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A bench story

I felt like the Israelites gazing at the Promised Land from the far side of the Jordan River as I sat on a Sapporo park bench. Less than one hundred meters away was our “promised land,” but I didn’t know how, or even if, God would take us there.

Our church planting team hoped to start a church in the growing suburb of Sapporo, but we had searched for a suitable rental property for three months and encountered nothing but closed doors. The property we looked for would serve as a home for my family and a place for believers to gather.

However, from my park bench that morning, I could see the perfect solution. Next to the park stood an amazing facility built at the height of the bubble economy. In a central location, it had room for a parking lot, a large entrance, an upstairs living area, a spacious kitchen, an unusually large living room suitable for worship services, and extra rooms for meetings and an office. It’s perfect for our needs, I thought. The only problem was that the building was for sale, not for rent, and our mission had never started a church in that manner. Though the ideal building was a scant hundred metres from where I sat, being able to occupy it seemed like an impossible dream. So I did the only thing I could do . . . pray!

The Bible teaches that God loves to answer our prayers and we are encouraged to ask, seek, and knock. That was precisely what we did a few weeks earlier, after contacting the real estate agent, when we literally knocked on the door, waiting for a tour of our dream house. While the tour confirmed that this facility would indeed be an ideal place to initiate a church plant, we still had no resources to acquire it.

Shortly afterwards, we made a ridiculous offer for the building thinking it would surely be rejected outright. To our surprise, it was immediately accepted, as unknown to us, the owner was on the verge of bankruptcy. We rejoiced at this initial green light to proceed. But then had to admit to the owner, the real estate agents, and the bank holding the mortgage that we had no money.

However, we testified that as Christians we believed that God could provide the funds to purchase the building if it was his will. As they had no other options, we were given 45 days to come up with a USD$80,000 down payment before the bank would foreclose. This was what brought me to the park bench to pray. Thankfully, colleagues, churches, and supporters from the around the world joined with us in praying for a miracle.

Checking email was fun in the weeks that followed as every day my inbox included pledges of contributions toward this project. Before the deadline passed, by God’s grace, we had the funds in hand for what we were calling the “miracle mansion.” We even received extra gifts for additional start-up expenses, reminding us once again of God’s generosity.

We took possession and moved into the house just a couple of days before Christmas. We all considered it to be God’s amazing present to us as a family and to the community. We called the church Satsunae Lighthouse Church as we wanted it to serve as a light in the darkness. While we will always treasure the miracle of God’s provision of a building—the greater miracles were the many baptisms and changed lives that took place in association with that building in the years that followed. It all began on a park bench.

By Mike

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