Sunday, August 27, 2006

Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church

Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church is located at the end of a lonely dirt and gravel road snaking through wooded slopes into a remote pocket of McDonald County behind a locked gate, behind which is said to sprawl a 100-acre property that includes a farm, the Grand Valley Christian Academy, a cemetery, Grand Valley Kennels, a country music band Centrefire, Suns of Thunder Records, Inc., Grand Valley Outfitters and Distributors and a number of homes. Sugar Creek Road, which is several miles southeast of Powell (and about 13 miles west of Washburn, MO), is known for its isolation and tranquility. The compound is behind a high gate marked "Grand Valley Farm" on a gravel road. The gate is barred with "No Trespassing" signs.

Until about three months ago, about 100 people lived on the property. Today, there are fewer than two dozen people left. According to a neighbor, "I don't know that anybody knows what's been going on there. They were a closed community. They pretty much protected themselves." Apparently the investigation started in May (2006) when some members of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, in their 20's and 30's, who had grown up there, left the remote compound on foot after an argument and asked for a law enforcement escort to go get other family members.

The church and more than two dozen surrounding homes has been described as a “compound” by long-time McDonald County residents, as well as church members. The Lamberts reside at 589 Cecil Epling Lane, while Tom Epling lives at 584 Cecil Epling Way and his brother, Paul Epling, resides at 362 Cecil Epling Way. The area where they live, Cecil Epling Way, is named after Tom Epling, Paul Epling and Patricia Lambert's father, and Raymond Lambert's stepfather, Cecil Epling, who died several years ago.

Grand Valley Farm began many years ago when the Epling brothers pulled together physically and spiritually to make their father, Cecil Epling's, farm successful. Our one-hundred acre farm has grown tremendously since those days. The hard work that they put into it then continues still. The same brothers that started the farm then, run the kennels now. Raymond Lambert is the backbone of the kennel. Through him, we know that all things are possible. From Grand Valley Kennels website.

All the Epling and Lambert Boys graduated from East Newton High School. Some of the children attended SW High School in Washburn, MO. Patty's maiden name is Epling. She married her step brother. The family lived in Newtonia MO for many years. Cecil Epling bought the 100 acre farm in Washburn about 30 years ago.

The patriarch of the group reportedly was Cecil Lee Epling, of Newtonia, who died in 1982, from injuries sustained in an auto accident. He was the father of seven sons (including Paul and Tom Epling)and four daughters (including Patty Epling Lambert). Raymond Lambert reportedly was his stepson. Cecil Epling was the pastor of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church at Stark City, according to an obituary published in The Joplin Globe at the time of his death at the age of 55.


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