God makes a way . . .
Not long after we launched Community Christian Church, through a series of events I won’t address in this episode, Tony and Chris started attending a different school. They were in high school at the time, and the new private school they enrolled in cost thousands of dollars a year. Even though—after prayer—we fully believed the move to be the ordering of the Lord, I had no idea how we were going to make the monthly tuition payments.
Three years earlier I had taken a $12,000-a-year cut in pay, and we were already financially strained to the max. In order to make ends meet (even before the new school payment), not only was I pastoring our fledgling church as chief cook and bottle washer, I worked a landscaping job during the spring and summer months. In the winter, I picked up additional work doing miscellaneous odds and ends. Terese was in the same boat, running weekly ladies’ bible study and prayer meetings out of our home and then always working a part-time job of some kind.
With that kind of activity and craziness in full swing, on top of everything else we were doing, I decided to become a landlord. The idea was to purchase a handyman special, make the necessary repairs, and then rent the house for extra income. I know the plan was an ambitious one, and we already had our hands full with the start-up church, but I was convinced this move would ultimately ease our financial burden.
I found a little two-bedroom home with a detached garage in Sterling Heights. In order to make the down payment, I tapped into our retirement account, actually wiped out every cent we had. The only reason we had money in that investment account in the first place was because a family member gifted us.
The house was a mess, a real fixer upper, but I had vision and believed the house had great potential. A single man lived there with four or five cats. With the exception of the main bedroom, the cats had the run of the house… and the guy was a chain smoker! When I bought paint for the kitchen, I actually thought the counter tops were brown, but that was due to the smoke damage. After a good cleaning by Terese, the kitchen counter tops proved to be a light gray color.
Every square inch of the house had to be renovated, and yours truly did the work. Instead of landscaping beds and patio/deck construction that year, I spent six months in the cat house (LOL). The first thing I did was remove all the nasty smelling carpets (saturated with cat pee), and I painted the entire house. The hardwood floors hidden under the carpet were sanded down and refinished. All bathroom and kitchen fixtures were replaced and new windows and window coverings were installed.
The transformation was amazing if I do say so myself. Terese and the boys could not believe it was the same house. I listed the house for rent ($800 monthly) and rented it the first day it was on the market. A single mother and her two daughters loved the house and said they had seen five different houses that day, and ours was the cutest one—not sure I had aimed for cute. She said the monthly rental fee was a little more than she could pay so I asked if she needed the garage. It was a newer, detached, three-car garage at the rear of the property. I told her if we didn’t include the garage, I would take $200 per month off the rent, making the house rent $600 a month.
There was a carport at the side entrance of the house, so the gal said she really didn’t need the garage. She said the $600 for the house was the amount she was hoping and praying for. She signed on the dotted line right then and there. After a few reference calls and having a conversation with her previous landlord, I gave her the keys to the house.
That meant the garage was now available. I ended up renting the garage to a mechanic who owned a classic car. He stored his car in the garage, and I was able to get an additional $400 in rent for the garage. That brought the total amount of rental income to $1000 a month. With that money, we were able to cashflow the monthly mortgage payment and expenses, pay the boys’ private school tuition, and, if you can believe it, have a little extra money left over.
Since the first deal worked so well, I thought to myself, “Why not do it again?” We bought a second rental and then a third. Over the next few years, we would eventually repeat the process several times, purchasing a total of five rental properties. Every property became a God-ordained blessing, and the Lord used the house rentals to tip the scales in our favor and help meet our financial needs. Today we are completely debt free.
In Genesis 22:14 (one of my favorite stories in the Bible) God identifies Himself to Abraham as “Jehovah Jireh,” meaning “The Lord Will Provide!” The scripture declares, God will provide for us…God will make a way!
God would say the same thing Himself in Isaiah 43:19b, “I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” In other words, God can make a way where there is no way, and God can do the impossible. He goes up against the odds, and what appears to be unfeasible and out of the question for us is really not that big of a deal to God.
During the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:25-26, 33) Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.