With a heart of worship and thanksgiving I sit down to record what God has so beautifully orchestrated over the past month in the Montrose Seventh-day Adventist churches in Colorado, United States.
It started with a retired pastor in our congregation kneeling down to pray one Sunday morning.
“Lord,” he prayed, “what would you have us do with our school property?” The 20,000-square-foot (1,858-square-meter) building sits on four and a half acres (1.82 hectares). It had served as an Adventist school for many years and was currently being rented out to another ministry.
Now, the local Adventist Hispanic church was interested in renting or buying it, because the members had outgrown the chapel they had used for 10 years.
As he prayed, a strong impression settled on him: “We should give them the property.” His next thought was, “Well, that’s a crazy idea!” But the thought persisted.
In obedience to this prompting, he took the idea to the next church board meeting. Discussions concerning the school property were not uncommon during these meetings, but not once had anyone presented the idea of giving away property that would likely be valued at one million dollars!
There was talk of selling it and putting the money toward a new church building. There was talk of renovating it and moving our congregation there. But giving it away? To our amazement, one board member after another spoke out in favor of this “crazy idea.”
It became apparent that if this were brought to a vote, it would pass. But this was way too big of a decision for a church board to make. We decided to take it to a business meeting.
Nearly a month later, the business meeting ensued with 35 church members showing up to discuss whether we should sell, give, or continue forward with the plan to rent the school building to the Hispanic church. Some members imagined that this would be one of many business meetings as every possible outcome would be discussed.
To our shock and amazement, an hour and a half into our discussion, someone called question on the motion that was made to give the school and property in its entirety to the Hispanic church. A two-thirds vote was needed to end discussion with the main motion to be taken to vote. The vote passed, and just like that, the “crazy idea” planted in the mind of a retired pastor had been set in motion.
As the pastor of the church, I remember thinking, “We have just given away a million-dollar asset.”
I didn’t sleep much that night. I knew that well-meaning congregations had split over much less. Expecting my phone to be blowing up the next morning with high-intensity conversations, to my surprise, there were none. Oh, how little faith I have, I pondered. My insecurities were soon replaced with joy as the head elder of the Hispanic church hugged me and told me about the tears and rejoicing that were taking place as they enthusiastically made plans for their new mission headquarters.
It was a joy to come together the very next Saturday (Sabbath) for communion service. Rather than a divided church, we witnessed perhaps the greatest communion attendance ever in church. It seemed that the familiar tunes of “And Can It Be” and “Amazing Grace” were carried with a sweeter spirit.
God reminded me of the Bible text in 2 Corinthians 9:6 — “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (ESV).
The Rocky Mountain Conference property department is working with both congregations to prepare a document that formalizes the gift and establishes the conditions for the transfer. According to the Hispanic leadership, the intent of the gift is that the building will always be used by the Hispanic congregation. Because they (as well as the English congregation) are growing, both sides believe that is what the future holds. However, if unforeseen circumstances arise, there is a desire to have mutual agreement on how or whether to return the property.
It is time we start acting on more of these “crazy ideas.”