Our prayers have been answered! That's right: the 29th Project 29 Prayer Shelter is finally 'adopted'! The 29th shelter will be known as the "Almighty God Prayer Shelter," in honor of Clarence and Evelyn Sowers (Zanesville, OH). The shelter "celebrates their lives, their faith, and their love." God be praised.
Project 29 began as a dream in the spring of 2006. We had proposed the construction of a "Prayer Pavilion" in the middle of a beautiful meadow at Emerald Hills. We had actually divided the project into components, hoping several churches, groups, or individuals would band together to undergird the structure, which was going to cost in the neighborhood of $24,000. I had just begun serving as Chairman of the Missions Committee at Fern Creek Christian Church and I was sharing my excitement about the new project at a committee meeting one night. To my absolute shock, several committee members began talking and, before the night was done, had determined to approach the elders at Fern Creek to propose that the church tackle the entire project as a congregation. Within a few weeks, the project was adopted and underway, with various members chipping in to take responsibility for different jobs/roles. I couldn't help but notice the excitement and 'ownership' that it created about Emerald Hills, too. The "Fern Creek Christian Church Prayer Pavilion" (as it came to be known) became a tool through which we could communicate to the church the vision of Team Expansion, which is "Transforming communities by planting churches among the unreached."
The television show, "24," featuring special counter-terrorist agent, Jack Bauer, was quite popular at the time. One night after the show, the vision suddenly came to me like a flash: What if we asked other churches, groups, and individuals if they would 'match' Fern Creek in dedication, vision, and partnership — to each 'adopt' the construction of a Prayer Shelter. The shelters would be less expensive (originally about $5000 each; now, years later, a bit more), permitting the lion's share of the balance of the gift to go toward the construction of Phase I of the over all project at Emerald Hills (the phase we've just completed in the past year). Interestingly, my original concept was to propose "24 shelters, each of which would represent a commitment of $24,000." However, only a day or two later, I began to realize that we actually could use a few more dollars than that. It was then that I got the idea of grabbing the number, "29," which, I proposed, would represent the "29th chapter of the book of Acts." Sharp Bible students will quickly recall that Acts 28 ends abruptly, with no explanation as to what was to follow. This abrupt non-ending has caused some preachers and writers to propose that God might have intentionally left the book of Acts without a clear ending because, in effect, "We're still writing it today." Those who have studied Acts will note that it's a book filled with missionary journeys and the establishment of new churches in faraway lands. The fact that it is "endless" is compelling, suggesting that missionary work and new church-planting are still fulfilling the 29th chapter of Acts today. Thus came the idea for "29."
Since that day, in addition to Fern Creek's commitment (which we formally consider to be the initial "dare" structure in the plan), 29 additional churches, groups, and individuals have adopted these beautiful little 10'x10' Prayer Shelters. (We use gazebo kits made of polyvinyl, for long, maintenance-free lives in the woods.) Adopting groups include entities in 8 states. They represent sacrificial gifts from 19 different churches, ranging in church membership from 90 to 20,000. In addition, there are 5 tribute gifts (in honor of a special someone), plus gifts from 2 businesses, a non-profit foundation, a weekly missions publication, a loose-knit group of neighbors of Emerald Hills, and finally, an 'idea.' The idea is — that one shelter should be dedicated to the "Widow's mite," meaning that the giving would come from small gifts, given by schoolteachers, students, farmers, and the like — men, women, and children without lots of money, but with big hearts. All their small gifts, taken together, add up to so much. In fact, as of Sept. 1st, 2010, they've given $23,176.41, and are thus less than $2000 away from their goal of $25,000. (We actually invited our 29 Partners to give $25,000 if their gifts would be given over time, to help us absorb some of the interest on the Phase I repayment campaign.)
How much has been committed all together? Counting Fern Creek's original giving, the commitments total over $700,000. Already, to date, over $500,000 has come in… and partners are still working hard to finish their respective pledges. Truly, Project 29 stands without equal in the history of Team Expansion. More partners have stepped up to the plate to pledge and give more dollars than any other campaign in our existence. We're thankful to Fern Creek for its original vision… and we're thankful to all 29 partners for their shared faithfulness to the dream of transforming communities by planting churches among unreached peoples.
With the help of Project 29, the Lord has empowered Team Expansion and its friends to make a significant dent in the initial cost for Phase I at Emerald Hills, which includes the acquisition of the 61 acres, along with excavation, permits, wastewater management, roads, electrical grid, septic system, a 6000-square-foot workshop and warehouse building called Freedom Barn, and the 10,000-square-foot Prayer Center and Atrium building. Team Expansion's Int'l Services group moved into the Prayer Center & Atrium in March, 2009, and will work there for the time being, until a future Missionary Tech Center (West Wing) is completed in Phase III. The organization relies heavily on the new missions nerve center, not only as an international headquarters, but also as a recruitment and training base, and as a home base for missionaries coming back to the USA for regular furloughs. A recent article in the Visionary, a monthly publication linking Emerald Hills with Unreached Peoples, explained how that Emerald Hills will help the organization overcome the potential for "place-less-ness" in the lives of its missionary members.
As of Sept. 1, of the original $3.5 million dollar price tag for Phase I, the missionaries owe a remaining balance of $1.575 million dollars, which is financed through a loan from First Capital Bank, Louisville, KY. Now that Project 29 is completely 'adopted,' the organization's missionaries will place all of their focus on a campaign called "Multiply the Momentum, which they hope will result in the adoption and repayment of 270 "shares" of the total remaining balance by Christmas, 2010. Each 'share' represents an amount equal to the principal that would have been repaid in a given month over the next 25 years, had the loan gone to complete fulfillment. Adopting friends choose the share that corresponds to a particular month and year, and can thereby pick a month that represents an anniversary, birthday, or that commemorates the passing of a loved one on to new life. Amounts range from $3500 – $11,500. The organization is praying that all 270 shares will be paid by Christmas, 2010. By paying off the principal early, they will have averted the paying of what would have amounted to over $2 million in interest over the full life of the 25-year loan, which began in July, 2009.
To learn more about Multiply the Momentum campaign, or to take part in it, visit the website www.MultiplyTheMomentum.com or www.MTM2010.com.