Itís midnight. The red preacher-phone rings.

            Pastor Al, the late-night parson, answers again...

New Chapter Begins
Posted: 13 June 2009

"To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven...
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;"
-Ecclesiastes 3:1,6

     Lives, like the biographies and memoirs that recount them, are often composed of a number of chapters. Last January the Bible Baptist Church began the process of closing one chapter of its life and opening another. We were about to lose the building that had been home to our church for the last 16 years.

     The opening chapter of the Bible Baptist Church began in September 1982. In the beginning, the church met in the Richfield Elementary School building. A few years later another chapter began when the church moved to the old Richfield Library building, also known as the Old Town Hall, in the center of the village. Yet another chapter began in the early 1990's when the church rented 2000 square feet of office space on Brecksville Road and converted it for its use. That chapter closed in January 1993 when the church moved further to a building at 4767 Brecksville Road.

     Originally, the Bible Baptist Church planned to acquire the property through either an outright purchase or through a land contract. Unfortunately, neither option worked out and the church ended up merely renting the property while the owners debated whether or not to give it to us. Unfortunately, that option did not work out either.

     Last year, Summit County took possession of the property and attempted to sell it in March due to the owners failing to pay their taxes and assessments. Since no one was willing to meet the $300,000-plus minimum bid, the property went unsold despite two sale attempts.

     In Mary, 2008, the property was aggregated by the county with a number of other unsold properties and bought by Sunrise Atlantic LLC, an out-of -state bank, at a discount. Our first contact with Sunrise Atlantic was when their representatives broke into the building late last July. They were surprised to find us occupying the building since they had been told that it was vacant. We were a bit surprised ourselves when they called the number on our sign out front to apologize for breaking in.

     After a somewhat awkward meeting, we got to talking about Sunrise Atlantic's plans for the property. They were under the impression that Sunrise Atlantic was looking for a quick turn-around on the property and that they might be amiable to either giving it to us for a tax deduction or to selling it to us at a nominal cost.

     Thankfully, God supplied us with a real estate attorney who began negotiating with Sunrise Atlantic and their representatives in August. At one point Sunrise Atlantic seemed to be considering the possibility of donating the property to the church. At another point they considered selling it to us at a discounted cost, taking the fair market value difference as a tax deduction. At still another point we talked about structuring a suitable lease.

     Unfortunately, the economic downturn at the end of the year conspired against the first two options and negotiations broke down in January due to a dispute over lease arrangements. The lease offered was written so that the church would be responsible for all interior and exterior maintenance and repairs, potentially including paving the parking lot and re-roofing the building. Failure to do so could result in possible eviction and Sunrise Atlantic contracting out the work and then sending us the bill. In addition, we were also to be responsible for paying all property taxes and assessments. Of course, they did offer us the assurance that they could notify us to vacate the building at any time with no less than 30 days notice. In other words, it seems that Sunrise Atlantic was looking for a way to spend as little money as possible fixing and maintaining the property while marketing it for a quick sale.

     Apparently they did not like it when we rejected the lease as it was written. We said that we would need some changes in the lease or else we would plan on vacating the building. Consequently, Sunrise Atlantic ceased communicating with our attorney, despite repeated attempts to contact them. A few weeks later, in mid-February, someone taped a note to the front door just before our Wednesday night service. The note said that we would have to vacate the building by February 22 or face possible eviction proceedings.

     Now, vacating the building without prior notice in five days was obviously an unreasonable request. However, the handwriting, if you'll pardon the pun, was on the wall telling us that we needed to be out of the building as soon as possible. So, we began the arduous process of clearing out the building, trying to decide what to keep, what to store, and what to sell or give away. All the while we had to pray and look for a suitable place to meet.

     We investigated several properties and facilities but unfortunately did not have the time or money to relocate to any of them. Summit County, we found out, now requires a special permit to allow a place to by used as a "public meeting facility." Richfield Village requires the county permit before applying to building and zoning commission for a conditional zoning permit. The conditional zoning permit is required in order to get an occupancy permit. And, of course, all that required a substantial amount of time and money.

     When we realized that we were going to have to relocate we asked God for several things:

1. A place we could afford without having to give up the radio program. 2. A place we could move into right away. 3. A place that would be visible and easy to find. 4. A place that would have good "curb appeal." 5. A place where we can grow.

     Unfortunately, we were not finding a place that met those conditions until God redirected our attention. We turned our attention from leasing a building or commercial space to public meeting rooms and halls. We found several available and soon settled on the conference room at the Holiday Inn Express in Richfield. It met our requirements and, unlike several other facilities we looked at, we are able to bring in coffee, tea, and other refreshments.

     The Bible Baptist Church met for the last time in the building at 4767 Brecksville Road on Sunday, March 22. Our next meeting was less than a mile north at the Richfield Holiday Inn Express at 5171 Brecksville Road on Friday, March 27. We shut the doors on one chapter and opened the doors to another.

     Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts we had to temporarily cancel our Wednesday night meetings. However, due to another scheduling conflict with one of our Friday night Bible studies in April, we decided to meet at the Wendy's restaurant in the Pilot Truck Stop next door rather than cancel the Bible study. Noticing that other groups meet from time to time at Wendy's, we decided to start meeting informally there on Wednesday nights as well. So, starting May 6, we resumed meeting Wednesday nights.

     Now, some might wonder why God did not answer our prayers and allow us to stay in our building. and for us. After all, a lot of people have been praying with us and for us that God would either move Sunrise Atlantic to give us the building, make it possible for us to acquire ownership, or provide some other means, such as a long term lease, to enable us to stay in the building. However, through it all we have also prayed for God to close the door to staying in the building if He has something better for us.

     From a human standpoint, staying in our old building seemed the most sensible course of action. However, staying in the building had some drawbacks and challenges, not the least of which being that it was old and needed significant repairs. God, instead, had something better in mind for the Bible Baptist Church.

     Moving out of the building has enabled us, in a sense, to move out into the community more. People are talking about and asking about the church more. We are ministering and witnessing to people that we might not have had the opportunity to reach otherwise. We have drawn together more closely as a body of believers. In short, God is blessing and, I think, using the church more now than before.

     Jesus says in Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." James 4:2 says, "Ö[Y]e have not, because ye ask not."

     We asked and God answered. And, in time, we'll find it better than we expected.

        Pastor Alfred B. Davis
Bible Baptist Church, Richfield, Ohio