Word Aflame Tabernacle
By Pastor Alan James
Word Aflame Tabernacle was founded on August 8, 2001, in Norcross, Georgia. Though we started small—five adults and five children from three nationalities—we were blessed to
hold services in a small room of a daycare center. Over the next decade, we moved four times as our congregation steadily grew to an on-Sunday average of 180 attendees from fourteen nationalities.
Although our last location was a beautiful, spacious facility, our lease was nearing its termination. Given our location in metro-Atlanta and the economic climate, finding available land or property for purchase was a financially daunting prospect. Unfavorable city ordinances for new churches further complicated our search.
November 11, 2018, started beautifully. I was reviewing the notes for my sermon when I received a phone call from Allison Wilkerson, the mayor of the City of Grayson. Anxiously she said, Pastor, are you alright? I replied, Yes, Mayor; Why? I will never forget her words: Pastor, your church is on fire, and flames are shooting through the roof.
I quickly informed our landlord and headed to the church. We were at the height of our ministry, and I was watching flames destroy our church and everything inside. But then, God spoke to my heart; “You will rise from the ashes.” I adopted these words as our church’s theme going forward.
Mayor Wilkerson arrived and stood by my side as a show of support while fire crews from three stations worked to extinguish the flames. She immediately presented us with a thousand-dollar check from her personal account. As the firefighters completed their duties, a deacon from the First Baptist Church of Grayson approached us on behalf of Pastor Tim Brogan; he offered us the use of their gymnasium for church future services. The two-story location was just up the block and included a pulpit, seating, sound system, commercial kitchen, and various furnished classrooms. Because of their generosity, Word Aflame Tabernacle never missed a service.
Shortly after the fire, Atlanta’s four major news outlets contacted me. Once the building was deemed safe, they interviewed me from inside the charred walls and beams of our former sanctuary. As a result, we received thousands of dollars in donations from businesses within our city, Pastors within our organization, and churches of various faiths from around the country. We will never be able to fully express our gratitude and appreciation for all who were there for us during this trial!
Unfortunately, and shamefully, we were grossly underinsured because of our rapid growth and failure to notify our insurer—a lesson hard learned. It was later determined that the cause of the fire was a faulty baptismal heater.
Our new property search was discouraging, to say the least. There was little to be found. We were hopeful when we unexpectedly heard of a beautiful church on the market. We placed a generous sealed offer, but a developer outbid us and leveled the building. As an act of faith, we held a special service and dinner for our congregation and set our intention: We will rise from the ashes!
Because of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic that followed, our congregation size dropped considerably. Once it was safe to do so, we held another special service to reinvigorate our intention to once again rise from the ashes. As attendees entered, they received a small sealed vile of the ashes collected from the sanctuary. We prayed for a miracle, a building we could call our own.
Shortly after, four acres of land became available. On it sat a conjoined church and school, which featured offices, a kitchen, a fellowship hall, and a separate parsonage. Located at a high-traffic intersection, it was a magnet property for area developers. Time was of the essence! The property was listed “as is” at $300,000 due to extensive mold and water damage. We made a bid over the asking price and approached our bank for a property loan. They quickly informed us that they were not providing property loans to churches due to the pandemic.
I returned home to a message on my answering machine from Brother Kevin Prince with the United Pentecostal Church Loan Fund. He wanted to speak to me about their investment and loan offerings. I contacted Brother Prince, explained the situation, and submitted our application. During this time, we continued to enter counterbids for the property. The relator then informed me that bidding would close in three days. Brother Kevin Prince, Rick Lovall, Bryan Barton, and others worked diligently to expedite and approve our loan. As a result, we closed on the property at a purchase price of $400,000. We extensively remodeled the facilities and received our occupancy permit. Our current market value is estimated at $1.2 million.
Word Aflame Tabernacle has risen from the ashes thanks to the goodness of God and the wonderful staff of the UPCI Loan Fund.
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