Hoping For a Miracle, Church Gives Away $190,000
Fellowship put trust in God, membership to return, grow its savings, and it’s working
By Venessa Santos-Garza
In early November, the pastors of Bay Area Fellowship in Corpus Christi put their faith in the church’s congregation. Inspired by the book "Prayer of Jabez," written by Bruce Wilkinson, the pastors decided to give the church’s savings to its congregation.
The money, $190,000, was to go toward a new $1 million building for the church. Instead, it was doled out to congregation members in $100 increments with the idea that by putting their trust in God he would bless them tenfold.
Nearly a week later there was more than $500,000 in the church’s bank and a roster full of people with stories of God at work in their lives. Now, the amount is up to $720,000.
"What has happened out of this glorifies God," said associate pastor Paul Schultz. "What it says is God loves you so much and wants to bless your life. If you are willing to fulfill his will, he will make it possible."
The prayer of Jabez, tucked deep away in the 1 Chronicles of the Bible, is a simple one.
"Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep from evil, that I may not cause pain!"
Mark Nicosia and his wife, Misty, each took an envelope on Sunday, Nov. 3, and were blown away by what they found inside — a crisp $100 bill and a letter asking the couple to challenge God.
The letter, distributed to everyone who picked up an envelope, explained that the pastors had been called by God to pay for their building in cash and that the way to do it was to give the money to the people. The letter didn’t ask for the money back, Mark Nicosia said, only to do whatever God willed them to do with the money.
"We were in awe," he said. "They were asking us to challenge God."
Mark, a chiropractor, recently started his own practice with Misty working at his side. He said they really believed in what the church was trying to do and wanted to return the money to them times ten but were not in a position do so. A package from an anonymous friend changed that.
"I was finishing my last patient for the day when Misty called me up front. Some one had opened the front door half an inch and tossed in a small, red box," he said.
"I was a little nervous, especially in this day and time, so I took it outside to open it. Inside was a typed letter telling us not to try and find out who it was from and to do what we needed to do. Inside the box was $2,025 in cash."
The couple went straight to the church. Hands shaking, Mark, handed over the box, letter and cash.
"We were so worried about how we were going to help, but we didn’t have to," he said. "God did it."
Faith in action
For 27-year-old Saul Luna, the idea of putting all his trust in God wasn’t difficult — he does it regularly. What the money did give him was a story of his own.
"You always hear stories that have happened to other people about how God has worked in their lives," he said. "Now I have one too."
Luna, an athletic trainer for Carroll High School and a fellowship church member, said he gave his $100 to a friend who was down on his luck.
Yet he still wanted to help the church with its building fund.
Something in him told him that God wanted him to give the church his paycheck, but he wasn’t sure how he would pay his bills.
"I prayed to God and said: ‘OK, you want me to do this and I will. I know you will provide so I won’t worry’," he said.
"The next day, I found out from a co-worker that the school district owed me money. After a little research I found out that they owed me enough to pay for my bills and still have a little extra. The timing was unquestionable."
Last week Luna wrote a check to the church for $1,000, his entire paycheck.
"Now I have a platform to spread his message and I have been telling everyone? I got the opportunity to see my faith in action," he said.
Congregation grows tenfold
The idea to give the church’s money to its congregation was sparked by an impromptu prayer session where the staff asked God to help the church come up with the money for a new temporary building.
When the church opened in 1998, it had a November attendance of 209. In 2002, that number rose to 2,283.
Because of the church’s quick growth and lack of space to accommodate it, the church had to turn people away for their Thanksgiving service.
"That is a pastor’s worst nightmare," said senior pastor Bil Cornelius. "We had to do something."
Associate pastor John Atkinson was the first to speak at the prayer session, telling the others that he knew God was telling them to pay for the building in cash.
Cornelius said he knew how — they would halt proceedings on a loan that would have put them years in debt and give away all their money, putting their trust in God to provide.
A week after the church started to see a return on its donated funds, a staff member heard an advertisement for a steel manufacturing company that was selling a building the exact size they needed for roughly the same amount they had collected. Construction of the building will begin in January.
"We didn’t just pull together the money to build a building," Cornelius said. "We took a faith step and some miraculous things happened."
The Fellowship's Letter
To the members and attendees of Bay Area Fellowship:
This article originally appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
©2001 Caller-Times Publishing Co. A Scripps Howard newspaper. All Rights Reserved.
Header photo by seadigs (Creative Commons License).