How God Opened the Door for Us to Buy Land
Back in 2013, our church was busting at the seams. We had completely outgrown our previous building on Arnold Mill Road. We already had three worship services, and we were considering a forth. The hallways, along with many other areas of our building, were never built to accommodate such large numbers of people moving back and forth from worship to Sunday School. Many may remember, we had to turn our hallways into one-way thoroughfares to make moving throughout the building more feasible – and still we were shoulder-to-shoulder as we moved about.
Our elders were exploring all options. If we were going to continue to grow as a single congregation, we would need additional space, which meant additional land. We had almost reached the limits of our property at that time, with county restrictions on storm water detention and septic fields leaving us very little room to add sufficient further space. We repeatedly asked our neighbors to sell, but they were either unwilling or they were asking unreasonable prices. As one of our final options, we investigated to see if there might be some land available elsewhere in Woodstock that could accommodate our growth.
None of the elders were very optimistic that we could find anything because land prices in Cherokee County were already quite high. Yet we established some criteria for what we would need and asked Betty Ann Horne to go look for properties that met that criteria. She quickly returned with four potential listings. As we looked at them, three of them immediately eliminated themselves. They were either too costly – in the neighborhood of $6 million – or they weren’t suitable or buildable for a church.
However, one property stood out as a possibility. It is the property we now own. It was 15 acres, originally listed at $175,000 per acre, with a total of about $2.6 million – much too high for our budget. Nevertheless, we had nothing to lose, and we decided to at least offer the owner what we could afford and see what happened.
We called the real estate agent and told him who we were, a young church with a limited budget, but we’d like to make an offer on the land. We presented an offer of $1.5 million.
As I spoke to the real estate agent and presented our initial offer, his response caught me off guard. He said, “The owner is going to be ecstatic. He is going to be so excited that a church wants to buy this property.” The agent went on to explain that the owner used to be a part of a church that wanted to buy this piece of property. But the church couldn’t get the financing to buy the property. So he agreed to purchase the property and then in turn sell it to the church. He was basically going to serve as the bank or lending agency for the church.
For a couple of years, they were making payments on the land and were preparing to build. But, before they could make any real progress on building, the church fell into turmoil. The pastor left and the church had to default on the property, leaving the gentleman with all the financial obligations.
Through all of this, the owner held onto the property, believing in his heart that God intended a church to be on that spot. He was approached multiple times by people wanting to buy the property. The city of Woodstock talked to him about buying it for a fire station. And multiple other buyers tried to convince him to sell. But he held onto the property, trusting that God would bring a church to purchase it. In his mind, he had purchased this property for the Lord’s purposes and dedicated it to just such a purpose.
When we called, he was thrilled that a church wanted to buy it. He understood our church’s financial constraints, but he himself had also been put in a difficult position. He had purchased the property at $225,000 an acre and to take just $100,000 per acre would be a massive loss he could not handle. But in his heart, the Seller wanted to help our church however he could. So he made us a very generous offer.
Instead of requiring us to purchase all of the property at one time, he offered to sell us as much of the property as we could afford at his asking price. We could carve it up however we wanted to and purchase only what we needed to get started on our project. The rest he agreed to hold for us for seven years in a legal option, and we could buy the rest of the property at any time within those seven years. This option means he won’t sell the rest of the property to anyone else during that time.
The owner has been so easy to work with. It is a remarkable blessing from the Lord. He made the initial purchase as pain-free as he could, and we eventually made an initial purchase of 8.7 acres. We drew some lines on a piece of paper and he agreed to sell us what we needed. We have since purchased another two other parcels totaling just under 1 acre, pushing our current holdings to 9.6 acres. The owner of the land continues to be a great partner with us as we continue to move forward in our project. He says he is praying for us as we strive to build and rejoices with us in each step we take. Even as we have worked through our site plan and considered several options for moving boundaries or adding additional land, he is always gracious and enthusiastic to help us accomplish our church’s building goals anyway he can.
It’s been a truly remarkable experience to watch the Lord work through this man in a way that really blesses our fellowship. We could not have purchased such an ideal piece of property if it weren’t for the Lord giving this man a heart to see God’s Kingdom glorified by this land. We so appreciate his willingness to work with us and partner with us to use this property for God’s church. And now that we’re preparing to break ground, it’s even more exciting to see how the Lord laid the groundwork for us to build in this location.