Church celebrates paying off $1.7 million mortgage
Published: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2013 at 7:28 p.m.
As the church members gathered around to witness the burning of their mortgage, someone joked that the building's sprinklers might soak them before the note was consumed.
But on Jan. 6, the Impact Family Church's $1.7 million mortgage officially went up in smoke, without a hitch.
The event marked a minor miracle for the congregation. In only 10 years, the church unhitched itself from a debt that takes most families about 30 years to pay off. The church made their final payment on Dec. 20.
Mark Bauer, 30, who has been coming to the church since he was 17, said 200 members worshipped and shared stories before starting the mortgage burning ceremony.
"It's a similar feeling to seeing your parents pay off their mortgage," he said. "There's just a real genuineness to the people that you feel as soon as you walk in the door."
And when they sat together to eat the barbecue chicken, beef, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and mashed potatoes for dinner, Bauer said he wasn't eating with his congregation. He was eating with family.
Edwin and Angela Anderson founded Impact Family Church — originally called Faith Christian Fellowship — in 1980 just a few months after they graduated from Bible school in Oklahoma. As the congregation grew, the progressive Pentecostal church members decided to build a facility with more space.
After accumulating $1 million in donations from 1993 to 2000, the church secured a $1.7 million bank loan and broke ground on the $3 million campus on U.S. 441 between Alachua and High Springs. The church held its first official service in the new building on Dec. 22, 2002.
The Impact Family Church's accomplishment comes at a time when a number of churches of all denominations have had to close their doors.
According to a 2012 Reuters article, 270 church buildings nationwide have been sold since 2010, 90 percent of which were a result of loan defaults and foreclosure by banks.
"We felt like it was something we needed to do," said Steve Morgan, a music minister at the church. "God's blessing was on it. The congregation was able to keep forging forward because God had our back."
"The sense of family, of pulling together is the main reason we were able to accomplish this goal," Morgan said. "When you come in the doors, you're family."
Pastor Edwin Anderson, 60, attributed the church's success to its congregation. He said that despite the tough economy, the members of the church have been fortunate and kept most of their jobs.
"There are no rich people here," he said. "We just have ordinary, generous, everyday folks who give as much money as they want and are always willing to give."
Anderson said the money the church is saving from no longer having to pay a monthly mortgage will now go toward roof repairs, stucco work and fixing the air conditioning system. The church also will continue to donate 25 percent of its income to relief programs and other ministries' missionary and home programs.
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