By Janet Goreham
Big dreams take a big God. It’s a good thing Todd Knutson and the South Dakota FCA staff know they’ve got one. And they’re only beginning to discover just how big He is. With a $3.5 million ministry dream beginning to take form, Knutson can hardly believe it’s becoming a reality.
Laying the Foundation
It all started in the fall of 2000 when Knutson began to settle into his new role as an FCA area representative in Sioux Falls, S.D. Like most new staff, Knutson sought means to raise funds for his ministry through the usual support letters and individual visits. But he knew there had to be another way.
One Sunday afternoon he attended an open house where he picked up the brochure of Dan Lemme, owner of C-Lemme Custom Homes, LLC. What he read surprised him. Lemme didn’t just talk about his custom homes and business, but also about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
Astonished that a businessman would discuss his faith in his marketing brochure, Knutson decided to introduce himself and ask if Lemme was interested in meeting for a cup of coffee.
Knutson began to count the possibilities. What if, rather than ask for financial support from businessmen like Lemme, FCA asked for donations of time, labor and materials for the construction of a house?
When their meeting came, Knutson and Lemme chatted for a few minutes. Then Knutson cast his vision for such a project. Lemme sat back in his chair, thought for a few seconds and willingly agreed. According to Knutson, when he asked Lemme to consider the offer, Lemme responded by saying, “I believe that when someone asks me to do something in the name of the Lord, I can only say, ‘Yes.’”
What happened from there was a process only God could have orchestrated. Under Lemme’s leadership and with the help of nearly 100 volunteers, two houses were constructed in three years, generating close to $330,000 for the FCA ministry.
“It was a huge opportunity to raise money for our staff in South Dakota,” commented Knutson. “It was also an opportunity to witness and share with the people that were involved in the house-building project. A lot of people were introduced to FCA—who we are and what we do—and also introduced to Christ, because our staff could be on-site and pour into these people.”
Building houses for FCA seemed like a promising venture as both homes sold even before completion. But Knutson soon learned that it would be difficult to replicate these projects annually.
“It took a lot of manpower and commitment from many people to make it happen,” said Knutson, “and we couldn’t ask these people to volunteer to do this every year.”
But God’s plan for South Dakota FCA seemed to grow even bigger.
A New Dream
Knutson (now the Northland FCA regional director) and his staff learned from the house-building projects and began to wonder how much more impact FCA could have in South Dakota if they could build something even bigger than a house, something that could potentially generate a revenue stream for the ministry and become an appreciating asset.
South Dakota’s $3.5 million idea was born.
"Donating the land was very simple for me to do. I don’t own the land. The Lord owns everything."
After much prayer and deliberation, Knutson began to seek God’s provision for the land. “We just laid it before the Lord,” said Knutson. “We prayed, ‘Lord, if this is what You want us to do, then open the doors for us. If not, throw up the red flags.’”
Six months later Dan Lemme approached Knutson with a donation of two acres of land, valued at $750,000.
“Donating the land was very simple for me to do,” explained Lemme. “I don’t own the land. The Lord owns everything. The only thing I own is my right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ So, it was a very easy thing for me to do.”
Prior to donating the two acres, Lemme’s company had bought 40 acres of property adjacent to Sioux Falls Christian High School. The University of Sioux Falls approached Lemme about buying a portion of the land on which to build their sports facility. This would create an 80-acre, faith-based sports complex owned by Sioux Falls Christian and the University of Sioux Falls.
Lemme sold the requested portion of the land to USF at the same price at which he bought it and then gave FCA two acres.
For Knuston and the S.D. staff, Lemme’s donation was affirmation from God.
“We were somewhat stunned by the donation,” he said. “We’re in ministry; we’re not in the construction or real estate trade, so God placed really extraordinary things right in our lap.”
The new project is a 25,000 square-foot office building, 2,500 of which the South Dakota FCA ministry will call home. FCA will lease the remaining space to other faith-based organizations, generating close to $300,000 a year for the ministry.
South Dakota’s FCA building endeavors were so successful that the idea has caught on in other parts of Knutson’s region. The profits from a recently built house with a $366,500 price tag for sale in Rochester, Minn., will go to the Southeast Minnesota FCA.
Bigelow Homes, the largest builder in Southeast Minnesota, built a four-bedroom, three bathroom house and plans to donate its proceeds to the ministry. Peter Dokken of Keller Williams Premier Realty, also a Southeast Minnesota FCA board member, also plans to donate his commission from the sale of the house.
“Bigelow or I could have just written a check, but the idea was to do something unique for the ministry,” explained Dokken.
In addition to receiving the proceeds from the sale, FCA benefits from the press coverage of local newspapers and television stations. Because FCA is relatively new to the Rochester area, starting just over two years ago, not many people are familiar with the ministry.
“FCA has already become more widely known in Rochester,” said Knutson. “It’s been a great opportunity to not only market the house, but also market FCA, and that’s ultimately what we want to do.”
Ideally Knutson would like to see all of the staff in his region work out of their own building in the future.
“Look at what a great opportunity this is when you start looking at all of the FCA staff across the U.S.,” expressed Knutson. “Once we get the ball rolling and really help some of the people involved in these projects see what kind of legacy they could leave for God’s Kingdom, it could mean a lot for the future of FCA.”
“The intent is to fill the building with as many non-profit organizations as we can and give them a substantial break on their leases,” explained Knutson. “That way there’s an incentive for non-profits. It helps them, and it also helps us.”
The land Lemme sold to the University of Sioux Falls is currently being transformed into a new sports complex, complete with a football stadium, soccer field and track. FCA and USF have an agreement that, once the facility is complete, the university will allow FCA the use of their sports complex rent-free.
“It will be a fantastic arrangement,” said Knutson. “Everything is right here. In the future, South Dakota FCA will be able to have all of its sports camps at that sports facility.”
Because the FCA building will be debt-free, the money generated from the lease will go directly to impact the ministry throughout South Dakota. They are currently in the process of soliciting cash, material, labor and resource donations for the building.
“One of the huge benefits of doing a project like this is that you can do it without having to raise 100 percent in money; you can do it through the donation of materials and labor,” said Knutson. “The success of this project has been because people have so many different options for how they can get involved, and one of those has been donation of what they have access to.”
In the last 14 months, the South Dakota staff has raised, through the summation of donated cash, labor and resources, all but $800,000 of the necessary $3.5 million it will take to complete the project. They believe that God will provide the needed funds within the next six months.
“A lot of people get excited about a project like this,” said Knutson. “One of the easiest sells is the fact that they’re going to be able to visit the building. They want to invest in something they can see and touch. They will be able to say, ‘Hey, I put money into this building, and I feel good about that.’”
It’s a lofty dream. Knutson and the South Dakota staff have no doubt about that. But their faith in God’s promise to finish the work that He has started* is stronger than any fear of opposition. They know that with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
*The Lord will finish the work He started for me. O Lord, Your lovingkindness lasts forever. Do not turn away from the works of Your hangs."- Psalm 138:8 (NLV)
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