ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–A miracle happened on Sunday at First Baptist Church of Orlando, Fla.
At least that’s what pastor Jim Henry called it. And you might agree.
Church members dug into their pockets and pledged more than $3.2 million in one morning to expand their church. Henry was still reeling Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30.
“It’s an awesome experience,” he said. “It’s God-sized. We saw God do something only he can do in people’s hearts. That much money in that short a time — God had to do it.”
Henry wanted the money to buy 8.2 acres of land on L.B. McLeod Road, which is adjacent to existing church property. The land is critical because it will give the church a visible presence on a busy road and add important space to the 130-acre campus. It was put up for sale by the RC Cola corporation; Henry told church members about the opportunity to buy it in August.
He said he learned from God in January 1999 that he should move to get that land when the time seemed right. In years past, it was too expensive. But at a negotiated $3.2 million, it was possible.
Henry said he asked the congregation to join him in his mission. He asked everyone to donate at least one week’s salary. Church workers sent out a colorful six-page brochure outlining the possibilities for the site — a retirement community for seniors, a counseling center or expansion of the church’s crisis pregnancy center.
Then they sent out seven postcards over seven weeks, asking their 10,000-member congregation to pray and consider their donations.
That was all. Henry said he didn’t use his clout to twist arms or shake down businesses. He said it would be up to God to make the miracle come true.
“I did not ask any person for a dollar bill. This time I just felt God wanted to show himself in a unique way,” he said. “God wanted us to tell the people … and he would provide it.”
Church spokesman Steve Smith said there was “a lot of consternation” among church officials about whether they’d raise enough money. Even if everyone followed the one-week-salary guideline, the amount would reach only $2.5 million.
But Henry said he kept the faith.
On Sunday, church workers tallied the pledge cards as members ate a barbecue lunch and drank RC Cola. The amount came in at slightly more than $3.2 million. At least one person made a substantial donation, but Henry said he didn’t know the amount. The total still doesn’t even include property, jewelry and stocks that some people donated.
“I knew before I knew it was going to happen,” Henry said of his faith in his mission’s success.
The church has a contract on the property, and the closing is set for the week of Oct. 30. If the money couldn’t be raised, the contract allowed the church to back out of the purchase.
Henry didn’t think God would let that happen.
“He pushed people’s hearts,” Henry said.
This story first appeared in the Orlando Sentinel. Wickham is a reporter for the newspaper. Used by permission.