August 4, 2022
To say it is hot in Texas would be an understatement! Of course, Texas is not alone! And, in addition to the heat, our nation is suffering from fires and floods—simultaneously. Because of the widespread nature of these disasters, some of our brethren have been affected. Please pray for those in areas where fires are raging and for those who live in areas of major flooding. We will do our best to keep everyone informed of any members being affected by these disasters.
The arrival of August traditionally marks the countdown to the fall holy days. As I write this letter (Monday, Aug. 1), the Feast of Trumpets is exactly eight weeks away. My wife and I plan to be very busy this year for the Feast of Tabernacles, again visiting multiple sites. While we are all excited about the Feast, in this letter, I would like to focus your attention on another project that has been on hold for some time.
In the fall of 2016, the Ministerial Board of Directors (MBOD) and the administration made the decision to purchase land and build an office. This was a major undertaking for our small Church just six years from our beginning in December of 2010. But the need was there, and we had the finances to proceed.
After months of searching, we finally purchased 7.4 acres of land in McKinney, Texas, about 20 miles north of Dallas. McKinney has been one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. over the past 10 years. We were excited to finally locate such a nice tract of land that was also affordable, and the sale was completed in 2017. We contracted with an architectural firm and a builder to complete a modest office building, with 17,000 square feet of space. We believed that this size would be sufficient for the foreseeable future. After a year of construction, we finally moved into the new office in March of 2019.
In order to begin construction on the property, we had to obtain approval from the city of McKinney, which proved to be no easy task! After weeks of back and forth, we were finally able to overcome the obstacles that were put before us, and we received approval to build on our property in January of 2018. But along with the plans for an office, the city required that we submit a master plan for the entire 7.4 acres. They wanted to know, before any building was approved, what we intended to do with the more than 3 acres of land remaining.
We had a number of discussions with the architect and finally settled on a master plan to present to the city. That plan included an education center that could also be used as an auditorium. In addition to the office, we felt that in the long term we would need another building, dedicated to education, which could be used for Sabbath services, conferences, educational weekends, holy day services and possibly even the Feast of Tabernacles. This second building, to be constructed from material that would be complementary to the office, was designed to be 12,500 square feet and have the capacity for a 500-seat auditorium. The original drawings were very simple and, quite honestly, did not contain much detail. Since we had a seven-year mortgage on the office, we felt that we would not be facing another construction project any time soon.
Then things changed! The income of the Church increased more than expected in 2019—and amazingly, during the pandemic, it increased even more. By June of 2021, still during the pandemic, we had enough cash in reserve to pay off the office building, five years ahead of schedule. We also paid off a smaller mortgage on a building in East Texas. This made the Church totally debt-free five years before we were scheduled to renegotiate the mortgage on the office. What an amazing blessing! The absence of a mortgage saves the Church approximately $230,000 annually.
With the additional savings from the mortgage, we increased our media budget by more than 30 percent for the second half of this year, which allows us to produce a new program that we hope to launch sometime around the Feast of Tabernacles. This increase in our reserves reopened the discussion about the second building, which had been put on hold in 2016. We asked the same architect to take the original ideas and begin filling in the details on what this building might look like. We have been meeting with the architects since April, and we should have an artist’s sketch to review this fall.
So far, we have invested very little money in planning for this second building, but that may change soon. We have determined that we can afford to build a 12,500-square-foot, multipurpose education center on our property. It would give us an auditorium that could be used for Sabbath services, for ministerial conferences, for special youth and adult educational weekends, for combined holy day services and even, potentially, for a Feast of Tabernacles location.
I hope this background is helpful in putting our considerations in context. We have not decided on the spur of the moment that it would be nice to construct another building. That is far from the case. With the blessings we have received, the Church is in a very strong financial position. We are asking, Is it time to complete our master plan? That is the question we are considering. I am writing to all of you to seek your prayers for God’s wisdom in making the right decision. This fall we should have the drawings complete and will need to choose a builder if the decision is made to build. No such decision has been made as of this date. We have three possibilities facing us in the next six months: delay any building indefinitely; begin building this fall or, more realistically, in January 2023; or defer any building for another year and then reconsider. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.
Whenever we are faced with decisions of this nature, I take encouragement from reading the letter that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish captives in Babylon. Even though they were in captivity, he encouraged them to continue planning for the future. He instructed them to “build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit” (Jeremiah 29:5). Don’t stop planning, was his message to the Jews. Then he wrote what is one of the most repeated sayings from the Bible and one that is widely used on plaques: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me and I will listen to you” (verses 11-12).
What will happen in the future is in God’s hands, not ours. Our job is to constantly plan and do our best, trusting that God will hear us when we seek Him! Thank you for your support!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,