox Icon Christmas cards and another invitation flyer. Unfortunately, the day before we were to serve Vespers, our facility became unavailable!  We quickly arranged to meet in the Lima Civic Center.  Maps were drawn up, people were set in place to direct folks, and evertone made it just fine.

On January 4, 1996, after one of the worst blizzards in area history, 24 people braved unbearable conditions to worship at an Epiphany Vespers service.  Once again, the worship was beautiful.  One of our group, Susan Skinner-Kidd, grew up in the Lakewood OCA parish and sang in the choir there.  Her singing,  along with her husband Paul’s set-up work, proved invaluable.

From those services, a core group of dedicated seekers emerged.  This group met throughout 1996 for a thorough catechism, building relationships and learning never-before-heard Orthodox prayers.  In March 1996, Lima had its first Divine Liturgy with 49 inquirers and guests, including George and Debbie Manis, and Elpinike (“Nikki”) Thomas.  By December, Fr Mark and Donna and their children (Joshua, Sarah, Elesha, Daniel and Caleb) moved to Lima and a full schedule of liturgical services were begun at the Lima YMCA.

In February 1997 we had our first baptism, Father Mark and Donna’s newborn baby girl, Hannah.  In June and September 1997, seven were Chrismated and two Baptized into Christ and His Church.  By December, we had outgrown the YMCA and moved into a rented office in downtown Lima.  We added a few wonderful people to our members, and some beloved members moved away.

By January +1999 His Grace Bishop JOB granted us “Mission” status and named us “Saint Stephen the First Martyr.”  By June of that year we found a larger facility, still in downtown Lima.  In April +2001, a 20-year-old non-Christian completed one year of catechism and was baptized into Christ.  We adopted August Second as our “Nameday,” the day St. Stephen’s relics were transferred, and we celebrate by blocking off our street and inviting all to karaoke singing, dancing, food, games, and fun.

St. Stephen’s is very active in community-wide events, such as “First Night” 1998 & 1999 activities on New Year’s Eve (giving brief “tours” of our church and selling ethnic pastries), and the Lima Christmas Tree Festival (covered with icons!). In February 1999 we were chosen as the “Church of the Week” at our local, popular Christian radio station.  They broadcast our Divine Liturgy live, including the sermon inviting all listeners to “Come Home to True Worship.” The following week an abbreviated Matins service was broadcast each morning, also featuring a brief sermon on holy Orthodoxy.  St. Stephen’s also hosts monthly visitations to local nursing homes. Our annual Great Blessing of Waters at the huge Lima reservoir always gets a lot of media attention. Other events we’ve sponsored include concerts (the Russian touring group Archiglas, and Dana and Sue Talley), a Holiday Craft Bazaar, and horseback riding for men and boys. Father Mark helps lead the National Day of Prayer and gives singing concerts to area youth groups. He has served on the boards of area, regional and state Right To Life organizations, and his Orthodox Study Group for clergy taught the true Faith to three area Protestant pastors.  Father is also involved in all area clergy organizations, at which he has initiated Orthodox discussions and reinforced Trinitarian theology. He has preached the Faith openly at well-attended joint community services. In +2000 he was voted President of Lima’s largest ministerial association, guiding 53 Christian groups closer to the Truth for over a year.

God Himself is powerfully at work in Lima. In November +2000 we were honored to have Charles and Jane Omuroka, an Orthodox evangelist from Kenya, Africa, come to St. Stephen’s and share with us. His message was encouraging and inspiring. While praying afterwards, one member who had had serious medical problems died, literally. For several minutes he stopped breathing, his heart stopped and he had no pulse (as attested to by an attendant nurse), and his eyes became fixed and dilated. To the amazement of those around him and to the glory of God, after about fifteen minutes the fervent and persistent prayers of Kenyan Orthodox evangelist Charles Omuroka revived him! His first words were to give thanks for “bringing me back to life.”

For the past three years, we have faithfully celebrated all the American Saints’ feastdays (Sts. Herman, Innocent, Tikhon, Raphael, Alexis, Jacob, Peter, Juvenaly, Alexander, John Kuchurov, John Maximovich, and Nicholas of South Canaan), honoring them and beseeching their help in establishing Orthodoxy in Lima.  In the past year, we have Chrismated Tracy Mullins, and Father Mark and Presbytera Donna have adopted a five-year-old autistic boy named Micah.

In March of 2004 we were abruptly informed that the building we had been renting for four and a half years had been sold without our knowledge, and we had to vacate immediately.  One week after Pascha, we moved all we had to share a church building with a Lutheran group, and seven months later to a Disciples of Christ group’s chapel room.  In our urgent search for a place to pray, everything we found was either too small or way too expensive.  Reluctantly, we agreed on a temporary solution: to build a garage kit on a parishioner’s property, and use it for corporate prayer…  THEN, almost miraculously, two small parcels of prime real estate—in an excellent location for growth—were donated to us, so we would be able to worship on our own land!  Our people worked hard and we raised funds to begin building a small, one-room chapel.

In November of 2005, we began worshiping at our new little church, with great thanksgiving to God!  WE NEED YOUR PRAYERS!  We are still very small and poor, but we are growing in our commitment to one another and to the Lord.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit would establish us as His Church in Lima;  that we would unite personally into a true community of worship and love;  and that our witness to the entire area would bring many people to the Orthodox Faith, Truth, and Life!”

In 2015, we purchased the house next door to the church, at 3550 Shawnee Road, as a parsonage.  For a year, we fixed several major parts of the house, including the foundation, roof, all flooring, the entire kitchen, and much more.