Spring 2015 Newsletter

April 22, 2015

A Letter from the executive director

This edition of our Newsletter includes testimonials from an assembly with a current loan and a missionary family commended from this assembly.  Because our primary purpose is loaning money for the purchase and construction of assembly facilities, my thoughts in this edition focus on things to consider before purchasing a building.  I plan to address issues relating to the construction or renovation of a building in future editions.

As the saying goes, “hindsight is 20-20.”  In 23 years of architectural practice, I learned a great deal about what not to do in design and construction.  It is my hope that you will benefit from this exercise in hindsight.  The process of purchasing a building is complicated, just as dealing with city officials can be challenging.  There is no substitute for due diligence in such an endeavor.

The first three things a realtor will tell you to consider in purchasing a building are “location, location, location.”  In fact, there are three questions that should be asked about the location, or site, before purchasing a building:

First, is the property located in the flood plain or flood way as defined by the Corp of Engineers?  If it is in the flood plain, improvements to the building will be limited, and expansion of the building footprint will likely be cost prohibitive.  If the property is in the flood way, generally no improvements are permitted.

Second, are the utilities at this location sufficient?  Sewer and water service may be inadequate for the planned use of the building, or for retrofitting the building with a fire sprinkler system if required.  It is also possible that a code required fire hydrant is too far from the building, necessitating a new hydrant.  This can be an expensive proposition, especially if the water line for a new hydrant is on the other side of the street from this site.  The existing electrical service may not comply with current code requirements, or be sufficient to support the intended activities of the assembly.

Third, does the site have adequate surface drainage?  If not, the city may require that a detention pond be installed to avoid excessive water drainage into the city system during periods of heavy rain.  Just because the site does not currently have a detention pond does not mean that city engineers will not require that one be installed.  Also, if there are “grandfathered” surface drainage violations, the city may require that these violations be rectified at the assembly’s expense.

Other areas to investigate:

Zoning: The zoning designation should be investigated, especially if the use of the building is changing.  For example, if you are considering the purchase of a grocery store building, the zoning for that commercial use may not permit a religious use.  Rezoning a site can be time-consuming and expensive.  Cities today generally do not look favorably upon the use of property for religious purposes, meaning the planning and zoning board may deny your rezoning request.  Many cities have spent considerable time and money to rewrite zoning ordinances and rezone large areas of their city to promote commercial use while restricting non tax-producing uses like churches.  Also, look carefully into parking requirements.  Using the example above, converting a grocery store into a religious use will most likely require more parking.

Building Code: You may think that the building is exempt from any code issues because it is “grandfathered.”  However, city officials often view a change in property ownership as their opportunity to require that a building be brought up to code.  In particular, the fire code may represent a problem for existing buildings as Fire Marshals aggressively pursue their goal to require fire sprinkler systems in all structures.  Also, be aware of the different restroom requirements for commercial verses religious uses. Restrooms are expensive to expand or add to an existing structure.  A trip to your local building inspection department is strongly recommended prior to purchasing a building.  Just because the site utilities are acceptable does not mean that the in-building services are adequate or code compliant.  It is important that you talk with officials in the zoning, building inspection and fire marshal’s office to determine whether there are any code problems.  Also, seek the advice of a trusted contractor in assessing the building’s condition and necessary upgrades.

Accessibility: The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is generally thought to be the standard for accessibility design.  Because it is a federal law, religious structures are exempt from ADA requirements.  However, some states have their own accessibility standards.  These state standards are sometimes more stringent than federal standards, and may include requirements for religious structures.  Depending on local interpretation, religious structures may be required to meet the accessibility requirements of the most commonly used building code.  If the building is more than one story, be aware that the costly installation of an elevator may be required for access by disabled persons to upper levels.  The point here is do not assume that because the use is religious that the building will be exempt from accessibility standards.  In fact, it may be best to provide such accommodations regardless of city or state requirements for the benefit of those in assembly fellowship and as a good testimony to visitors from the community.

This list is by no means exhaustive; however, I trust that the issues raised will encourage due diligence on the part of elders, deacons and trustees prior to purchasing a building.  I am available to answer any questions that may arise as you consider purchasing a building.  This offer is not dependent upon the assembly using Stewards Foundation to provide a loan for its project.

Chapel Testimonial - North Dallas Bible Chapel

The Asian Indian population has been growing exponentially in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  As a result, many believers have settled throughout the metroplex over the last several years.  A few brethren, who were previously in fellowship at the Dallas Brethren assembly in Irving, saw the need to start an assembly work in the nearby city of Farmers Branch.  They prayed about this matter for a few years and the Lord, in His own time, helped these brethren start a small assembly in 1997.  A building was purchased, renovated, and financed through a mortgage with Stewards Foundation.  In 2007, meetings of the assembly in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ began in this building.  About 120 are present for the Lord’s Supper at this local church.

The ministries at North Bible Chapel include:

Worship begins at 9:45 AM every Sunday at North Dallas Bible Chapel.  In this meeting, the saints come prepared to pour out their hearts in the participatory, free will worship of our Lord.  The meeting is usually bilingual – English and Malayalam. Then we remember Him through the breaking of the bread.

In the Sunday School and Kids Club we welcome the responsibilities regarding our children!  God gave them to us, and we need to bring them up in the ways of the Lord.  There are fifty children ranging in age from 4-15.  God has blessed us with a group of committed teachers that have taken the responsibility of teaching the children.  Sound biblical lessons are taught every Sunday to the children according to their age.  We also have Kids Club each quarter to develop the children’s God given talents.

Our Youth Ministry is a blessing to the high school and college students in our assembly.  Their needs are different, but met through two capable brothers, Joe Philip and Binu Ninan, that lead the Bible studies for this group.  These brethren sacrificially spend time in nurturing the young people in the Word and discipling them.

The Adult Bible Study and Ministry of the Word are conducted by a few insightful brethren with whom God has blessed us.  These brethren systematically teach the Bible and preach the Word.  During Sunday School for the children, the adults remain in the main sanctuary for the Adult Bible Study.  After a break, the children join the adults for Ministry of the Word.  The assembly also gathers on Saturday evenings at 7:00 PM for prayer and Bible study.

Our Music ministry is blessed through brothers and sisters who sing very well and lead our congregation in praise and worship.  Brother Jose Cherian is very much dedicated to this ministry.

Outreach Ministries are devoted to the spreading of the Gospel.  Once a month, along with our children, we go to nursing homes, rehab centers and elderly living facilities in the Dallas area.  Our children sing songs, one of the brothers shares God’s Word and we pray with these elderly people.  Also, some of our brethren go to different areas of the city for tract distribution.

Foreign Mission work is supported with much conviction at North Dallas Bible Chapel.  The focus of mission work is in Kenya, and Chattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Malabar states in India.  Our desire is to see the Gospel spread in these areas.  Brother Jacob Varghese and his wife Susan have committed themselves to serving the Lord in Nairobi Kenya.  Jacob and Susan were commended by the assembly to the Lord’s work in 2007.  Since then, they have served the Lord full-time in Kenya where they live along with their daughter Leah.

Our fervent desire is to sustain a good testimony for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; we ask for your prayers in fulfilling this desire.  May “El Shaddai” God Almighty, lead us victoriously!  We invite you to come and worship the Lord with us if you are in the area on a weekend.

Commended Worker Testimony - Joseph & Susan Varghese

The Holy Spirit convinced me (Jacob) about my sin and the need of the Savior during my teenage years.  I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior in 1977.  Later I was baptized and received into the fellowship of assemblies in various places where I lived.  Praise God.  My wife Susan accepted the Lord as her personal Savior in 1983 at Vacation Bible School.   Two years later, Susan was baptized and joined the local assembly in Thrissur, India.

Susan and I were both professionally employed in Dallas, Texas for many years, but the Lord was calling us to His ministry in Kenya.  We were commended to the work of the Lord by North Dallas Bible Chapel in 2007, and left our jobs to follow the calling of our Master.  Along with our daughter, Leah, we have been in Kenya since then witnessing for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Kenya, known as a Christian country, is in need of the true gospel!  There are many opportunities, but only a few that preach, “Christ crucified.”  Most are running after the prosperity of “health and wealth.”  Assembly brethren in Kenya are trying to convey the message of salvation and teach the Bible in truth and clarity without pollution.

The Lord has graciously opened many doors for us to minister His Word in Kenya.  God has given us opportunity to be a part of the church-planting ministry in this country.  There are a few young brothers with both commitment and zeal that work along with mature elders.  We visit local families and share the Gospel with them.  Once they accept the Lord Jesus as their personal Savior, we encourage them to be in fellowship with the Lord’s people.

Three times a year, during school holidays in April, August and December, we do short-term Bible training sessions.  These sessions are held in Nairobi, Nyanza and Western Kenya.  This effort is bearing fruit, with new assemblies being established and young brothers growing spiritually.  Around forty attend these sessions in each area where visiting Bible teachers and committed brothers in Kenya join us to teach the Word.  Conferences are being organized in these areas to strengthen the assemblies and proclaim the Gospel to the lost.

A few schools (primary and secondary) have allotted time every week to teach the Bible.  A team of six brothers are involved in this ministry.  We use this opportunity to share the Gospel and teach the Word to the students and to the teachers.  It is a great joy to witness many being saved at a young age.  Praise God!

In Nairobi, children wander in the streets after school.  We gather these children into small groups and bring them in to hear the Gospel.  After coffee and snacks, the children are ready to listen to God’s Word.  A few have been saved through this ministry and are happily following the Lord.  Some are in regular schools; others are in trade schools.  Please pray that the Lord will transform the hearts of these youngsters.  We are also involved in prison ministry and Emmaus Bible Correspondence ministry.  The courses offered by Emmaus require follow up for those who show interest in the Gospel and seek answers.

Serving the Lord in a foreign land because of His calling is a great privilege.  What a joy to acknowledge the grace of God every day, as we enjoy the care from our heavenly Father!  Please pray that we will remain faithful to the Lord (I Cor. 4:1-2).

We are thankful to those that keep us in their valuable prayers and provide support. We appreciate the love and concern of God’s people.  Stewards Foundation has also been helpful to our family through the Health Care Assistance Program for the past few years. It has been very encouraging as we received the gift in times of need, and we praise God for that. May the Lord reward you all according to the riches of His glory.

If you plan to visit Kenya, or are interested in short term missions in Kenya please feel free to contact us. Email: [email protected].