In early 1998, a small group of people advertised in the local newspaper asking that anyone interested in starting a Lutheran mission meet March 14 at Seaside for an initial get together.
The handful of people at that first meeting made plans to meet every week at Seaside Meeting Hall.
However, after two or three services, the group was required to relocate and the decision was made to hold Saturday services at an Assembly of God Church near Eden State Park.
This was just the first of 13 more moves over the next 20 years.
"It was a very interesting time," said Doug Weise, a charter member who had changed his membership from a Lutheran church in Panama City Beach to help form this one. "We were nomadic with our meeting locations ranging from a fire station, an art studio, a gallery, we were moving around a lot. There were times when we might have as few as three people in attendance. It was an interesting time and we have grown through it. It has been fun."
At one point the congregation met in a former fish market on 30A, then they moved upstairs above the fish market into an art shop where one of the windows featured a nude in stained glass. The artist's cats wandered freely during services and once jumped on the altar during the service.
In 1999, the group was meeting at the old fire station on County Road 393 when they adopted a constitution and organized, choosing the name Hope Lutheran.
In the summer of 2000, the group held their first Vacation Bible School on the grounds at Seaside.
In April 2001, Hope received word that its constitution was approved by the Southern District Constitutions Committee and the congregation was free to be chartered.
Charter Sunday was April 29, 2001, and the little yellow house on County Road 393 where they were meeting was packed to the walls with 34 people signing the charter that day and by June 2, 2002, they had 71.
It was during their tenure at a little yellow house that the church was offered had the visibility they needed. A sign out front drew snowbirds in during their season, forcing the church to go to two services.
Around this time an anonymous gift of $30,000 was received, sparking a desire in the membership for a permanent location.
In 2003, the congregation branched out with an Easter sunrise service on the beach at the Ed Walline access. Around 275 people and three dogs attended.
By May 2009 the congregation felt the need to call their first full-time pastor.
In mid-August, after a phone call and visit, Jason Scheler and his family flew back to Michigan and within 24 hours had belongings packed in two cars and a boat to move to Florida to lead a fledgling church.
Kristie Scheler recalls driving all night and the kids waking up asking if they could call their friends to tell them they were moving.
"There were probably 18 people attending the church when I arrived," said Pastor Jason today. "The church had no plan, no budget. We left a church of 1,200. We had to leave family we loved and school was about to start, but God put it on our hearts to go and plant. I had to get out a map to see where in the world Santa Rosa Beach was. We were afraid we would be homeless, but we took the risk because we feel God called us here. We trusted God to provide."
Not long after Scheler arrived, Hope learned it would again need to find a new meeting place.
The congregation signed a three-year lease at Piper's Landing on U.S. Highway 98, which had housed a machine shop. Members worked day and night to renovate, but when the project was not completed in time, worship had to take place at Cherry Peppers Restaurant for three weeks. However, they were able to hold their first worship in their new location that Christmas Eve.
As Hope began to outgrow the Piper's Landing location, the owner of a nearby building approached them about buying his building.
"The man said God told him to sell us his building," recalled Jason.
So in 2012, when the church had a membership of about 20, that membership voted to purchase the building for $990,000. This was their 14th location.
"How did it happen? God's will and God's bill," said Jason. "We didn't have 30 percent to put down. People contributed and we raised over $300,000 in three years."
They built out 60 percent of the building and by 2014 Hope had grown enough to need to expand the buildout to the entire 7,500 square feet. The facility was built out with hopes of starting a preschool some day.
There have been times we were almost out of money," said Jason. "There was a time a lady gave us $5,000 in ones, and one time a guy from Alabama sent a check for our buildout. This has happened a lot."
Hope now sees around 180 people at worship services each week.
"Our growth is attributed to God," said Scheler. "We believe in our future."
This year on Easter Sunday, 1,100 people turned out for their 6:30 a.m. sunrise service on the beach, and they saw about 1,400 at the 8 a.m. service. For Good Friday, they had 150. Their beach services are called Hope on the Beach.
"People on the beach don't realize they are attending a Lutheran service," said Jason. "Our theology is still Lutheran, but we just don't put that up front. Our mission is to help people love Jesus."
The church is now looking at having a Sunday service at Shunk Gulley at 9:30 a.m.
"We look for unique places where people can gather. For a little church, we do a lot of stuff," said Jason.
"We have been blessed and we look forward in great anticipation to the future of Hope," said Weise. "There were times of discouragement, but we never thought of giving up."