Friday, September 24, 2010
a redemption story
Warning: SUPER long post...but it's about something very near and dear to my heart, so I'd love to for you to read it anyway.
There's a post I've been thinking about doing for a long time, but just felt like I should just keep it to myself a bit and take a cue from Mary. It's always intrigued me, that verse in Luke (2:19 actually), that says after the angel came to Mary and told her about the Child she would carry and deliver as the Messiah that Mary "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart". I'm not too good at keeping things in my heart, especially when it's big, exciting news, but I think that's something that God has been teaching me...that I don't really have to blab every thought, feeling or revelation I have the moment I have it. Sometimes there is an appointed time for things to be said.
OK, all that was sort of an aside. This post is really about the exciting time that our church, Koinonia House, is in right now. We are looking at purchasing a building right in the central part of the little community where we live. The building was formerly a pub, and let me tell you, it was a seedy little place. When we first moved to Stowe, Todd was a part of the town watch committee, and they were always hearing reports of the problems coming from this hole-in-the-wall bar. It was such a small place, nestled smack in the middle of the community, and it was really a shame all the problems this place was bringing right into this area populated with lots of families and kids. The police were very much wanting to shut it down because of the drug and violence issues they were facing coming from the place. On many occasions our family and our church prayed that God would shut the place down or somehow bring redemption to it. But I have to admit, they were somewhat half-hearted prayers...the kind you pray when you don't feel fully connected to the object of your requests. We had no idea that God would eventually place that little pub so deeply on our hearts.
Eventually, after a few years, the township was able to shut down the pub due to fire code violations. After a while the building went up for sale. During that time, our church had been sort of looking for a place to rent, but never considered that place. For one thing, we weren't really looking for a place to buy. And besides, it was a run-down little bar. We simply hadn't given it a thought. Until around April of 2009. A few of us from the church were at our church network's international leaders conference. Todd and I were in separate breakout sessions, when amazingly we both felt God lay on our hearts that we were supposed to buy the pub. Initially, while I'm sitting there feeling like God was revealing this 'plan' to me, I thought it seemed crazy, and surely Todd would not be in favor of the idea. After my session, when Todd and I met back up, I said to him "I think we are supposed to buy the pub." To my utter amazement, he said "So do I." What?!?! Yep, during that same hour, he felt God putting the exact same thing on his heart. So, we ran it all by our team, who felt agreement, and then the rest of the church, who also felt a shared excitement. But we also had a sense that there would be some spiritual battling involved. And so began the journey.
We tried several times to get some legitimate info about the property. All roads seemed to be dead-ends. At one point, there was several police cars surrounding the property (we heard from neighbors) and the realtor who had the property listed said he was not allowed to discuss the property at all for the time being because there were legal issues. Then, a sheriff's sale sign went up. Then it came down. All the while, the property sat empty, the deed (visible to us on public records) showed no change in ownership and liens against the property. These were issues we had no idea how to even approach. And the fact that when the property was for sale, the price included a liquor license, which we obviously didn't need. We were pretty much at a stand-still. We had a peace about knowing that we needed to keep praying, but aside from that it didn't seem that there was much else we could do.
Fast forward to now. About two months ago we discovered the deed showed that it had changed hands, and the liens were cleared. Then, it went up for sale again, this time with a local, reputable realtor (let's just say, this wasn't the case the first time around). We got an appointment to tour the building. In the midst of our excitement, it would be fair to say that seeing the amount of work that will be required was a bit overwhelming. Nonetheless, we still felt in agreement that God was definitely growing this vision in our hearts, and that we were to pursue the property, and trust Him for the provision. We were also super-encouraged to meet some of the neighbors the night that we went to see the property, and they were very excited about the prospect of us moving in. We talked with a mother and teenage daughter who expressed how glad they were to find out we were not another bar. The mom said they would be happy to come help us with painting or whatever they could, and they even went home and returned with some sodas for us (as it was a very hot evening). We continued doing the 'leg-work' of checking zoning, codes, etc. with the township. They are in favor of us taking over the property for church use, and they confirmed that we are in the clear as far as zoning. (These can be huge hurdles for most churches looking to buy property). What a blessing. Last night we sat down with 2 people from the realty office who are very interested in helping us. (They seem intrigued with the idea that a church would want to take over a former bar.)
The really stretching, faith part of this is definitely in looking to God to provide. As 'small' as the property is (as far as commercial properties go), this whole thing is still so much bigger than us. While we feel we could afford monthly payments on the property, commercial loans need to have 30% down money up front. We are only about half-way (or a little less) there in our current building fund. We also would need to basically 'gut' the place and do some major renovations. (Though, we are calculating that into the amount we will look to borrow, so that's also taken account of in that 30% we are trying to raise up front.) We do have some talented and experienced folks in our little church family who would be able to do the work; however, those same guys also have jobs and families of their own, and we don't want to put overwhelming strain on them either. So, that's another faith step. Let's just say that we are confident that God has placed this in our hearts, and it's only HE who will be able to bring it about! It's very exciting and very stretching!!
We are working on some letters and a DVD sharing our story and vision to get the word out for anyone who would like partner with us in bringing about transformation to this little pub. We are so excited about bringing the Light to what was once a very dark place! If you, or anyone you know of, would be interested in supporting this mission, I would love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment, shoot me an email, or hit me up on Facebook. If you would be willing to pray with us, that would be great as well. Right now we are asking for wisdom and guidance, provision - both financial and in resources (including labor) for the renovations, favor with officials and the community and continued unity among our leaders and congregation.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story and hear my heart. I'll definitely keep you posted as to what God is doing.
(Oh, and here's some pictures of "our pub". It's hard to get the full effect from just the outside, but I can't seem to find the pics I took of the inside at the moment.)