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"Dream Center." What do those two words bring to mind?
For people involved in the church world, those words might inspire visions of "big"—big buildings, cities, churches and budgets—that make a big difference. And for the most part, those thoughts would be accurate.
Dream Centers are typically significant structures that have been converted by large churches to serve as centers that help the homeless and the financially struggling with everything from clothing and food to counseling and medical assistance. They can be found in cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Atlanta and Dallas, where the metropolitan areas run into the millions of people. Dream Centers can even be found in much smaller communities, such as Peoria, Ill., where the metropolitan area nears 380,000 residents.
But what about a small town, where a "megachurch" runs in the hundreds instead of the thousands? Is a Dream Center even possible in a town whose metro-area population isn't in the millions, hundreds of thousands or even tens of thousands? What if the metro population was just 13,000, give or take a few hundred?
Just over four years ago, candidate pastor Kevin Grimes and his wife, Kim, were being driven across town to visit Dayspring Assembly of God in Spencer, Iowa. The fact that the Grimes were here at all was a miracle in itself, as they had spent the last 20 years living and ministering in Los Angeles. Needless to say, LA and Spencer had some differences.
However, both Kevin and Kim were convinced God had something new for them. Although Spencer, Iowa, wasn't on their radar (or the Midwest, for that matter) when God first spoke to them months before, what was in store for them was about to be foreshadowed.
As they drove down Grand Street, the main drive in Spencer, they passed the town's landmark building. A six-story hotel, the structure stood head and shoulders above the other community buildings. It was for sale. Suddenly Kevin spoke up. "That would be a great place for a Dream Center," he commented, not realizing at the time the thought was God-inspired.
Soon after, the Grimeses were elected and inherited a healthy church that averaged about 140 people on Sunday mornings. In his first Sunday service, Kevin says he felt impressed by God to share his burden for the church to not only make a difference around the world through missions but also in their community. By now, he also knew his initial impression about the hotel as a Dream Center was not just his own musing, so he dropped the bombshell.
"I told them that I felt the Lord wanted us to start a Dream Center in that old hotel," Grimes says. "The next instant, the church erupted—in applause."
Grimes had struck a passion that had been growing in the church body to impact its community. But when the church contacted the realtor for the hotel, the $559,000 price tag threw a cold dose of reality upon their excitement. It wasn't a lot of money by LA standards, but it was a discouraging price tag by Dayspring Church in Spencer, Iowa, standards.
"We didn't have that kind of money," Grimes explains simply. "But you almost can't go anywhere in town without going down Grand Street. Ten times a week, I would drive by that hotel and just know God wanted us to have it."
Finally, Grimes couldn't stand it. He called a realtor and asked for a tour of the building—a building he knew they could never afford.
As Grimes toured the hotel, he was told that three years ago, when the bank foreclosed on the building, the staff was given only 20 minutes to vacate the property. "Honestly, the hotel was like a scene following the rapture," Grimes says. "Beds were half-made, a vacuum was left in the middle of a room—there were even French fries left in the fryer in the kitchen."
But as the realtor took Grimes floor by floor through the old hotel, Grimes began seeing visions.
"As we walked through the building, there were no utilities. It was damp and moldy," Grimes recalls. "But as I looked, the Lord just gave me visions ... When we came to the bar area, I saw a vision of a cup of [premium] coffee sitting on the bar—and I don't even drink coffee! When we came to the basement, it was all dingy, and mushrooms were growing in the carpet, and I saw a youth center. The second floor, I saw food and clothing distribution, a prayer room."
As they continued through the building, the visions continued as Grimes saw a free medical center, an after-school program, a residential program for victims of human trafficking, an exercise facility—even an indoor skate park!
Grimes shared the visions with his church board, but even though they were excited about the possibilities the building had for impacting the community in so many ways, without the finances, Grimes' visions were only dreams.
Finally, torn between the improbability of God's vision and the reality of no finances, Grimes requested a meeting with the owner of the hotel, a local businessman.
"When I arrived for the meeting, he treated me like his best friend. He was just super gracious to me," Grimes says. "I told him my idea for the hotel, the visions I had for it. In my heart, I was just hoping he could help us find a way to purchase the building."
The businessman considered Grimes' proposal for the hotel for a few minutes, then began to speak. He explained that several other individuals had come to him prior to Grimes with proposals for the building, but, he said, he liked Grimes' ideas best.
So, he decided to give the building to the church.
The improbable had just run head-on into a God-given vision. It was no contest.
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