When Pastor Mark Ragsdale and his wife, Kelli, arrived in Viera 30 years ago, there was not much here but undeveloped land.
“There were only 500 people here,” Mark Ragsdale said. “We have seen Viera grow, and we have grown with it.”
In 1986, Kelli’s father, a church consultant, had been helping churches in the area with their planning and vision. He met with a small group called Suntree Baptist Chapel that was struggling to grow its membership. When its pastor died, they started looking for a replacement.
“We spent time with the core team, talking about our vision and (after six months) that’s when we called ourselves the Church At Viera,” said Mark Ragsdale, who came from Texas to revive the church.
“They called me to be the church planter,” he said, “and I became the lead pastor for it.”
At the time, the Ragsdales had two young boys, Jonmark and Luke. About three years later, their daughter, Jessica, was born. The family resided in East Viera, in the Hammock Lakes subdivision near the church on Murrell Road. In 2007, that church building was sold and a new church at 9005 N. Wickham was constructed. The Ragsdales then moved to West Viera in Arrivas Village.
The Church at Viera will celebrate its 30th anniversary in March 2022.
Their children have now all grown, married, and are starting families of their own. The Ragsdales currently have three grandchildren, Ella, 7, Fin, 5, and Scarlet, 3 and are expecting four more in the coming months. Their daughter-in-law, Savannah, is expecting a girl, and their daughter is expecting triplets.
“We were very surprised by the triplets,” Mark Ragsdale said. “Identical boys. It is one in a million to have identical triplets.”
“It’s going to take a village,” Kelli Ragsdale said.
“It is nice that everybody (in the family) is so close. We are all going to pitch in and help. We also have a good-sized church with people that will help out,” Mark Ragsdale added.
For the Ragsdale family, the Church At Viera has always been their focal point.
“My number one passion is music,” said Kelli, a vocalist on the worship team. “I’m also passionate about the women’s ministry.”
“Jonmark was 5 years old when we arrived here and he is now our worship pastor,” added Mark Ragsdale.
The couple enjoys going on global impact trips with fellow church members to places such as Haiti, Costa Rica, Peru and New Mexico. “We help out with whatever is needed, construction, painting,” he said.
When they are not at church, Mark Ragsdale enjoys running and scuba diving, and Kelli likes snorkeling and eating out at The Avenue’s many dining establishments.
“I love that our family is here. The church is here. I love living across from The Avenue (Viera). The weather is beautiful. The beach is close by. All of the things that people think of when they dream of Florida,” she said.
“Viera is the best kept secret in Florida,” Mark Ragsdale said. “The controlled growth in Viera is nice, not too overwhelming. It is still like a small town.”