A Changed Story

The following Monday I sat down and typed out an email to the Greene County Assessor’s office.

{If you haven’t read the beginning of this story, start here.}

“There is a property … that appears to be abandoned by the owners and we are interested in learning the story behind it.  It is a church building… The windows and doors are boarded up but otherwise it is being neglected… I am hoping you can give me some direction and help. Thanks very much, I’m anxious to hear back from your office!”

I remember thinking to myself. It’s a government office, I will be waiting forever to hear back from them. That email was sent at 9:35 am. At 11:06 am I received a reply. What?

“Unfortunately we have little information…

(then they gave me a whole lot of great information followed by these unbelievable words)

One more year with unpaid taxes and the property will be eligible to be sold on the courthouse steps.”

I emailed my new best friend back and forth a few times and we ended our correspondence that day knowing my next trip would be to the Collector’s office if I couldn’t find the owner. That was early in May. I waited a month before I went in. I was afraid. Where was this leading me? Was I really seriously going to buy a church at an auction on the courthouse steps? Who does that? I was convinced that I needed to find the owner before the auction. I was CONVINCED that the City of Springfield would outbid me, I just knew they were waiting to buy this place and I HAD to contact the owner and try to talk them into selling or GIVING me the property. After all, God DID say He was going to give me the building. And I believed Him… I couldn’t let the City keep God from keeping His promise.

(I know, I know. But you do it too!)

One day I was at the property in the rain. I kept hearing this “ting, ting, ting” somewhere close the the building. Because I was so sure there was an owner somewhere I would never go closer than a few steps beyond the fence. Fear kept me from getting close up until that point but I couldn’t resist the sound that day. As I walked closer I could see the sound. Broken glass lay under the windows, all around the building. As the rain dripped off the rotting roof the drops made a noise when they hit the glass. I remember the feeling of tears welling up in my eyes as I picked up the beautiful etched glass from the original windows.

“God, who does this place belong to?”

But there was no one. No one knew anything. My prayers to find the owners went unanswered for a month. And after dropping my kids off with my parents for a week long visit in Illinois I drove back to Springfield knowing I would be in for a long summer of waiting on an auction. So the least I could do was find out exactly when the auction would be and what all was involved.

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I will never forget walking into the Collector’s office and telling the kid behind the desk why I was there. He reminded me of my son’s youth pastor. He said the address out loud as he typed it. I knew he could see a picture of it by the look in his eyes when the information popped up on his screen, “Oh, I know that place! That’s that old haunted church on the Greenway, isn’t it?

You want THAT PLACE?!”

I just smiled. “I guess I’m a bit of a dreamer and an oddball.”

“Wellllll…. he said as he tapped one key over and over again. It will be auctioned off on August 26th here at the courthouse if the taxes are not paid before then.” He jotted down some numbers on a piece of paper. “This is the starting bid. There will be some fees, but I’m sure you’ll get it…

…No one else wants it.”

“You mean the City doesn’t want it?”

“Nah, no one wants that old place… but you!” He smiled.

I tried unsuccessfully to convince him that the City would outbid me. He just laughed and did his best to encourage me that I was it. And that THAT was a good thing since I wanted it so badly.

I walked out with the little slip of paper he gave me clutched tightly. We had enough in savings to cover it. I was shocked. I called Jason and gave him the numbers. He was shocked. Now we just had to wait a little more than two months for the auction.

Not even a year before I was fighting God about giving up our wedding business. And now just four months after launching a blog ministry site and praying for a church studio I was looking at buying a 900 sq. ft. abandoned church building for less than we charged for a wedding album.

When no one else sees the worth in a story, it’s easy to revise the ending.

I prayed over that little story that was becoming a BIG story for our family every single day for 5 months and 17 days until August 26th came. During that time we told our family our plans. If they thought we were nuts they never told us. In fact, after taking my  father-in-law, a Pastor of many small churches and an evangelist to many many more, by the old church he handed me a stack of $100’s and told me through a very scratchy ailing-from-cancer voice, “God has big plans, go get it!”

 

2014-11-10_0005So a month later, I took that stack of $100’s from Jason’s dad and went to the church one more time to pray. Then I drove to the courthouse with my kids and a very dear friend. I remember waiting, heart pounding for the auctioneer lady to call the property name and address. I kept wondering where the City official was who would bid against me. When the property was finally called and the opening bid announced. I raised up my little number from the back of the room and waited in silence on no one. Had I not been there, no one would have bid. On August 26th, 2013, my father-in-law started his last round of chemotherapy and I walked through those doors above and bought that little white church. No one else wanted it. I was afraid for months of a giant that didn’t even exist. God had it all taken care of from the beginning. And my kids were there to see it happen. I remember hearing the the word “SOLD!” and looking at my then 11-year-old son and saying, “It’s ours!” I’ll never forget his smile. He was so proud.

2014-11-10_0004 Looking back I think Heaven watched the torch pass from one generation to the next that day. I didn’t see it then, but I do now… Jason’s dad only lived another five months. But I know that HE knew we would eventually get the deed. He believed it as much or more than any of us. The picture to the left shows how excited my girls were that day. They were jumping around me as I held that note of sale. We really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Still don’t know for sure…

But we saved a little white church that day. We paid its debt. We rescued it. We changed its story. And it, has absolutely changed ours… more to come.

 

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