Do you know what is awesome?
Unexpected blessings! They can be found all through the Bible. In Deuteronomy 28:2, we read that unexpected blessings will be poured out on those who hear the voice of the Lord. Have you been listening?
Last year was tough with lockdowns, quarantines, and stay-at-home orders. Spending those days, weeks, and months in the empty downtown facility, I was blessed to have the time to update and renovate the Sanctuary without causing any disruption to services. We were also able to complete phase one of the masonry preservation and restoration. Additionally, the church received another huge blessing from those days of isolation. I had the honor of sharing the history of First Church and its amazing impact on our community in the applications for two very competitive and prestigious grants. We were awarded both! One grant came from the National Fund for Sacred Places, funded by the Lilly Foundation in collaboration with the National Trust for Historic Places. The NFSP team is extremely excited about helping us finish our preservation project so we can continue doing the great work we do in the community. Enthusiasm is high because we are the first house of worship in Kansas to receive their funding. The second grant, which helps fund our matching requirement is from the Kansas Historical Society. These two grants alone will provide over half of the $450,000 needed to finish the masonry work for the rest of the downtown building. These grant sources recognize the importance of masonry preservation for our future.
Why the masonry work now? Sometime in the 1980s, our building was tuckpointed with an incorrect hard mortar which sealed up the joints and allowed moisture to force its way out through the stones, causing them to fracture, fall apart, and even fall off the building. Left in this condition, they will only continue deteriorating to the point of un-recoverability. We have all seen the Roman ruins that were once magnificent, sturdy, stone buildings. We would never want to see our beloved church literally crumble before our very eyes. My hope is that we can complete the work we have begun and let the beauty of the exterior, reflect the beauty of the souls who worship within.
As you may be able to see in the photo, the upper portions of the towers have been restored. Some stones have been replaced and every grout joint has been cleaned out, then repointed with the correct color and mix of the correct, original sand mortar. The first phase looks fantastic and once completed, the exterior will be fully preserved, ready for many more generations to enjoy the rich heritage of this historic icon in downtown Lawrence.
Due to the strain that the pandemic has brought upon the church, we hesitated to announce the grants or initiate another capital campaign for the matching funds requirement. We are now sharing the good news. These grants, coupled with historic tax credits (sold for cash) which were generated by other renovation and restoration projects, now means that every dollar donated towards this project will be multiplied in value toward fulfilling the goal. God came up with the idea of multiplication. If you give Him your time, He multiplies it. If you give Him your money, He multiplies it. If you give Him your energy, guess what? He multiplies that too! In 2nd Corinthians 9:10, we hear that “God gives seed to the farmer….” That means, if you are willing to plant, expecting a harvest, God will give you seed so that He can multiply it. Let that sink in: God will increase the things you do, which have his approval. God multiplies whatever you give him. Case in point: We have the unexpected blessings of these matching grants and tax credits because of the sacrifices made by the founders to build this historic masterpiece, because of your impact on the community, and because of your desire to share the love of God with those who most need it. Your stories of sacrificial service were used in securing these grants. Multiplication in action.
If you are able, we would welcome you to donate to this project and help add another chapter to our history. Together, we can get this done. Remember, your gift will be multiplied in value, and your act of generosity will also deliver multiplied blessings which richly impact your life and that of your family.
Blessings to all,