Looking Back…Against All Odds: A Journey of Faith
Over the course of the next several months, we will be sharing about Operation NET-Reach and the progress in developing a new intake facility, which will provide shelter for approximately 180 additional men, women and children. Because such an endeavor is a huge undertaking, it is tempting to question and wonder how such a vision will ever come forth. However, as I recall the many ways in which God has intervened in the Mission’s past, I can’t help but trust and know that if God is at the helm, surely every need will be supplied and His plans will come forth. Inside is just a taste of the ways in which our current Main Mission Building came to be. May your faith be boosted and your heart encouraged as you read.
It was March 1989. I can still vividly recall the phone call I received at home from one of our staff members who was frantically sharing that a huge limestone rock had just fallen through the drop ceiling of the shelter. Not only that, but the place where the large rock fell was directly on top of a chair that a guest had been sitting in just moments before. Because of the size of the rock and the weight of the impact, all that remained of the chair was a shattered pile of rubble. Surely, if the guest hadn’t have moved, he too would have been crushed and either severely injured or killed. When the city inspectors came out to examine, they confirmed that the building had begun shifting and that everyone would need to immediately evacuate that portion of the building for safety reasons. Permission was given for the approximately twenty men staying at the Mission to stay on the floor inside the dining area downstairs as a sleeping alternative.
For two days, time was spent hauling all belongings to the first floor of the building to prevent further destruction to any property. The moment that two of the guys reached the bottom of the staircase with the last load of items, the entire ceiling of the second floor immediately caved in and smoke from the impact rolled down the stairs. Miraculously, no one was injured but the building was completely falling down. Because of the poor financial status of the Mission at the time, there was nothing anyone could do about it. The Board and I prayed and we came up with two options. Either we could go out of business because there were no finances or we could walk by faith and trust God for something phenomenally huge. The latter was chosen and the mapping out of the blueprint for what a new building would look like began immediately. The estimated cost was calculated at 1.5 million dollars – nothing that was by any means possible in the natural. I remember the sinking feeling that came over me when I heard that number. “Surely it can’t be done,” I thought. But as the months progressed, God was faithful to show me how very wrong I was.
As the Board and I prayed, there was a strong consensus among us that we believed we were to purchase and build where five dilapidated buildings were standing across the street from the current Mission building. We continued walking by faith and drew up plans for the new building. Within two months of making the decision to move forward, but not yet making our decision public, the City had decided that they were going to condemn the buildings that stood on the land which we believed the Lord was showing us to build upon. When I timidly made my first ever phone call to the Mayor’s Office, I was informed by the Mayor that the Mission could bid on the properties but that we would never receive them because of the $50,000 lien that was attached. Regardless of the obvious deterrence, we pressed forward and continued to stand on what we believed the Lord had shown us. Within a short period of time, against all odds, the properties were ours.
When the announcement became public that the Mission was choosing to build, God came forth in many extraordinary ways and all of the provision needed was supplied. I couldn’t possibly begin to list them all, but one such memory was when a stranger showed up in my office unannounced. The man looked ordinary, wearing jeans, a white T-shirt and tennis shoes. Upon my first impression, I assumed this man was one of the guests staying at the Mission. He began asking questions about the building and the construction details. “What will the outside of the building be made of?” he asked. When I responded, “metal,” he retorted by telling me that metal was a bad idea. He told me that it needed to be made out of concrete instead. I held my breath while he proceeded to ask me what the inside of the building would consist of. As I responded, “sheet rock,” the man again replied that it was a bad idea and that it too needed to be made of concrete block. Not interested in continuing to be interrogated from a stranger, I politely told him that, bad idea or not, the Mission could simply not afford the purchase of the concrete block that would be needed to construct the building. The man answered calmly, “Yes, you can,” and went on to introduce himself as the owner of Capital Concrete. I was stunned. He said that if he ever had to live at the Mission, he would not want it to look like junk and because of all that the Lord had done for him in his life, he was going to donate all of the gray concrete block that was needed. He asked me then what I thought of the color of the block. Being accustomed to the dreary paneling and bare rock that filled the old building, I responded that it looked okay to me! He shook his head and suggested that everything be painted and volunteered to donate all of the paint needed as well. Suddenly, this “impossible” endeavor was beginning to look more and more plausible.
By faith, the volunteers were scheduled to arrive on September 17, 1989 to begin building demolition. I’ve learned that as we walk by faith, God often enjoys showing up at the last minute. This situation was no different as it was not until two days prior to the scheduled date that the legal permission was granted for us to move forward. An army of volunteers arrived and the project began. All started well, but within the first few days of demolition and excavation, I received a visit from the head of Schmidtlein Excavating, Inc. He grimly shared that they had located two underground storage tanks that were filled with contaminants. As a result, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency would need to be contacted immediately. Excavation was halted and from my bleak perspective, there was no hope in sight. The ground needed to be tested for contaminants and there was a possibility that the estimated cost to correct the problem would be a couple of million dollars. Once again, I remembered that all-too-familiar sinking feeling and was tempted to completely lose faith. However, the call to prayer went out throughout our City. Within twenty-four hours, we received contact from the environmental agencies performing the tests. They informed us that based on everything that was evaluated, the contaminants should have leaked into the ground. However, when they tested the land they found that not a trace of contamination was present and they were able to safely remove the tanks with no excessive costs. With man, this would have been impossible, but with God I was learning that all things truly were possible!
I could go on about the numerous ways in which God has provided in the Mission’s past. That same God who opened doors, made the impossible possible, and provided for every need is still the same today. We are grateful for the vision that He has brought forth through Operation NET-Reach and look forward with excitement and anticipation of the many ways His hand will be upon us in the year ahead. Your partnership with us means more than you know. It means hope, new life, and history in the making for the Mission and our community. Thank you for your prayers, your gifts, and your support. We could not do any of this apart from you. May the reality of God’s limitless possibilities be yours in the days ahead.