The Miracle Campus: Our Amazing God Story!

Chad Christiansen

Founder and Executive Director, In The Gap

God has blessed In The Gap with a new campus! It has been a long journey, and a crazy series of miracles, but at last on December 12th, we purchased the property! We want to share the story with you and give God all the glory for what He did on our behalf. This is our campus and the amazing story of how God brought us here.

The new In The Gap Campus Property!

These are the rooms before we renovated them...

...and after renovations!

Girl's discipleship group outside

Class in the dining room

Volleyball in our new gym!

Our new beloved prop room!

The Culture Coffee Shop!

The Level 1 Training Room

The Level 2 Training Room

The Level 3 Training Room

The Beginning of a Long Journey

Although God had been preparing my heart for this very moment, the call that I received during our Fall 2015 Training Camp sent my head spinning and caused me to refocus my efforts for the next 22 months. The downtown conference center that we had been leasing space from since we began In The Gap was going to be sold. We needed to move.

Moving offices is one thing, but we also had housing for interns, office, and living spaces. All together, we use over 24,000 square feet! Putting it into perspective, we needed the equivalent of ten 2,400 sq. ft. homes!!

Our team got down to business to determine what kind of property would be ideal for the next 5-10 years. We came up with five things to look for in a property:

  1. A safe and healthy environment.
  2. No more than a 15-30 minute drive from downtown OKC.
  3. Living space for our Leaders In Training, some staff, and guests.
  4. Next to a park area or space for recreational activities.
  5. Room for growth.

Searching commercial and residential properties was a fascinating, yet grueling, project. Over the next 13 months, our team researched and narrowed down our options. We visited approximately 30 properties, and had another 30+ properties we considered online. We looked at everything from apartment complexes to a nursing home to even a tennis barn.

As the months rapidly sped by, our options began to dwindle. During our April 2016 Board meeting, we decided that our best option was to build a small campus over the next five years. In September 2016, we brought our rough plans to a commercial building consultant. We were discouraged after learning that the realistic price tag of our project was over $14 million, compared to our estimation of $5 million. Also, it would be at least a 2 year building process before we could move. We watched our dreams fly away.

Just before October, I put our property research on hold for a month to take a break and concentrate on other important projects. The end of October finished with a bang! My youngest daughter was born on October 27th and on the 31st we learned that the conference center had an active cash buyer. Our time was running out!

A Desperate Search

On November 1st, our team reassembled and began our search again for a suitable property. During our meeting, a church property was brought up that we had scratched off our list because it didn’t seem to meet two of our requirements.

We pulled this property up on Google Maps and noticed two things: it had a large sports field that we hadn’t noticed before, and the homes behind the church were beautiful and well kept! The property that didn’t make the prospect list ten months before jumped to number 1 pick in just an hour! After driving around the neighborhoods for over an hour, we were convinced that it would be an ideal location. The only problem was, the church wasn’t for sale. Would they even consider selling us their property?

On November 3rd, I sent a letter to the pastor of the church explaining our situation and asked if they would consider selling us their property. It was a long shot in the dark, but this was the only viable property at this point. We sent it out and prayed for the Lord’s will to be done. Early the next week the pastor called me and wanted more information. He said that he would meet with his leadership team to consider this offer and get back to us. We set up a lunch meeting for 10 days later.

Two weeks after sending our letter, Sam Oliverio and I sat across the table from the pastor and two other men from their church. After a special time of sharing our common passions for missions and the Lord, we got to the business at hand. In short, their leadership team had met and agreed to sell us their entire church campus! Wow! Only God could do such an amazing miracle-and all in just two weeks!

After touring the campus, we realized that it was more than what we could have asked for! It had a dormitory building with 21 student rooms and two small apartments we could use for staff or guests. There was a fantastic commercial kitchen, classroom and meeting spaces, a large sanctuary, and a beautiful gymnasium! It was 15 minutes from downtown Oklahoma City and was on almost 10 acres.

But God Meant it for Good

The next hurdle was funding. The church was asking $4.95 million dollars and we had about $1,000 in our building fund. Honestly, we had no idea how we were going to come up with the needed funds. But it was exciting! Our prayer was that God would work so that only He would receive the credit. Although the way before us was foggy, we were confident that God was working something much bigger. The verse that the Lord kept impressing on my heart was “and my God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

Over December and January, the Lord brought us several wise, successful, and Godly counselors. They gave us a lot of items to think through. We researched and crunched numbers to make sure this property would be sustainable for us.

The first week of February, we set up a meeting with the Christian owners of a nationwide company to ask if they would consider purchasing the campus and donating it to us. The meeting was scheduled for Thursday at 4pm, however the meeting had to be rescheduled last minute. At 4:13pm on the same day I received a completely unexpected email from an acquaintance. As I read the email, I was utterly shocked. He said that he was representing a group who had a heart for ministries and they wanted to help us purchase the conference center we were currently leasing. They wanted to remain anonymous because they wanted the Lord to receive all the credit. Wow!

After I shared about the church campus, he told me several days later they would give ITG $5.5 million dollars to purchase the church property and to buy several staff houses!! I couldn’t believe it!! God was working in ways that completely blew my mind! I had read about this kind of thing in biographies but now was seeing God show up in ways that I could never have dreamed!

Within two weeks, we were in contract for two staff houses near the church and were working on securing a property appraisal for the church complex.

However, towards the middle of March, things got complicated. It looked like we were going to miss our closing deadlines because of glitches with the money being released. When we were just two weeks from closing, a local Christian businessman said that he would like to purchases the two staff houses for us and provide some extra funds for renovations. Two days before closing, we received his $300,000 gift which allowed us to close on schedule! The timing and details of it all was hard to take it all in, but God showed up and provided exactly what we needed when we needed it!

Early May, we went into contract with the church, expecting that the promised funds would be coming within days. Less than a week later, we realized that the pledged funds were not going to be coming. Now we were seven weeks till closing and needed to come up with $3.5 million dollars. This was an impossible mountain to scale. The verse God immediately brought to mind was something Joseph said to his brothers: “you meant this for evil, but God meant it for good.” Although I didn’t understand why this was happening, God whispered to my heart, “Chad, I am meaning this for good in your life.”

Letting Go

There was so much at stake. Where would we go if this all fell through last minute? Could we have a Fall session for Leadership Academy? The questions went on and on. Yet through all the uncertainty, God gave a deep sense of peace instead of worry. I was concerned, but I had a quiet confidence that God would provide for our needs in His own timing and way. I was truly experiencing “the peace of God that supasses all understanding.”

Immediately, I tried reaching out to three wise friends for counsel for our next steps. Incredibly, all three of them were on vacation for several weeks. I sensed God was up to something on a grander scale. Still there was that deep sense of peace that God would provide.

In the midst of all this, God was asking me if I was willing let all of this go and live with an open hand. This was a hard question, but God gave me grace to say yes. If it fell through, God would use it as part of His story, knowing He would have an even better place for us. But until He showed us differently, we were going to trust Him to do the impossible.

That night, my wife Alissa and I sat on our porch and laid our burdens at the feet of our Heavenly Father. The Lord had been strengthening me from Psalm 46, especially the first two verses: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (Psalm 46:1-2) We were calling upon our Refuge, our Strength, and our very Present Help in trouble, because we were in deep trouble. We were one month away from closing and we still needed $3.5 million dollars.

The Amazing Miracle

The next morning, the Lord prompted me to go on a prayer walk around the church property. I walked several laps (each lap was 6 blocks!) praying for the church property and giving Him our funding needs. As I wrapped up the seventh and final lap, the Lord brought to mind Psalm 46:11, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” My heart was full and there was a great anticipation over what God was going to do in the future. It was for His glory alone.

Ten minutes after I finished a quick shower, my phone rang. The friend who donated the money for the staff houses had learned that our campus funding had fallen through and wanted to hear exactly what happened. After I told the story, he shared that when they heard about this, he and his family began praying to see what God would have them do. In a surreal moment, he said, “Chad, I’ve been known to be a little crazy at times, but I’m not crazy right now. God has placed on our hearts to be involved in the purchases of this property. We would like to give $3.5 million dollars for the purchase of this property.”

I was so overwhelmed I could hardly speak. God had just come through in the most unexpected way and at just the right time! HE DID IT!!! Our God is MIGHTY TO SAVE!!! That afternoon was full of us saying “praise the Lord!” and weeping over the amazing miracle that He had just pulled off. I don’t think I’ve cried as much as I did that day. God truly did the impossible!

Although closing was pushed back several months because of roofing repairs and insurance issues, we were able to move into the dormitory building to begin renovations that were needed before our Fall Leadership Academy session kicked off.

We are so grateful for our family and friends who helped us move and gave so much of their time to help us with moving and renovation projects. It is exciting to see so much accomplished in such a short amount of time!

December 12th, 2017 was a very surreal day. I walked into the title company’s conference room with my family, several staff members, and the chairmen of our Board and completed the purchase of In The Gap’s new home. God did it!!! To Him alone be all the glory and praise!!

We are humbled and excited over how the Lord has stretched us and grown our faith over the past 22 months. It has been challenging, exhausting, frustrating, yet faith stretching and full of spiritual growth. Friends, by all human standards, we shouldn’t be here. This was impossible! Yet we serve a God who isn’t bound by impossibilities.

Whatever struggles you are facing personally, as a family, or at your work or church, take your cares to the Lord and allow Him to work His plan in and through your life. He is able (and willing!) to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think! All for His glory.

Changing a Community

Joy Roberts

Joy Roberts

Guest Post

Joy is an In The Gap Alumnus with a passion for people, God’s Kingdom, and Chick-Fil-A. She came through In The Gap as a student for 3 sessions in 2014-2015. Now she runs a blog, works at Chick-Fil-A, and teaches character education at an Elementary School in Benbrook, Texas. She tells how the skills she received at In The Gap equipped her for what she is doing now. Her blog, hoperenown.com, includes teaching tips and tools for spiritual growth. 

It’s been 2 years since I returned from my last semester at In the Gap. It’s not easy to come home from 20 hours of training and discipleship every week, along with 40 hours of weekly Character classes and after-school Bible Clubs to suddenly nothing. But, God is faithful to give us seasons of rest, dear ones: we shouldn’t resist it. A few months after being home, the Lord began opening doors left and right to become a part-time nanny, then a full-time summer camp worker, and an after-school counselor to 27 fifth graders.

As a part-time nanny, I was able to use character-based praise and character-based correction. At summer camp, I shared the wordless book every chance I had. I lost count how many children accepted Christ that summer. Knowing how to share the Gospel with children effectively is imperative for anyone wanting to be in ministry. We have to know how to share truth without watering it down! In the Gap staff trained us LIT’s how to condense the truth, in a way that a child can understand it, without losing anything important. Another tool they gave us is how to create a dynamic Bible lesson straight from the Bible itself. At the Boys and Girls Club, I was able to use this tool at our Bible Club assemblies. I resigned from this job when my family moved from East Texas to west of Fort Worth and I began working at Chick-fil-A.

The reason I took this position was because I knew that Chick-fil-A’s desire was to serve the community in a Christ-like way. We even have something called “2nd mile service” that is taken directly from Matthew 5:41 “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

I want to love my neighbor more than I love myself. Chick-fil-A has countless opportunities to do this. Two weeks after starting at Chick-fil-A Benbrook, I went to my store’s owner and pitched the idea of taking Character Class to the local elementary school. The idea is that the students will learn a new character quality each month taught by one Chick-fil-A employee and myself.

Then, they would come in to Chick-fil-A, tell me the definition, and they’d get a free kid’s meal. My employer sat back in his chair and said, “I’m all on board! One thing, though. You can’t spend any money out of your own pocket. Not even markers, ok? You give me an amount you need each month and I’ll take care of it.” Wow! My mind was blown. God is so creative, isn’t He? I didn’t entirely know why He had me at Chick-fil-A, but I was excited to see it unfold. Getting to take Character Class a Texas elementary school has definitely been a highlight. We’ve done 3 presentations so far. During the first one, we did an overview of what character class is about along with a quick lesson on Initiative, Dependability, and Truthfulness. Once the new school year started, we taught Truthfulness more in-depth and then the following month we taught Forgiveness. God is moving tremendously in this and I cannot wait to see where it goes.                                                                                                    

I realize that this may not change the world, but as Katie Davis Majors said, “It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.”  Katie Davis Majors

A Multiplied Impact

Several weeks ago, we had our summer program, Operation Impact! One of the goals of this program is multiplication: we equip young people with the skills to actually lead their own Bible Club in their home city. God had been putting it on several of the young people’s hearts to take the skills they learned to their home and host a Bible Club right where they lived!

Carolyn Hills lives in Miami, Florida, and attended Operation Impact this summer. This is her story of God working in her own neighborhood.

“I was filled with fear at the prospect of leading a Bible club on my own. All the unknowns started filling my head, drowning out all whispers of hope. Unknowns are scary to me. As I thought of where to do it, how to do it, who to do it with, and what I would even do, I came up with nothing but my own nervousness and fear. This was not good.

“I got in touch with a friend who leads Bible Clubs all the time. I told her my fears and asked her what to do. The first thing she told me to do was to pray. I had done so much freaking-out, but zero prayer. How could I have forgotten? The fears had overtaken my thoughts. I couldn’t even hear God’s Spirit. Almost immediately, I went to a quiet place and poured out my heart before God. I told Him my fears and unknowns. I told Him about my inadequacy. I surrendered the club to Him. Then, the unexplainable happened: He filled me with His unfathomable peace.

“Shortly after this, I was reading in 1 John 4, and read verse 18, which says: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…” God told me not to fear. I asked Him to fill me with His perfect and complete love so that all fear would be banished. And He did!

“God is so cool! He took all fear from me and replaced it with His amazing love. I realized He was taking care of every single detail of this Bible club. He knew which kids would come, who would teach the curriculum, where the club would be held, how it would all come together, and everything in between. He knew, even though I didn’t.

“Watching God put the whole Bible club together was amazing. I cannot take credit for any of it. God brought the right kids – all thirteen of them! God gave us sunshine, even though it was scheduled to rain all week. God gave us energy and endurance when we thought we couldn’t go on. And God revealed His truth to me and the precious children that came to Bible club.”

We are so excited about those that are using the skills they learned here and leading Bible Clubs! Please take a moment to pray for these young people as they have a positive impact for God’s kingdom across the country.

 

Operation Impact 2017

This summer, God raised up a unified team of 25 summer missionaries for Operation Impact, and we watched God work! Every night, prayer requests were made during the praise and prayer time, and we would witness God glorifying Himself by answering those prayers in many different ways. Watch some of the highlights of Operation Impact 2017!

 

ITG’s 7th Anniversary!

We will soon be celebrating In The Gap’s 7th anniversary on June 10th! In the past 7 years, God has blessed us with the opportunity to work with 32 public elementary schools in Oklahoma City. A total of 202 Leaders In Training have come through over the course of 20 sessions so far. As we look back, we see God’s fingerprints all over the ministry, and the people who have been involved. Thank you so much for standing with us!

 

Regional Leadership Summits

God has been opening doors for us to hold Regional Leadership Summits all across the United States! Many of the attendees caught a vision for God’s work through In The Gap. As a result of that, they have taken various actions to be involved including signing up for Operation Impact, requesting further contact about the Leadership Academy, committing to partnering with us through prayer, and much more. Find out how you can be involved here!