Thirteen years ago last month, my wife and I loaded up a U-haul with the sum of our worldly possessions, our old green Econoline van, and our two little girls in their car seats, and moved to a little old house we had purchased in northeast Garland, TX, just a half mile from the old Miller Road Baptist Church (which no longer exists). We had come to start a new independent Baptist church in the growing suburb of Sachse, which is between Garland and Wylie. Our start date was planned for September 17, 2000.
I wonder sometimes if anyone ever went to start a new church as under-prepared as we were – but God is often merciful to fools when they mean well and are sincerely trying to do something for His name’s sake. At least, we felt that He was very merciful and gracious to us. One reason I wrote the little book “From One Church Planter To Another” is because I wanted to help anyone who might have been as ignorant as I was when we got started.
We had one major problem. We could not find anyplace to meet to hold our first services – and we lived outside of our target city. No storefronts were available. The schools were either beyond our financial means, being used by other groups, or unwilling to help. There was no decent hotel in that whole area at the time.
While I continued working 50 hours a week and driving 10 to a freight dock in Grand Prairie, my wife worked the phones, trying without success to find a suitable place. As day after day passed without even an address to put on a tract, my frustration and fear grew. We decided that if nothing came available that we would start in our living room, but I also feared that we would not get off to a good start if we did so.
I would like to say that I had great, overcoming faith – but I was not destined to be the hero in this story. The fact is that I was twenty-five years old, scared to death, deeply frustrated, and wondering if I had misunderstood the will of God.
One day, a friend mentioned that his father had mentioned that a friend had mentioned that a church was for sale in Wylie. Wylie is northeast of Sachse, where we wanted to start. I believed that a church based in Sachse could reach Garland and Wylie. However, I was desperate. My wife and I drove out to see the property of the (now defunct) Wylie Church of God and got depressed again. Although it had a gravel parking lot and a broken out sign, the buildings looked huge to me. There was an auditorium, a 2 story metal building, and, in the back, a gym. Not exactly what I considered a “starter church property”
We had about $1000 coming in for support and some money saved up, and I was making $16.90 an hour on the dock. I told my wife, “There’s no way we can afford something like this.” She said, “Well, let’s see if we can find the pastor and ask.” No one was in the buildings. I was about to leave when I saw a man come out of the house behind the church. He waved at me and I went back and introduced myself. He told me that the church and the house were for sale for $250,000. In my mind he might as well have said $2.5 million. We asked if we could go inside. We looked around, and my wife and I knelt at the steps of the platform, opposite a set of drums, and prayed. However, we left without any idea how we could purchase the property for $250,000, so I sort of gave up.
Ok, I totally gave up. I told you I wasn’t the hero of this story.
One day, I got home from the dock and sat down wearily in my recliner. I was going to go knock on doors with tracts that didn’t even have an address. My wife said, “Why don’t you call that pastor and see if you can work something out?” I told her that there was no point. Two minutes later, I heard her say “Just one second please. Here is Pastor Rasbeary.” Then she handed me the phone. She called him herself, then walked off and left me there on the line.
The Lord had been working in the situation. They sold the parsonage to another buyer (how I wish I had it now!). They were now willing to sell us the church for $186,500. He also told me that the Lord had put on his heart to sell it to us. So it was worked out that we would lease the property for one year, and lease back to them the gym at $500 a month. In other words, we got 2 buildings for $1450 a month. That is less than any storefront in town, if any had even been available. He drew up the contract and I went in and signed it.
We held our first service in the church on October 1, two weeks late, and a Grand Opening service in November. The property was in bad shape and it has been a constant renovation project. We had to get financing for the property within a year – no small task. It meant coming up with over $42,000 for a deposit and closing costs, and getting a bank to take the risk on a new church. But God provided. The former pastor even gave us back $6000 of our lease money, which went towards our purchase.
The wife is certainly described as the “weaker vessel,” and yet I’ve found that such vessels often hold a great deal of faith.
And that’s how my wife’s phone call changed our church’s history.
Thank you for reading. God bless.