Monday, August 10, 2009

"Go to the land that I promised..." (Exodus 33:1)

I am doing something a bit different with Dwell & Cultivate this week. The people who are my "family" at Stone Ridge Church will soon face a big decision about our future. We are becoming increasingly overcrowded and must decide if it is time to build the next phase of our campus. Regardless of the decision we make, I think it is time to tell a bit of the story of how we got where we are. The vast majority of our attenders don't know that history...

As our church prayed, we believed that the wisest choice for our future was relocation. In 1996, the City of Yuma was mostly centered from Avenue 3E on the east to Avenue D on the west. The northern boundary was (and is) the Colorado River and 32nd Street marked the southern boundary.

But it was changing! The Foothills had been steadily growing as Mesa Del Sol became an increasingly desirable place to live. More and more homes were being built in the area between the city proper and the Foothills. Neighborhoods with names like Tamarack, Desert Ridge, and College Park were expanding rapidly and new schools nearby aided the decision of many to locate there.

Looking at the map of the region, we heard from those who studied the growth that the future center of the Yuma area would be approximately Araby Road and Interstate 8. As we considered this, we realized that we had long been a regional church. Neighborhood churches often draw people from the dwelling places right around them. As a regional church, we already had people traveling many miles from all directions to attend. That led us to believe that we should seek a place in the center of Yuma's future.

A team of our leaders who understood the ins and outs of land acquisition began the formal search for property. We wanted at least 20 acres -- more if possible -- and we hoped to be near the Interstate. Our "bullseye" on the map was -- you guessed it -- Araby and I-8.

Over the next several months, we looked at many possible locations. Some were near the freeway, but a good distance from Araby. One place was a very large parcel with an attractive price, but we shied away because of potential development costs.

One by one, the doors would close. The property had hidden challenges or the price was too high. We kept praying that God would show us what to do.

I was attending a lunch meeting one day about that time, when a local businessman (not a member of our church) asked to speak with me. "Are you guys still looking for land?" he asked.

"Yes," I replied. "We haven't yet found anything that works for us."

"There is a piece of land you might be interested in," he said. "It's not for sale, even though people have made offers for it. I told the owner about it and he said he might consider selling to your church."

"How many acres?" I inquired.

"About twenty-five."

"Where is it located?" I wondered.

"Araby and the freeway."

It took about six months to work through the details, but we knew immediately that this must be the place God had for us.

It is the site of our campus today.

To be continued...


addhumorandfaith said...

Sam -- I find it very interesting to read the history of your church.

Sam said...

Thanks, Sandy. I found it invigorating to write.