In 1995 we were abruptly and unceremoniously asked to leave the premises we had been happily renting for more than four years. After a period of prayer and fasting, we sensed the Lord’s direction to a beautiful piece of property – the property that we have occupied since that time.
The problem was, the seller was asking $1.2 million (and it was worth every penny). Naturally, as a young church, we assumed the Lord wanted us to rent the facilities. The seller, however, made it clear they had no interest in renting. Feeling somewhat “off the hook,” Pastor Tim informed the Lord that what he directed us to do was just not possible. The Holy Spirit’s response: Who said anything about renting?
Upon hearing that, he dropped his head and laughed.
After making several phone calls to people who specialized in church financing, he found one that was willing to talk. As it turned out, a daycare had rented space from the prior owner of the facilities for 18 years. This specialist believed that with the additional rental income, he could qualify us for a mortgage. And he did.
Without a moment to spare (on Friday night of the very last week we were allowed in our old facilities), we provided the seller with a mortgage commitment from a bank, a signed purchase agreement (for $500,000 less than the asking price), which they signed. And we moved in.
The seller graciously allowed us to move in right away, prior to closing. Their grace turned to rage, however, a few weeks later when they discovered the mortgage commitment was based on bond financing. This meant that it could take up to six months for them to have all of their cash. They needed the cash immediately. Since we were not able to accommodate them, they sued us, demanding we leave the property immediately.
Having overcome the impossible odds up until that point, we were confident we would triumph over this too – only we had no idea how!
The word the Lord gave us was Ezekiel 7:13: The seller will not recover the land he has sold as long as both of them live, for the vision concerning the whole crowd will not be reversed.
We were also standing on Proverbs 10:30: The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land.
The answer came when a business man (whom we had never met) heard about the situation and offered to front the money to the seller in exchange for a $50,000 reduction in price. The seller agreed. This was a win-win situation. He would make a quick $50,000 and the seller would get their badly needed cash.
We now had a temporary mortgage from a business man (who would be paid off when the bonds sold). The seller was out of the picture. Praise the Lord!
Just before we were to close, however, we were introduced to another obstacle: The daycare was moving out. The news was a shock to us.
We went ahead with the closing, however, perplexed and wondering again, how in the world the Lord was going to work this one out. We were confident that the Lord knew these obstacles would arise and already had an answer for them. We just didn’t know what it was. He had led us thus far and none of this had taken him by surprise.
Shortly thereafter, the bank rescinded their mortgage commitment. And the business man, seeing that his guarantee to be paid off was now gone, wanted his money back. He prepared to foreclose.
We were now in quite a predicament! The business man had a right to be paid off. And the bank couldn’t possibly go through with the mortgage. There was nothing we could do but lean on the one whose plan this was.
At the last moment, for some reason, the president of the bank himself called to apologize that there was nothing they could do. Pastor Tim relayed that he fully understood and respected his position and thanked him for the courtesy of the call. After hanging up the phone, Pastor said, God, you have a problem! This is your church, not mine. I didn’t call me to do this and, if you remember, I didn’t want this property to begin with! This was a Friday afternoon.
That weekend, we continued to do what God called us to do. We had a great service, never mentioning the giant that had reared its ugly head to threaten us.
First thing Monday morning, Pastor Tim received a call from the same man – the president of the bank: Pastor, he said, I couldn’t get you off my mind all weekend. I couldn’t sleep! (Pastor remembers thinking, I didn’t have any problem sleeping.) The man continued, I don’t know what we’re going to do, but somehow, I’m going to find a way to make this work.
Pastor Tim assured the man that we were not in position to make the mortgage payments without the daycare income. That didn’t faze him. God would not let this man off the hook.
It reminded us of King Xerxes in Esther: That night the king could not sleep (Esther 6:1). We have heard this comment more than once in this ordeal – that people could not sleep, they could not get us off their mind until they blessed us. God is too good for words.
In a few weeks we closed on the mortgage and paid off the business man. Another miracle had occurred.
Although we were unable to make the full mortgage payments (and we were not expected to), we remembered what Jesus taught about the Mustard Seed. The principle was, Don’t worry about what you can’t do; do what you can. Start with the little that you have and watch it grow. So we did. Every week, we mailed the bank a check for 25% of the tithes and offerings. It was significantly less than what the mortgage payments should have been, but it was the best we could do.
Several years went by with only an occasional conversation with the bank. The president of the bank said he saw that we were being faithful. He appreciated that and assured us he had us covered.
In the spring of 2000, he called and asked what it would take for us to start our own daycare or after-school program. This would help supplement the church’s income. Since we had already investigated this and discovered the updated building code would not allow it in the present building, Pastor Tim told him, We need a new building.
A few months later, we received a call from an architect. He heard we needed to develop plans for a new building. Yes, we do, we responded. And so plans began to be drawn up.
A few months after that, we received a call from a builder. He had heard we had plans for a new building and needed a builder. Yes, we do, we responded. And we began building.
We were busy for months building an addition, a first-class place for kids’ ministry that cost approximately $1 million. The best part of it was, it didn’t cost us a dime! The bank believed that by developing office space on the church property enough revenue could be generated to not only pay for the construction but also to supplement the church’s income.
About that time, we received a call from a man who owned an adjoining parcel. Several years prior, he had built condominiums, but the town would not grant him permission to build on this particular piece of land. Now, determined to go forward, he fought the town, sued, and won. He was issued a permit to build. He then encountered financial difficulties that demanded cash. He inquired as to whether or not the church was interested in purchasing the parcel. When the Pastor told the president of the bank about the situation, he saw another opportunity for the church to receive revenue. I think we should buy that land and build those town homes, the president said.
And so we built two town homes (at no cost to the church).
After a few years, a problem occurred with the office project: The state wouldn’t approve it. After several months with no alternate plan, Pastor Tim flew down to the bank headquarters in Indiana to discuss this situation. To his surprise, he encountered a hostile board that did not share the “we want to help you” disposition of its president. They tried to pressure us into a “friendly foreclosure” (another way of saying that we should willfully turn over our property to them). When we refused, they notified us they were determined to foreclose on us.
Again, we were at a place where we had no idea how this was going to work out. All we knew was we were acting on God’s direction; this was his plan, not ours. Turning over the property to the bank was not consistent with what the Lord told us. So in the face of the legal action threatened against us, we simply trusted the Lord.
Within six months, in the fall of 2005, we received word the bank collapsed.
It was now ten years after we moved in. Of the four parties involved in the initial transaction – the seller, the business man, the bank, and Jubilee, three of the four were now out of business. Jubilee was the only one still standing. Who would’ve thought?
When a bank goes under, the federal government appoints a receiver to sort out the accounts and protect the investors. After many months, when they discovered how much money had been invested into our property, they notified us we had 120 days to pay the full amount (which by their account was several million dollars) or face foreclosure.
In July of 2006, during a time of prayer, the Holy Spirit told Pastor Tim, I have assigned an angel to this case. Pastor Tim comments, I had the distinct impression that this was small potatoes to the angel. No problem. We were covered and in good hands.
God is faithful.
As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones in this situation. There were several other churches also threatened with foreclosure. A retired pastor heard about the situation with the churches and felt deeply troubled by the decision of the receiver and the court. In their aggressive effort to protect the investors, they had not provided the churches with due consideration; the decision to foreclose on these churches was unjustified. He filed a brief with the federal court, arguing that the churches were not given due process to work things out. He proposed an alternate plan to work with the churches to resolve the accounts. The court agreed and the foreclosures were halted. The angel had arrived.
Pastor Tim met this “angel”, Bob, in March of 2008. (More accurately, Bob wasn’t the angel; he was the man the angel found that he could work with.) He flew here to meet with us to review our situation and see how he could help negotiate a settlement with the court. His job was difficult: He was working with a receiver and a judge, neither of which cared the least bit about the churches. He had to find a way to present an acceptable offer to them that we could afford.
Shortly after this, the federal judge was reassigned. The new judge appointed to take his place (and who would have final authority over the decisions) was a pastor’s son. Don’t put me in the position of having to foreclose on a church, he said. You guys need to find a way to make this work.
Bob was close friends with a man at a bank. This man, now the vice-president of a bank, was a member of a church when Bob was pastoring. He secured a mortgage commitment for us in the amount of $800,000. We were pleased (actually, quite surprised) with the commitment as we knew that it was on the outer limits of what we could be approved for.
The receiver, however, rejected our offer to settle for $800,000. The property was appraised for $1.5 million; the settlement was too low. We were notified that foreclosure would begin by the end of the week.
We were surprised that our offer was rejected. Again, we were in a place where there was absolutely nothing we could do.
Suddenly, in the fall of 2008, a banking crisis and economic crash hit our nation. Our “unacceptable” offer became more appealing. We were notified that the receiver was willing to settle. The only stipulation was, the church had to sell the town homes.
Since the court required that the sale of the town homes happen simultaneously with the closing on the church property (and by this time, we couldn’t be sure whether that would happen in weeks or a year), the church’s Board of Directors approved the sale of the town homes to the senior pastor for the appraised value. This also preserved the right of the church to buy back the town homes in the future. Both the state and federal court approved this plan.
To make it all happen, Pastor Tim had to find a bank willing to provide a very unconventional mortgage. He relates the following:
I called no less than a dozen banks and spoke to them in detail about the situation. The circumstances were so unusual, no one wanted to touch it. After many days and many, many conversations, I was exhausted. I came home from the office early and said to the Lord in the car, Father, I’ve done my very best to make this happen. I know this is your plan. You can make a divine connection and get this done. When I arrive home, I’m asking that the next phone call be either from a bank that will do the loan or, if they can’t, they’ll be able to tell me who will.
Shortly after arriving home, the phone rang. It was one of the banks. Their answer: We can’t do the loan. Since they couldn’t do it, I knew this man could tell me who could. Can you tell me who you think would do a loan like this? There was an expectation in my spirit; I knew I was about to get the answer.
If I was you, the man answered, I’d get in my car right now and drive down to [and he named a mortgage company in town, even telling me what street their office was on].
I had my answer! I did exactly what he said. I got in my car and drove down to the office of this particular mortgage company. When I walked in, the receptionist asked me if I had an appointment. I said I did not. You mean you just walked in off the street? She was dumbfounded; she was not used to people doing that. A bit flustered, she said, Let me see if there’s anyone here that can talk to you. I waited in the lobby area for a few minutes expectantly. I knew, whomever it was that walked through that door was God’s man.
Hey! How are you doing? Asked the representative that appeared. He immediately recognized me, and I him. Jason and his family had attended the church for years before moving some distance away. This was clearly a divine connection. Never had I given him as warm a hug as that moment.
Because of his connections, our relationship, and his knowledge, he was able to package the loan and get it approved. Praise the Lord!
Now, all that had to happen was, to get the first bank to honor its more-than-a-year-old mortgage commitment, get approval from the state of New York, and coordinate the closing. That proved to be problematic.
Months later, when we finally received approval from the state of New York, the receiver wanted to wrap things up quickly.
The problem was, the church finances had taken a significant hit, and the new bank was also re-evaluating all of its previous mortgage commitments. We were told that the most they would loan us was $700,000. But, since our commitment had expired, it was unlikely they would even be willing to renew it.
At the same time, we received a call from Jason: The bank had rescinded its mortgage commitment on the town homes. Things were changing so quickly in the banking industry; the standards and scrutiny had gotten much harder. The president of the mortgage company told Jason there was no way they could now do the loan. He was adamant.
The receiver (who knew nothing about these bank challenges) was pushing to close. It was a delicate balance that required a federal court and a state court to be on the same page, and both banks to be ready to close. And now, the town home bank had rescinded its commitment and the main bank was also backing out. Not only was there no one else willing to consider loaning us the money, but time was up.
We were so close, and now everything looked like it had fallen apart. Pastor Tim relays:
I woke up the next morning with a heaviness. It was all so overwhelming. I recalled Proverbs 24:10 If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength. This, I realized, was a moment of truth. In this moment, did I really believe what I said I believed? We preached about the God of the supernatural. Our entire lives were devoted to testifying to the reality of God and the integrity of his word. Like Paul said, if this is not true, we are false witnesses. If this is not true, my entire life is a lie and my life is in vain.
I began to recall the works of God in the past. I recalled how, as an 18 year old, I recognized the call of God to go to Bible school. Facing the impossible task of paying $6,000 per year for four years was overwhelming. It might as well have been a million to me then. In this, my first “moment of truth”, I said, The God who is worthy of me devoting my life to serve, that God is able to pay his own bills. How silly, I thought, to devote my life to something that I believed in so strongly I would give my entire future to, and not believe in strongly enough to pay those bills.
I did not know that my faith as a teenager would set the course of my life – that that moment would be a defining moment for me. And I realized, 25 years later, the same facts of those circumstances have not changed: God was able to pay his bills and he was worthy of my trust.
I recounted the history of this situation and God’s hand on every detail. The question rose up in my heart: When you need a miracle, when there’s no (apparent) way out other than a move of God, that’s the moment of truth. Do you really believe what you say you believe? In these moments, you prove yourself to be either a fake or a man of faith.
Meditating on his word and recalling his faithfulness caused a spirit of faith to rise up in me. I felt an unction, a mantle of divine authority to proclaim, It’s time to get this done. Every detail must get in line NOW! Every obstacle must be removed. NOW! Get it done! Get it done!
I had the unusual sense that in that moment, angelic forces were being released to execute those orders as I proclaimed the word of the Lord.
God had not changed and his word has never failed. Everything had to get lined up, and quickly.
After a thorough review of our updated financials, there was every reason to believe the main bank would decide not to renew the commitment. Our income had dropped significantly. Instead, they notified us that the financials showed them exactly what they wanted to see; they approved the loan. We were speechless. Apart from a supernatural move of God, we couldn’t see any way they would re-approve that loan!
As for the town home bank, Jason called Pastor Tim back a few days later. You must’ve been praying, he said. He continued, I don’t know what happened. I’ve never seen this before. This morning the president of the mortgage company stopped by my office to see me. He said he couldn’t stop thinking about this loan; he couldn’t get it off his mind. “We need to do this loan,” he said. Jason continued, Pastor, I don’t know what happened, but this was a different man than I had met with last week.
I know what happened, Pastor Tim thought. Hebrews 1:14 happened: Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? That man was harassed by an angel.
So now, after working through all of these obstacles, we were ready to close. The only problem was, due to the extent of the legal issues addressed (working with the federal court, the state supreme court, etc.) the cost of the closing was approximately $75,000. We thanked God that, although our bank account said we didn’t have it, 2 Peter 1:3 tells us His divine power has given us everything we need. Since God said he had already given it, there was no point in asking him to give it again. We knew it was already taken care of, that the money had already been allocated by God for this purpose. We just didn’t know into whose account he had deposited it.
In a letter to Pastor Sarah Utterbach, Pastor Tim summarized the turn of events saying:
After we close, we will have a mortgage of $700,000 on property that was appraised for $1.5 million. That is the same amount we originally agreed to pay for the property in 1995 – only now it includes a $1 million addition we put on a few years ago. This addition was financed by the original bank (that went under) and was supposed to be paid for by developing the front of our property.
I remember vividly the words of the Holy Spirit in 1995 when he first led us here: The answer is in the land. I could not have told you, nor imagined, at the start of this how everything would work out. But I did know enough to be led by the Holy Spirit and trust that he knew how to take us all the way to the finish line.
Although there are some pieces that are yet not revealed, I have every confidence that he which has begun a good work in us will carry it on until completion. It would make little sense after coming this far to start doubting now! And I do not plan to.
The morning Pastor Sarah received the letter, she awoke saying to the Lord, Father, what can I do today to put a smile on your face? When she read the letter, she knew.
She called Pastor Tim to tell him the Holy Spirit had instructed them to pay the entire cost of closing. Praise the Lord!
In February of 2010, the closing occurred. It still left us with a mortgage, but the giants of the past 15 years were finally buried.
A few years later, we received a call from a medical practice that was very interested in our front lawn. Since the church building itself was set back away from the road, they were interested in purchasing the front acreage to build a medical office building. When we received the purchase offer it just happened to be for an amount slightly more than the balance owed on the mortgage. Yes, it was just as the Lord had spoken many years prior: The answer was in the land.
From the beginning, this story has not been about buildings and land; it has been about following the Lord’s plan. The buildings and land are simply a means to reach people with the Good News of Jesus Christ and see their lives transformed. And so shall they be used.
To God be the glory!