Celebration and Dedication – the Completion of the Nehemiah Narrative
by Dayna Taylor
On July 31st, we gathered to praise the name of Jesus for the successful resurrection in 52 weeks of the broken-down armory (Phase 1 and 2).
Recognition was given to the rebuilding team led by Brent Thompson, the #NEXT prayer team, the board, the executive leadership team, and all the volunteers who brought about this mighty work in partnership with God.
We feasted on tasty food with sweet drinks and celebrated with songs of thanksgiving and music while we dedicated the building back to the Lord, honoring all those involved. It was a great time of rejoicing in God’s faithfulness and love for Hand In Hand!
A special thanks to Chick-fil-A for sponsoring the event and providing the delectable food and sweet beverages!
We retold the story of God’s provision of the land and the favor He has given in provision so far for the completion of both phases. We read the Word and rededicated Hand In Hand to the mission of advancing the Kingdom of God through Christian Montessori. We unapologetically proclaimed our position of holding to God’s Word, proclaiming Jesus as Savior, and loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds – as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves.
#NEXT Fundraising Update
by Dayna Taylor
During the stay at home order, we entered a quiet phase of the campaign and respected people’s experiences, acknowledging the challenging time for some. During this time, we wrote and sent letters to business leaders and contacts to request they partner with us at our highest level of gifts in the campaign called the Legacy Donors. This level gives or pledges $100,000 to $1 million and higher. God continues to bring new people to mind and we prayerfully write letters and reach out. Please pray for these donors to respond positively.
Our second level is our Claim a Continent with giving of $10,000 plus. We pray God will identify these individuals who not only have a heart for Christian Montessori education at Hand In Hand, but who also have a burden for organizations all over the world that need this method of training and developing children. One tenth of each of these gifts will be reinvested into the international organizations.
Thirdly, is our Buy a Bead group of donors contribute $1,000 plus to have their children’s or family’s name engraved on a bead that will be hung around the school. Current and past families will be invited to be a part of this fun project.
Please join with us in prayer as we partner with God in the work of raising $3.5 million through these three levels of giving. We still need names and connections for all three levels so please ask the Lord if there is someone you know is passionate about partnering with us in our eternal work of advancing the Kingdom of God and transforming learners, families, and generations to come. What an amazing invitation this is for people to lock arms with us! We are confident that when God gives vision, He also gives the PROVISION (Pastor Morris Vaagenes)!
Also, please ask the Lord what He wants you to contribute to this campaign. We are so grateful for you and passionately desire that you may be more blessed in giving generously ONLY as He leads you!
All glory be to God Almighty who lovingly cares and provides for Hand In Hand and has done so for over two decades!
Link to the #NEXT page on the website: https://hihcm.org/events/
Link to the Give page on the website: https://hihcm.org/give/
Farewell, Courage, Peace, and Love!
by Steve Whiting
Hand In Hand has been an increasing part of my life over the last 14 years. First as a parent, then as a board member, and finally as the president of the board. HIH has been such a blessing and has impacted how I teach at Bethel, parent, and lead. I am so excited about the potential going forward with the new building, the amazing leadership on the board, staff, and especially Michelle Thompson.
So many of you see what Michelle does and are impacted by the staff that she has assembled at HIH. I have not only been witness to the same but I have spent countless hours with Michelle. She is such a gifted leader with a sold-out heart for Jesus and for all the children and youth at HIH. Even though we are going through some crazy times, I am not afraid (Deut 31 and Josh 1) because of the courageous group that will continue to lead this great school well into the future!
Given my passion for Nehemiah and how that book has guided our efforts these last two years, you would think I would quote from it. Then I remembered Paul and his words in 2 Cor. 13. In verse 11 Paul says, "Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you." I pray for courage, peace, and love for all of you...
Former Board President and Lifelong HIH Supporter
Our Nehemiah Narrative
by Michelle Thompson
I went into City Hall that day to acquire a “capacity sign” needed for the school building we were renting at the time. A kindly gentleman, adorned with a city official nametag and security badge came out to meet me. I asked him about the capacity signage and told him I was with Hand In Hand Christian Montessori.
He looked up knowingly and responded -
“Oh! You are the school that just bought the old armory on McCarron’s. I read about you in the city hall news. Sounds like you are trying to restore it?
“Yes! That is us! And yes – we are hoping to rebuild and restore the building and move into the building by this fall!” I answered eagerly wanted to share the good news.
Skeptically, he raised one eyebrow and said, “Lady, have you seen the building?”
Confidently I smiled and replied, “Yes, I have! But have you read the book of Nehemiah?!?”
The story of Nehemiah has intrigued me ever since we embarked on a super-natural rebuilding project over two years ago. I have been following the narrative ever since, trying my hardest to learn from the wisdom of a restoration project in 444 B.C.
We first learned about the property from a board member who knew we were looking for a permanent home for our school. Since we were in the eleventh year of a ten-year lease and had outgrown our current situation, our landlord decided not to renew our lease. We were in a save-our-school moment and it was crucial for our school’s survival that we find a new home. We had looked at and toured many locations and even attempted to purchase one property when a board member sent an email about a location.
It was an abandoned 55,000 square foot armory, owned by the US National Guard, in disarray. The building was vacant and vandalized. It was boarded up and both an eye-sore and bother to the neighborhood. The building was situated on nine acres of land, also overgrown and neglected. All past plans for the property had fallen through despite the city’s best intentions to level the building and put up high-density housing in its place.
Truly the wall had been broken and the gates had been burned.
I had my first showing of the property in February of 2018. It was a cold day in Minnesota, but the building inside was colder and darker than the outside temperature – and that is saying a lot. I went inside the building alone with my cell phone flashlight. I remember the emotions of excitement, fear, and suspicion all mingled into one thought – “What am I doing here?” Shuffling along in the dim light, I remember the mixed smells of standing toilet water, damp walls, and motionless air. My feet found shell-casing left from the years of canine-training and artillery practicing. Particle board walls were placed in random places along with thousands of yards of metal cages for weapon storage. I tentatively called out for my real estate agent – “Peter? Peter?!?” From the darkness emerged five guys – two real estate agents who represented me and three, no-nonsense, military men who represented themselves. It was completely intimidating to say the least.
Despite that first encounter being one of the strangest in my life, I went home that night, took out a yellow legal pad and accurately drew what I believed could be the new blueprint for our school. With God’s help, I could visualize a completely restored and redeemed building – absolutely perfect for our people. The kitchen and library have since found a new space from the original drawing but all other rooms are completely intact from that my first sketch.
But, it wasn’t as easy as all of that. First, the US Military had to accept our low-ball offer, much lower than their posted sale price. Second, we needed to raise the money to buy the building and land. Third, we had to find a bank willing to finance the entire construction project. Fourth, even if all of the first three hurdles were miraculously overcome, the city would have to approve the sale and change the zoning. The city would only agree if the neighbors did. Fifth, the neighbors had been presented with a survey a few years earlier. Their consensus was to remove the old building and replace it. We would have to have neighborhood support for a change in plans. Finally, if we ever had the chance to get this far, we would have to restore a building we were buying in the dark, literally and figuratively, with little or no information about what lay quietly beneath the soil and glazed tiles since its original construction in 1936.
The US Military, after several rounds of discussion, and some face-to-face encounters agreed to our sale price!
A Family Foundation stepped up and generously offered to fund the purchase of the property and building – offering cash at the closing.
A local bank, Tradition Capital, known for its faith-filled endeavors and philanthropic ways agreed to finance a short-term construction loan.
The neighbors were invited by the city, to an open-town-hall meeting, where we were allowed to present our ideas. Prior to the meeting, we went door to door to over 100 homes. We brought the children from Hand In Hand, dressed in their uniforms and warm smiles. They knocked and said, “Hello! We would like to be your new neighbors!” The invitation worked. Many came and we served our special book-club cookies (gluten-free, chocolate chip).
The City Council unanimously voted to change the zoning and approved our plans to commence with a remodel of the armory.
Our architect, builder and designer, all worked together step by step to ensure that the entire project from the foundation up, with original wood framing, steel studs and brick walls, were restored efficiently and blending old with new.
It took Nehemiah 52 days to rebuild the walls. It took us 52 weeks. July 2019-July 2020.
How did this happen?
By the help of the Lord, our God!
There was a prayer team. This prayer team literally prayed for over one year, every day, for the project. Prayer walks happened. Daily prayer reports went out. Chris Berg, our Community Engagement Specialist, was the leader of the charge in this regard. Enough words cannot be spoken over the impact she had on this project from a spiritual and physical view. We are all forever grateful for her and her leadership.
There were work teams. They came when “all calls” were made. Painting, cleaning, moving, sweeping, lifting, moving-again, weeding, planting, pruning, digging, clearing-again, landscaping, designing. Every hand mattered. There were big hands. And little hands. Working hands and praying hands. Together, hand in hand, next to each, we rebuilt the walls.
The professional workers are also to be commended. The building turned out so beautiful mostly in part to the excellent craftmanship, management, and expertise of those hired to the job over the last year. We are so grateful and we honor them.
The Donors and Tradition Bank, who provided the temporary Construction Loan should be mentioned along with the others. Without Tradition, Veritas, IDC, the Mannella Family, and many, many more to provide the funds, big or small, this whole endeavor would have remained a dream and never a reality. God used these individuals and their generosity to advance this project and fund it.
We are so grateful for staff members, their families, and members of our community who provided the consistent draw of volunteer labor throughout the entirety of the project.
And so, July 31st, 2020 we celebrated and had the Nehemiah Praise Party!
1 All the people came together as one in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra the teacher of the Law to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel. Nehemiah 8:1
All of Hand In Hand gathered in the school parking lot. They brought their own lawn chairs and blankets and they gathered to hear about the promises of the Lord fulfilled and celebrate together the goodness of the Lord.
2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand.3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon. 4 Ezra the teacher of the Law stood on a high wooden platform built for the occasion. Beside him on his right stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah and Maaseiah; and on his left were Pedaiah, Mishael, Malkijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam.
Similarly, Hand In Hand leaders also gathered. Head of School, Michelle Thompson; Former Board President, Steve Whiting; Pastor, Morris Vaagenes; Worship Leader, Dayna Taylor; and Prayer Leader, Christine Berg all told of their stories and declared the faithfulness of the Lord outside on the concrete sidewalk by the large stone!
5 Ezra opened the book. All the people could see him because he was standing above them; and as he opened it, the people all stood up. 6 Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, “Amen! Amen!” Then they bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
And the Hand In Hand people could see and hear because the worship leader was sitting in front of them and shared openly declaring God’s presence over the space. The leaders praised the Lord, the great God, and all the people lifted their hands and responded with “yes and amen” – and they worshipped the Lord!
10Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” 11 The Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for this is a holy day. Do not grieve.” 12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.
The leaders invited everyone to enjoy the Chick-fil-A boxed meal that was donated by the Roseville Store along with sweet tea! There were 120 meals that were shared by all and everyone had enough. We sand the song “the Joy of the Lord is your strength” with the children who were present! They came up in front of the congregation who had gathered and played bells, tambourines, and a hanging cymbal! Great was the joy! Great was the joyful noise!
17 The whole company that had returned from exile built temporary shelters and lived in them.
The exile and wandering and the renting and moving for our Hand In Hand community had ended. The people toured the building to see the spaces that had been designed for their children to learn and be educated of the Lord. Temporary, earthly space had been created to reflect God’s Kingdom on earth. This work was done with the help of our God!
Amen and Amen!