Mike and Judy had been discipling Christian and me for only a few weeks when Christian came home from a meeting with Mike to tell me some news. The home next to Mike’s, in Sulphur Springs, was vacant, had been for some time, and Mike thought it would be the perfect place from which to minister to the neighbors. As soon as Christian told me this, we started dreaming of how we could help. Have dinners for the neighbors. Hold Bible studies and back yard Bible clubs for the kids. Maybe they would need “house parents” and we could move into it. We would have extra rooms so maybe we could adopt a child or foster. I wanted a huge dining room table with room for 10 or 12 people, like the Waltons. And I really wanted a prayer closet.
The day finally came when we were to go look at the house. Full of anticipation and imagination we met Mike and Judy at their house. We met with the owner and did the walk-thru. We were… disappointed is a nice way to put it. There was no room for a 10 person dining table, there was no prayer closet and to be honest, our dreams were much larger than this house. We told the owner what we wanted to do with the house and how much we could afford. We all went home to await his answer. Two weeks later, he called and told us there was no way he could rent us this home for the price we told him. We were disappointed but at the same time, we wondered where God might be leading us. We had a feeling He was still leading us to live in Sulphur Springs.
Later that week, for some reason, Christian started looking at homes for sale in Sulphur Springs. Buying a house hadn’t even been on the radar for us. We found one that we really liked and the pictures showed that it would be the perfect place to minster from. We also noticed this little disclaimer along with the description of the house; This is a neighborhood stabilization program home, buyer may be eligible for a 100% forgivable loan up to $40,000. To qualify, buyer must not be current homeowner, must be below median income for area and live in home for 15 years.
Check, check and check. We should qualify.
We found a house that would work perfectly to minister to the neighbors. We LOVED it. Huge kitchen and wide open common areas that would seat tons of people. The listing agent showed us the home and answered our questions about NSP. He also gave us the number to call and start the process. We called as soon as we got home.
Let me stop here and tell you a little bit about the NSP. Sulphur Springs is what some may consider “ghetto”. It is true that some of the homes have been neglected or even abandoned. There is a lot of government subsidized housing in the area and that usually means a higher crime rate and people moving in and out of homes like they change their shoes. Both are true for Sulphur Springs. The NSP goes into these neighborhoods and buys homes that have been abandoned and/or foreclosed on, completely guts and remodels these homes and sells them to folks who qualify for the program. They help you out with a very large down payment and as long as you live in and own the house for 15 years, the loan is forgiven completely. The aim is to stop the constant moving of families in and out of the neighborhood and provide lower income families a way to buy a home of their own.
We met with the NSP representative about a week later, turned in all our paperwork and were told that we would hear back with the amount that we qualified for. In the mean-time, she gave us a list of all the NSP properties in Sulphur Springs. That afternoon, we began to drive around Sulphur Springs and look at each of these properties.
We came across some that would work, but not quite perfect. There was one that wasn’t finished and there was one that wouldn’t work at all. And we saw one that made Christian’s jaw drop-literally. We pulled up in front of this absolutely gorgeous two-story home. Christian got out and went around back to snoop a little. He came back to the car and told me I had to go look in this window. He said “when I looked in the window my heart started beating fast.”
This home was perfect. It was open, had lots of room. According to the website it had 3 bedrooms and 1.5 baths and plenty of seating. I could have my “Walton’s” dining room table and the house was listed at $80,000. We went home and called the listing agent and we walked thru the house the very next day.
On the way to the house the next morning we prayed. “Father, you know why we want to buy a house. Please guide us with Your wisdom. Give us the strength to walk away, if this is not the home You want for us.”
The house was even more amazing than the website. The kitchen was huge, big enough to cook for dozens of people. Upstairs had not three but four bedrooms (we could have a prayer closet), two of the bedrooms had walk in closets. A master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom was definitely a surprise.
We went home and prayed and thought and prayed some more and talked about it and prayed some more. We didn’t know if God wanted us to have it, but we were pretty certain He wasn’t saying no. We emailed the agent and entered into contract on the home. This was a huge leap of faith because we hadn’t heard from the city on how much we were getting and we hadn’t even been in contact with banks to apply for loans.
We signed the contract and then went home to start contacting banks. At that time Christian had three part-time jobs, all of which he had for less than two years. No bank would talk to us. They wanted us to either have a full-time job or have been at the part-time job(s) for at least two years. We did some investigating and found out that we needed to use a small community bank or credit union. There was one credit union on the list of banks that the city works with in this program. This happened to be the credit union we are members of and we knew that it was extremely difficult to get a loan with them. They were our only option. Christian called and they said they thought they could work with us. We filled out all the paperwork, sent in our proof of income and then waited. And we waited. And we waited some more.
We would drive by the house at different times of day to see the neighborhood at different times and we would pull into the driveway just to look at the house. One day I stopped in the driveway and it just felt like I was home. It felt natural, comfortable.
We waited for about three weeks. In the mean-time, we were told by the city that we qualified for the whole $40,000 and Christian was offered a full-time position with one of his jobs. The day came when we finally got word. And the word was no. We were denied our loan. The reason was that we had no debt. It seems that all of our hard work getting out of debt just came back to bite us.
I was disappointed and mad. I was disappointed because I really liked that house. I was starting to see myself living in it. I was mad because I couldn’t understand why our lack of debt was the reason we didn’t get the loan. We are responsible with our money. We pay our bills on time. The bank didn’t even contact our landlord to see if we paid rent on time.
A few hours went by and my anger was subsiding. The next morning Christian went to work and I set myself to figuring out how to make ourselves more comfortable in our tiny apartment, content to wait on God to give us a house.
Around noon Christian called me to say that the bank was going to reconsider our application. Wait a minute. Did he just say what I think he said? What I had to do was write a letter to the bank explaining that Christian had been offered a full-time position, I had to explain a few dings on my credit report and I didn’t think it would hurt to send a copy of our budget. I hit ‘send’ and started praying. This was a Wednesday, they told us we would know by the end of Thursday. I personally think God wanted to see if we would pitch a fit if we were told no.
hat night was a long night, to say the least. Noon came, no word. Three o’clock, nothing. Christian went to work around four that night and I called him at five, silence. He called me around 6 and asked me, “Are you prepared to praise God and thank Him no matter what the answer is?” I took a deep breath and prayed “God I pray this answer is true.” And I told my husband Yes. I honestly didn’t know what to expect.
“We were approved for the loan.” Oh, thank You God. I think I might have actually fainted at the news.
A few days later we had come down from the high; our next step was the inspection which went well. We had to find homeowners insurance, move our closing date back a few weeks and a few other things had to be done. It came to the point that we had done everything that we could possibly do. We were waiting on the city to tell the bank exactly how much they were going to give. I have to say that this made me extremely nervous. The bank had approved us at $40,000 so we were just praying that either the city gave us all that we qualified for or the bank was willing to lend us as much as we needed to buy this house. I know this all may sound silly to the normal reader. Forty thousand dollars doesn’t sound like much in the terms of a mortgage, however it is quite a lot when the borrower only makes about $23,000 a year.
We had put money into the inspection and the appraisal and still had no idea whether we were going to get this house. We had no idea exactly how much the city was going to give us so we had no idea how much our mortgage payment was going to be and we had no idea how much money we would have to bring to the closing. We knew we would have to bring at least $800. Our second closing date of November 3rd was quickly approaching and still no answers. Everyone was waiting on the city to finish paperwork. So much waiting!!! So many unanswered questions!! So much trusting in God’s timing!! Do we start packing now or is the city going to let us down? We decided to take a leap of faith and pack a few boxes.
Our new closing date was November, eleventh. 11-11-11, pretty cool, huh? It would have been except that November 11th is Veterans Day and both the bank and city would be closed. Everyone agreed that November 10th would be the day. We received our truth in lending from the bank and found out that the city would fund us the entire $40,000 and our closing costs would be $4,000 that we rolled into our mortgage. We would have to borrow $44,000 and our monthly payment, including taxes and insurance would only be $419. That is $150 less than our rent payment. Finally!! We have some answers. Closing was in three days, on November 10th, at noon. They would call us that morning to tell us where to go for closing and who to make the cashier’s check to.
Christian had a meeting at church on the morning of closing so I did the final walk-thru on my own and then I met Christian at the church. He came out of the meeting at 11:00. He had not received the call yet. More waiting, more unknowns. We went to McDonalds to wait for a phone call. We finally got a call saying the city had to fix something or another with our loan. I honestly don’t remember what it was, I only remember hearing more waiting.
Around 1:30 that afternoon we got the call saying everything was ready, bring a cashier’s check for $800 to this address. We were finally closing on our house after 3 months of questions and heartbreak and sleepless nights. But that’s not the end. We still had a complication at the closing, so we were held up another 30 minutes. More waiting.
With all the papers signed and the check handed over after 3 months of not having answers, three months of trusting God, we were finally homeowners. Time to celebrate and by celebrate I mean stop by the house for five minutes to pray and thank God for it before Christian had to go to work. I went home to get started packing. Christian had the next day off and we wanted to get into that home as soon as possible.
We had decided that we really wanted to give the house a name to make sure we remembered that God had given us the house. We love how in the Old Testament God told His people to build an alter to remember God doing something amazing. We decided to do the same thing so we started researching Hebrew words or names for gift or given.
Christian found a website on the names of God and found Jehovah Nissi, the Lord is my Banner. We liked this. Banner is the flag that goes out before the army, the reminder of what we are fighting for. We thought this was perfect. A reminder that we are in a spiritual war and God is who we are fighting for. We are His foot-soldiers and He gave us this house as a fort from which to fight. The fort does not belong to the soldiers, it belongs to the ruler of the nation the soldiers fight for (God). The fort can be taken over by the enemy (Satan), if the soldiers are not on watch. And the Commander of the Army can order soldiers to vacate the fort, if they aren’t following orders. It also conveys that God is our provider. The commanding nation provides everything needed in battle for her soldiers.