God Provided Our Land
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Smile Again Ministries we’ve realized how much God has blessed us every step of the way. I promised you yesterday that we’d share a bit about the miracles of finding the land we now have Whitetail Lodge on.
Judy and I came to the Brainerd area to look for land. We probably chose this area because Judy and I grew up in Brainerd. We met with a realtor to talk about what we hoped to do in creating a retreat center. We knew we wanted a remote area without a lot of noise, and if possible, on a lake.
As we outlined our thoughts she of course asked us how much we wanted to spend on property? I remember saying, “Well, we’d rather not spend anything, but I’m guessing that’s not an option?” She laughed and said, “No, that’s not an option.”
So, in a leap of faith I told her to look for properties of one million dollars or less. As she typed in our parameters only one property came up on her computer screen. After talking about it I told her, “Well, let’s go for 2.5 million or less.” Her computer screen filled up with options. After discussing the options, we settled on looking at 6 properties in the Brainerd lakes area.
It didn’t take long to realize that it was going to take a LOT more time than we thought to find property. Of the six properties, there was only one that had potential. It was a new, spec lodge, that had been built by Lands End Development in Crosslake. The lodge was fantastic, but the property was surrounded by other people and the cost was over two million dollars. So we talked to the Lands End representative and talked about the possibility of building the lodge in a different location. He told us we could build he lodge anywhere in Minnesota.
Steve and Wendy Buresh (members of our original board) told us about possible lots in the Aitkin area. We went and looked at the lots and found one that had real possibilities.
Once again we contacted Lands End and as we talked one of the owners asked us, “Are you committed to the property in Aitkin?” We told him no and he said, “Well, my brother has a piece of property near Crosslake that I think might work for you. It has a large building already in place and 15 acres on a private lake.” So, we agreed to look at the property.
The moment Judy and I stepped on the land we knew, “This is where God wants us to build our retreat center.”
We won’t talk about the exact cost – but it was FAR less than the millions of dollars we had been talking about before. But, the cost was still way beyond our ability to buy. In fact, Judy and I had about $1.00 in our pocket for the purchase.
We entered negotiations for a contract for deed option with the owners. We were given a two-month period to raise $16,000.00. We sent out letters, used emails to send out messages, and called possible donors. We were able to raise $10,000.00 in a short time, but still needed $6,000.00 with just two days to the deadline. It looked hopeless.
But then God! A woman who had been in a previous church called out of the blue and told Judy she had heard what we were trying to do. She had lost a daughter too. After talking about our dream Judy simply asked this woman to join us in prayer for a financial need. Judy told her, “Pray with us if you would. We need $6,000.00 in the next couple of days if we’re going to move forward with this land purchase.” Without a moment’s hesitation she said, “Well I can give you that. I’ll drop a check in the mail today.”
This was the first of miracle after miracle that enabled us to purchase the land we now call home for Smile Again Ministries. Our early monthly mortgage payments were around $3,600.00 a month. We had monthly donors who were giving about $2,600.00 a month. Obviously, that left us with a monthly need of $1,000.00. While we never knew where the money would come from, God always provided. In fact, we never once missed a payment.
Today, SAM is financially solvent and on solid ground. And we want to give God all the glory and honor. One dollar has literally led to hundreds of thousands of dollars. All God’s blessing our obedient steps of faith.
In my next blog, I’ll focus on all the things that God has provided through donations from people just like you. I’ll try to get that blog out in the next week. God bless, and we love you guys, Pat & Judy.