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Thanks, Jack

Church gains much-needed property offered at a bargain price by a dying seller.

In 2015, Pastor Dan L. Ross of Fenton, Missouri, spent much of his free time walking, praying, and asking the Lord for a larger building for the congregation he pastored.

Ross, then 50, felt the Lord calling him to start a capital campaign at the church, and he scheduled a “Vision Sunday.” He wanted to outline a plan of growth for two campuses — one in Fenton and one in nearby Hillsboro. But he didn’t have a location large enough to accommodate them.

Ross called 70-year-old Jack L. Walters, a friend who owned a large building in High Ridge, Missouri — in the shape of a cross, no less — that primarily hosted Christian camps. Walters generously allowed Ross to borrow the building for this vision service in March 2015.

Two months later, Walters contacted Ross to discuss selling the 77-acre property, which contained the 30,000-square foot building, built only eight years earlier. Walters says he had a buyer willing to pay the appraised $2.9 million price, but he sensed the Lord telling him to sell it to Ross instead.

Lord, I don’t have $2.9 million! Ross recalls thinking during the conversation. Walters sensed God nudging him to complete the transaction quickly, and to sell to Ross for a fraction of the appraised cost: $670,000. Walters outlined how Ross could continue to host camps on the property as a source of income, and how he wanted to complete the sale by the end of 2015.

A few days later, Ross received another call from Walters, who, after a doctor’s visit, learned that he had an inoperable brain tumor. Walters, given an expected lifespan of just three months, wanted to complete the sale even quicker. One month after their initial meeting, on June 30, Ross and Walters closed the sale.

“God knew about the tumor before Jack did,” Ross says. “A lot of people say God speaks to them, but very few follow through when it’s something on this scale.”

Ross got to work utilizing the new property almost immediately. In August 2015, the church hosted a back-to-school event attended by over 1,200 during which 800 backpacks full of school supplies as well as 125 free haircuts were given away. Subsequently, camps have been hosted, plus relationships built with the local police, fire department, and chamber of commerce.

Laurel Harvey, U.S. missionary with Missionary Church Planters & Developers serving Rural Compassion, affirms the church’s relationships with stakeholders in the community. She notes that the building came in handy after flooding a couple of years ago.

“Convoy of Hope was able to use it as their command center for relief efforts because Dan has a relationship with the police, fire department, hospitals and EMTs,” Harvey says. “They are the church of the community.”

Today, New Hope Fellowship is firmly planted in High Ridge, Missouri, with more than enough room to continue to grow and blossom as a rural church. Under the pastoral guidance of Ross, the church has continued camps and festivals. Visitors can login to the Wi-Fi using a fitting password: ThanksJack.

Ana Pierce Elliott

Ana Pierce Elliott is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Missouri.