The Unfolding of the Vision
During the years I have served as a pastor and a district superintendent, I have grown increasingly more aware of the need for centers that are dedicated to prayer ministry and the spiritual renewal of pastors and God’s people. Therefore, I was not surprised, as I drove past a for sale sign for 100 acres of land near Jamestown, NY, to hear God say to my spirit, “I want you to build a prayer campus there.” That was in the summer of 1998.
In late August and early September of 1998 I was privileged to visit several churches in South Korea with my bishop, Hae Jong Kim, serving as tour guide. For one night and part of a day during that visit, we stayed at the Kwang Lim Methodist Church “prayer mountain.” It was here that I garnered several ideas that are now incorporated into the plan for The Better Place. – The U. S. of America church can learn much about prayer ministry from the Korean church.
The demands on my time as a U. M. district superintendent did not leave me with much time to pursue The Better Place vision. It was at a meeting of the Cornerstone District Council on Ministries in the early spring of 1999 that I first shared a verbal sketch of The Better Place campus and ministry. The response of those present was unanimous, “You have got to do this!” The DCOM chairperson, Rev. Clifford Cliver, was especially enthusiastic in his response; he also expressed a sense of urgency that the vision be pursued. – The very next day I had a meeting with Cliff and another gentleman, Ron Gustafson, regarding a District program. When Cliff arrived he exclaimed, “I couldn’t sleep at all last night!” When questioned about the cause of his sleeplessness, he said, “The District Prayer Campus; I couldn’t stop thinking about it!” (The name “The Better Place” did not occur to me for another year.). Ron then required an explanation, which I provided; and following which we discussed resources for beginning to establish the Campus. – In ways such as this God kept nudging the project along.
Following the meeting with Cliff and Ron I made some pen and ink sketches of the primary buildings on the Campus. In May of 1999 my secretary snuck one of those sketches into a report booklet that was distributed to pastors and representatives from all the churches in the Cornerstone District at our annual District Conference. That, of course, begged the question and I explained the vision to all present at the Conference (there are 60 churches in the District served by 53 pastors). – From that time, The Better Place became a matter of prayer at several of the churches and an occasional topic of conversation when I met with my pastors.
By May of 2000 the vision had evolved to almost all of what can now be read in the bylaws. This evolution was helped along by the many conversations with pastors and by all the prayer. – The Rev. Dr. Terry Teykl, a national leader in prayer ministry, was hosted by the Cornerstone District for a weekend prayer workshop at Chautauqua Institution that May. During the workshop Dr. Teykl noted that God is establishing centers for prayer ministry around the nation. He then said there was a need for such a center in Chautauqua County and, as he proceeded to describe what such a center would look like and what its ministry would consist of, he articulated the vision I had received. Of course, many of my pastors who were present realized what was happening and they approached me after the session to say, “There’s your confirmation; God wants you to build that prayer campus!”
Life is busy. Time went by. In December of 2000, just before Christmas, I contacted the realtor who had listed the land near Jamestown and then met him at the property. He gave me a tax map to help me see where the boundaries are and I proceeded to walk the property (Once pasture land; now returned to shrubs and forest). It was (and is) ideal for the ministry I have envisioned. Of course the tax map was not the best guide and, besides, there were no clear boundary markers in the woods or fences between properties, so I managed to wander onto another lot and, in retrospect, I see that additional 60 acres as part of God’s plan. It is not for sale, but I would like to make an offer for it. – When I returned to my office that day my secretary told me that, only fifteen minutes after I had left to walk the property, a surveyor had called to offer to walk the property with me. The connection was that this surveyor is the father-in-law of one of my pastors. However, the timing of his call was to me a “Godincidence.” So, the next day Jerry Erickson walked the property with me. As God would have it, Mr. Erickson (who also owns an engineering consulting firm) had surveyed the properties on both sides of The Better Place land and he is knowledgeable of the soil as well as terrain and boundaries. Mr. Erickson has provided valuable information regarding the placement of a pond and also regarding sewer and water (He noted that we should have no problem putting in our own water and sewer sufficient to handle all the needs of The Better Place, but that for the same cost the City of Jamestown could and would run lines out to The Better Place property, which is about a mile from the City limit.)