With the words of Isaiah 58 humming in her mind, author Ann Voskamp and her husband recently bought a shuttered church in a small country town in Ontario.
The Canadian writer, known for books like “One Thousand Gifts” and “The Way of Abundance,” chronicled her and her husband’s journey to purchasing a 125-year-old abandoned stone building on Main Street in a recent blog post, which turned out to be less about buying a sanctuary and more about trusting God.
The way Voskamp described it, she and her husband — whom she frequently refers to in posts as “the farmer” — were driving down the road when she spotted the church, which boasted a dreary marquee to which the phrase, “Thanks for the memories,” was fixed, alerting passersby to the fact the sanctuary was no longer in use.
Not long after driving by the closed church, Voskamp asked her husband to turn around.
The couple looked through the dilapidated building, and soon thereafter, made an offer and the sale was processed: the Voskamps now own a rundown, inactive sanctuary.
Throughout the process, Voskamp’s husband, “the farmer,” was reminding his wife of Isaiah 58. “What have we been reading over and over again for weeks around the dinner table?” he asked Voskamp.
He called to memory Isaiah 58:12, which reads (in The Message translation):
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.
The whole process proved to be a valuable lesson in learning to trust God in the midst of crippling uncertainty — a topic worship leader Mack Brock recently discussed with Faithwire.
Voskamp used her purchase of the church as a teaching opportunity — both for herself and for her readers, whom she encouraged to more readily step out of the boat and cling to Jesus, a reference to Matthew 14, when Jesus called on Peter to step out of the boat and walk on the water.
“When we end up signing the papers on a nearly 125-year-old abandoned church, I feel this glorious-terrified upending, hand trembling across the dotted line, feel the heat of burning up of any boat — and feel the faith of all this cold water like a jolting awakening to the hope of really living outside of boxes and boats and any pre-mature comfortable coffins,” Voskamp wrote.
But it’s in that uncertainty, when we choose to take a leap of faith into the unknown, Voskamp wrote, that God often meets us and restores us.
“Go hard and fast after what matters — helping those hurting and lost and looking for hope and healing on the fringes,” she continued. “Even if you go with knees knocking, go after what matters — instead of going confidently after what doesn’t.”
As far as the church goes, it’s not yet clear what the Voskamps plan to do with the sanctuary after they finish its restoration.