It takes a day like today to remind me that I am not a patient person. I like progress. I like forward movement. I like to be productively engaged. Today, I don’t see a lot of progress and there is not much I can do except wait.
I started with the flu a couple days ago and that is making me tired and achy. Moreover, the doctor told me that I should refrain from contact with people until I have been fever free for a day. I am home-bound for the next couple days.
Second, the pieces are not falling into place for our next planned international trip. Nancy and I are careful to not intrude when we travel internationally. We want our international friends and colleagues in ministry to sense and express that they believe we will add value to what they are doing. We want to fit into their agenda and schedule. Usually when we let them know when we are going to be available, they are able to adjust and happily include us in their work. This allows them to maintain control of their ministry and gives us confidence that we are adding real value. Essentially, we need to wait for them to invite us.
Third, as part of our plan to relocate to Pennsylvania, Nancy and I are considering purchasing an old church building. Currently, there remains a couple unanswered questions about the property. We need to wait for the sellers to get back with us.
As I’ve thought about patience today, I’ve realized that patience is evidence of trusting God. Conversely, impatience is an indicator that I don’t trust God. If I really trust God in the way I say I do, I would not look at these circumstances and feel impatient. Rather, I would look at these circumstances and realize that God is trustworthy and my responsibility is to wait on Him.
Ultimately, I am not waiting for restored health, colleagues, and sellers. I am waiting on the Lord and trusting in his powerful and kind resolution of these and all my other issues.
Oh God, make me patiently obedient!
A number of people have asked me, “What is happening with your church project?” This is in reference to a fifty year old abandoned church building in Lancaster County, PA, that Nancy and I hope to purchase and transform into our home.
The first answer that comes to mind is, “Not much.” That is not an accurate or complete answer. There is activity, but it is behind the scenes and does not require our involvement.
Our initial closing date to purchase the property was this week. However, there are a couple items that we need to know before we can comfortably purchase the property. We have asked the sellers to provide written assurance that the neighbor will abandon the well that currently prohibits the construction of a septic system on the church property. We have also asked the sellers to assure us in writing that the vertical structural posts and floor joists in the front part of the church building do not touch the ground. (They should sit on concrete foundation and footers.) Correcting these issues after purchase would increase the cost of the project and make it nonviable.
Gathering this information is taking the sellers longer than the current closing date allows, so our realtors are working to establish a new closing date, probably closer to mid-February. This delay is okay with Nancy and me. We are not in a rush and this gives us more time to work on other tasks, like our real jobs … oh, and packing, getting rid of stuff, and preparing our current house to sell.
Over the past weekend, I cleaned out my office. I packed the stuff that I want to keep such as the Caleb Project archives and my Frank Laubach library and I gave away other items, including 200 books. I also painted a couple red walls in our dining and living rooms to make them more neutral and hopefully more appealing to buyers.
Fortunately, my work right now is mostly on the computer and phone. I am consulting with several ministry leaders and can do most of that from my desk. Next week I am scheduled to go to Patterson, NJ to facilitate a planning meeting with a ministry there. After those meetings, I plan to travel to Pennsylvania to directly engage in the “church project.”
Nancy and I have enjoyed our environment and lifestyle in Spokane the past 7.5 years. Spokane is a wonderful place to live. However, our current occupational choices have necessitated a decrease in income. So, one of our objectives in moving from Spokane, WA to Lancaster County, PA is to downsize our living costs. With our current income, our current home is beyond our means. We hope to eliminate, or nearly eliminate, our mortgage and decrease our utility costs.
So, we need to sell the house that has been our home.
One of our first steps is to select a Realtor who will oversee the sale. Fortunately, there are excellent Realtors in Spokane. We personally know several. We decided to formally interview three and select the one that we feel will be best for us in this transaction.
All three made excellent presentations. In some ways, they are similar. They all are aware of the current housing market and understand the basics of what it will take to successfully market and sell our house. Each of them demonstrates competence with a number of recent sales.
There are also differences between them. One, in his thirties, demonstrates compassion for people and is outspoken about his Christian faith. The second, in his forties, is pragmatic and will push hard for results. The third, in his fifties, has the most experience and has worked with us in past real estate transactions.
Nancy and I like each of their strengths and would enjoy working with any of them. However, we are leaning toward hiring the one with whom we have the most experience. This man has faithfully proven himself by serving us before and we have a high degree of confidence that he will do a good job for us again.
If you know of anyone looking for a nice house on the north side of Spokane, let me know!
As Nancy and I have considered the possibility of purchasing a 50 year old abandoned church building in Lititz, PA and converting it into our home, we have encountered a number of issues that have threatened to torpedo the project. Most recently we learned that the cost to repair the rotted foundation would make the price of the project untenable.
We recognized three options. First and not realistic, we could follow through with the project as planned and try to find money to cover the extra costs. Second, we could raze the building and start over. This is an unacceptable solution because our interest in the property is primarily the building. We like the idea of preserving the legacy of a former generation of worshipers and we enjoy the building’s beauty. Without the building, the property is not interesting to us. Finally, we could abandon the idea and look for a more traditional solution to our housing need.
We were close to giving up and accepting the third option when a fourth option became apparent. This option now seems so obvious that I am embarrassed to say that I did not see it until it was almost too late. Nancy and I were talking about what to do and she started tossing out every idea that popped into her head. Most of her ideas were not very good.
However, when she said, “What if we keep the front, finished part of the building and knock down the back,” it was an “a-ha” moment for me. Of course! We believe the front of the building is pretty-much sound. It is the unfinished back of the building that has caused us to struggle. Let’s raze that part of the building and do new construction in its place. This gives us the opportunity to preserve the church building and newly construct the back. We will keep the historically significant structure and stay within our limited budget.
An added benefit to this plan is it gives us greater flexibility to build a house that will fit our needs. Working entirely with the existing structure would have created an awkward floor-plan and wasted space. Adding new construction will enable us to build a more efficient overall structure.
Although dark, this picture is a metaphor of how I feel about the decision Nancy and I need to make about a property we are considering purchasing in Lititz, PA. The picture is of a stained glass window from inside the church building we would like to convert into our home. At first glance, you probably notice the beauty of the window. The window’s religious imagery might trigger a God-thought or emotion. However, as you look more closely you might notice the debris cluttering the floor and the fiberglass insulation falling from the ceiling. Inside the window, the room is a mess.
Similarly, as Nancy and I first looked at the church building, we were struck by the beauty of the structure and the potential it holds to be our home and ministry base. We see the potential of this building continuing its high purpose of serving God and declaring his glory. However, as we consider the restoration costs we wonder if the price is too high.
Our desire is to trust God and walk in his will for us. However, at this moment we are confused. We are not sure how he wants us to proceed. Should we look at the beauty and potential (the stained glass window) and move toward that? This seems “visionary” and feels like it requires more faith. Or, should we realistically count the costs, heed the warnings, and abandon the project. This makes sense and might be better stewardship.
I have tried to draw and apply lessons from my current daily Bible readings from Jeremiah and Isaiah. These books have many accounts of people not listening to the Lord and refusing to obey him. The consequences are disastrous! It appears to me that sometimes God’s direction was logical and the people would have gotten it right if they had exercised good common sense. Other times, God instructed them to trust him in ways that appeared foolhardy. In these instances, He promised to take care of them even as they assumed great risk.
In my life, I have experienced God’s direction through clear thinking and calculated risk. I have also followed his leading into ridiculous risks. I have enjoyed his blessing during both of these kinds of experiences.
Now Nancy and I must discern whether we should take the safer path and avoid the messy and uncertain renovation costs, or take the more “risky” path and trust God to lead us through what we currently can’t see clearly.
Nancy and I are in the due diligence stage regarding the purchase of a 50 year old church building that we would like to convert into our house. We are discovering a number of issues that could be project ending problems.
One of these problems is the building’s foundation. Unfortunately, the building was constructed using vertical timber posts that are anchored in the ground. These posts have decayed at and below the ground line and need to be cut off to good wood and new foundations constructed. The structural engineer indicated that this can be done, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I received a building contractor’s assessment regarding the cost. This is what she said:
I think it will cost you far more than you think to turn it (the church building) into a house. That foundation can not be excavated with equipment. I am honestly afraid the building will fall down. I don’t think your renovations can be done (to turn it into a house) without spending hundreds of thousands of &$&$.
Hmmm…, if she is correct, this will be the end of the road for this project. However, before we abandon the project I would like to get a second opinion. I will send an update when I know more.
Please pray that we have wisdom!
Nancy and I are in the due-diligence stage regarding a 50 year old church building that we are considering buying and converting into our home in Lancaster County, PA. We have encountered a number of problems that threaten the viability of the project.
One problem is the septic system. The only plumbing on the property is the outhouse pictured above. So, before we complete the purchase of the property, we need to be sure that we can install a septic system. We did not expect this to be a problem because the neighbors’ systems seem to be working well and the area is known for well-draining soil. However, the township Sewage Authority officer discovered that one of the neighbors is using a well near the rear of their property while the other neighbor’s well is at the front of the property. Since the township code will not allow septic system to be built within 100 feet of a well, there is no place on the church property that will currently work.
Initially, we thought this would make the property not-viable as a residence. However, the Sewage Authority officer discovered that the neighbor that is using the well near the rear of the property also has a well toward the front of the property. Since their septic system is also near the rear of their property, they are in violation of the code and should switch to their other well and abandon the one they are currently using. Moreover, they have received an incentive from the sellers of the church property who offered to pay for the well abandonment. We anticipate that this will be sufficient motivation for them to make the switch.
So, it appears that this problem is being resolved. Of course, we still want to be sure the soil passes the “perc test” before we complete the purchase.
Yesterday, we discovered another problem that could be more than a hurdle. It could be a wall that blocks us from moving forward. Read about it in my next post.
While Nancy and I were in Lititz in December confirming our decision to move to Lancaster County, we stumbled on an “interesting” property – a small stone church building that was partly constructed in 1965. The front part of the structure was used as a church building for a couple decades, but then abandoned. It appears to have not been used for decades, but the sheet music is still on the piano, there are still knitted cushions on some of the seats, and the preacher’s Bible is still on the lectern. Was the congregation raptured?
Nancy and I felt an immediate connection with this building. Could we remodel it into our home? Could those stones again glorify God, revived as our home? Here is the letter Nancy wrote that we included with our offer to the sellers:
Dear friends at Ambassadors for Christ,
My husband Greg and I are originally from this area. We left after college to do mission work. For the last 30+ years we have served in that capacity in dozens of countries.
Now we have the opportunity to move back to this area. Since we have been in ministry, as you know, finances can be a challenge. This property will enable us to build a home even in light of our financial limitations.
Since we first saw the property, both of us can’t get it out of our minds and talked during the night in excitement about our vision for it.
We love the stone and the fact that it was a church. We also are touched by the story of the property and the vision that inspired it. We would love to make it into a home that would bring glory to God. We can envision ourselves finishing it and living there. We do hospitality ministry wherever we go and expect to carry on that tradition.
We would be honored to have you accept our offer.
God bless you,
Greg and Nancy Fritz
The sellers did accept our offer over a competing offer they received the day before they received ours. Now we are in the due diligence stage trying to figure out if our vision to “revive” that old building is possible.
Check out this video that our new son-in-law created after visiting the property Christmas eve: Poplar Grove Chapel
During our extended road trip in November and December, Nancy and I sought direction from God regarding where we should call home for the next season of our lives. We do not have to be located in Spokane, and, even though we enjoy living here, there are a number of reasons it makes sense to live somewhere else.
We considered several alternatives including Pennsylvania, which eventually rose to the top of our list. By the time we arrived at our good friends’ bed and breakfast in Lititz, PA (Swiss Woods), we had pretty much concluded that we would attempt to move to Lancaster County. And so, the journey began!
We have already had several exciting weeks and it looks like many more adventures are ahead. I have decided to recommit myself to this blog to attempt to capture what we notice the Lord doing in and through us as we journey down this road.
We hope this move allows us to accomplish the following:
- Place us closer to family
- Give us easier access to international travel
- Rid ourselves of an expensive mortgage and significantly decrease our living expenses
- Bring us closer to the dynamic missions community based in Lancaster County