December 2013 – Vision
I’m sure many of you can remember this scene from a favorite Christmas-time TV special, the voice of Linus so innocent and believing as he answered Charlie Brown:
Charlie Brown: Isn’t there anyone, who knows what Christmas is all about?!
Linus: Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please? And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.” That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
I wonder what that night was like for those shepherds. They knew the scriptures, they knew the promises. Imagine the amount of hope they felt that night as they saw the beginning of promises fulfilled. Even though the rest of the world would see just a baby, they knew what this baby meant, what purpose he had in being born. They could not help themselves – they had to tell others. Luke 2:17-18 says, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”
Five years ago, June 2008, my father-in-law Dean Brubaker passed away due to lung cancer. During the four months from the day he was diagnosed until the day he passed, I had many opportunities to show love to Dean, from sitting in the Dr office with him when he heard of his fate to lifting his frail body into the van to take him to the hospital on his final day with us. A few weeks before he passed, Dean talked to a couple of his closest friends and personally accepted Christ as his savior. I am convinced that in the midst of his suffering, love won the battle for Dean’s heart for eternity. This experience with Dean and our family gave me a greater desire then ever before to know God more and be a part of his heart-rescue plan. I spent a considerable amount of time that summer praying and saying to God that I wanted to be “special forces” for him, that I wanted him to make me into the kind of man who he could trust sending into enemy territory.
Two years later, August 2010, while I was walking and praying on the Nickel Plate Trail, the Lord spoke to my heart clearly. The words were not audible – but I knew it was God speaking. I stood in front of the old Berties Tavern in Bunker Hill and just cried. I could not stop crying. The message in my heart was clear, “I want you to use this place to bring hope to this community.” The experience was so profound and different from any prayer time I’d ever had on the trail that I took a picture of Berties that morning. I wondered if this was an answer to my prayers from 2008 regarding special forces. I called my pastor and told him what had happened, and from that day started praying for a clear vision of what God wanted me to actually do.
Bunker Hill is a small community that is dying. Located 75 miles north of Indianapolis, in the midst of corn, bean, and hay fields, with Maconaquah School Corp and Grissom Air Force Base to its east and west, and the cities of Peru and Kokomo to its north and south, it used to be a gathering place for farmers, airmen, and their families. The transition of the base from active-duty to a reserve base and major changes in farming have had a significant impact on this small town. Businesses have closed, buildings, streets and sidewalks have gone in disrepair for years. The development of the Nickel Plate Trail held lots of promise. However, in August 2011, evil took a stronghold when Arthur Anderson, a scout leader from Kokomo, was stabbed and killed on that trail in Bunker Hill while leading a hike with another man and two scouts. The community was traumatized with fear, and I believe has never recovered from that terrible day.
Even though Bunker Hill has been in a decline, the town leaders have worked to rescue and restore the town. A grant received from the state enabled the town board to develop a “Downtown Revitalization Plan”. Many folks from the community invested time in meetings to make this happen and to get the plan finished. I have read the plan. Going through the book produced by the study left me feeling excited and hopeful for what could happen if the plan is followed through on. However, I need to tell you that something significant is missing from this revitalization plan.
After almost nine months of praying, wondering if I’d made it all up (the experience praying in front of Berties), spiritually battling for clarity, the vision God wanted me to see was clear – “Bunker Hill is much like an elderly woman, close to death with a weak heart. Rebuilding the streets, adding a new park, all of that would be no different than performing a facelift on an elderly woman. The problem is with the heart. Bunker Hill needs a heart transplant not a facelift. This can be accomplished by reaching out to and investing in the young people of the community.” It was clear that He was asking us to begin an outreach for young people. During that time of praying, I was convinced that this outreach was supposed to be called “The Lighthouse” and that we were supposed to begin in our home. One morning while I was praying and wrestling through the the plan for what we were supposed to do, I was praying about going ahead and trying to purchase the Berties Tavern building right away. Again God spoke to my heart – in a way that was almost like he was shouting it was so clear – with the message of “Fill the house first.” So, that is what we set out to do.
In May 2011 we began with about fourteen teenagers from our church and six adults. So much has happened since then. The group has grown and shrunk. The team has changed. We left a church we loved dearly in order to be focused on this mission into our community. There have been many weeks where we wondered if we were crazy. It has been difficult but worthwhile. God has been faithful as we have tried to be obedient. This fall, we started to see the first signs that “the house was full” as attendance of a core group of teenagers started to consistently increase. We are now seeing 40+ young people at our weekly gatherings.
As the house has filled – I have been diligently asking the Lord for the next steps. In August of this year, we received the keys to Berties Tavern, so we have physical possession of the building, with some challenges. Unfortunately, the building real estate is tied to some unresolved tax issues from when it was still operating as a tavern. We are working with the owners and an accountant to try to minimize what the cost will be to legally take possession of the building. Another issue that became clear the first time we went into Berties was this – its not big enough – at least not to be able to do everything we believe we’re supposed to do in Bunker Hill. I spent the next two weeks pleading with the Lord for some direction – were we supposed to proceed with Berties and plan from the beginning to add onto it, tear it down, or something else? In the midst of that time of praying, the property right behind Berties Tavern came up for sale. My wife Yvonne and I went to see the property and were overwhelmed with how perfect it is for what we believe we are supposed to do. This property is the only sledding hill in Bunker Hill, with a little over two acres, a 1700 ft2 newly remodeled house and an 80×45 barn. I have met with the owner and he has agreed to sell us the property on contract. In fact, the for-sale sign had only been out for a few days when we first met him. After telling him our vision, he said he believed in what we were trying to do and he pulled the for-sale signs.
Some of you reading this letter don’t know us. That is why I included a lot of the background information about how we got to this point. I want you to know that this is not something we just decided to do one day. This is not something we’re doing just because we have teenagers ourselves. This is not something we’re doing because our church wanted a bigger youth group. This is something we’re doing for no other reason than because the creator of the universe looked down and said “I want to bring hope to this broken community” and he has asked us to lead that mission! We are committed to this no matter what obstacles or difficulties we encounter. We have personally experienced and seen love transform ruined lives and rescue lost hearts. With the same hope and conviction the shepherds had to tell their story, we will do whatever it takes to show love to the young people of Bunker Hill to bring them hope.
Our plan for these properties is as follows. We will purchase the two acre property and transform the barn into a youth center with indoor basketball, a music recording studio, large meeting area, ping-pong tables, air-hockey tables, all kinds of stuff. The house will become our base of operations. We will use it as a homework help center, a counseling center, and a team meeting place. The old Berties Tavern will be turned into a night-club for teenagers – where kids can go after basketball or football games, have a Coke and listen to some live music – a place to just hang out. There will be regular bands that play on stage there and we will allow teenage “garage-bands” an opportunity to play as well.
One of my favorite Christmas songs explains the hope we have this way, “We are no longer lost, ‘cause he has come down for us.” This is the hope we are desperate to bring to the next generation. To the core of my heart I believe this is what our family is supposed to do for this community. We have already personally invested a lot, and will continue to joyfully do so. We will be personally signing the contract to purchase the property and are ready and willing to take on a mortgage for both of the properties if necessary. That is why I have written this letter. Because our outreach is not part of a church – we do not have a large group of people to get behind the project. We need your help. We estimate the cost to purchase and transform both properties to be around $275,000. That is a huge amount – but the result of that investment will be an incredible safe place where lives can be transformed – all for the heart – the kids – of Bunker Hill. We are purchasing the two acre property on contract – so we will have at least a year to raise or borrow the funds for that purchase – $80,000. The most immediate need is $125,000 to do the transformation of the barn into a youth center.
Please consider partnering with us by making a one-time gift or by becoming a regular supporter. All donations are 100% tax deductible. To give electronically – click the PayPal DONATE button below. To send a gift by check directly, our mailing address is: The Lighthouse, PO Box 336, Bunker Hill, IN 46914. If you have questions for me, feel free to contact me by email – email@example.com or by phone – 765-689-7555. I am also willing to come share our story and our vision with your group or your church if that is something you would be interested in.
Chris Edgington, Director