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Churchfunding: 2019 Year-End Report

A new year means it’s time for another update on our “churchfunding” house loan adventure! How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us buy this house.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2019, we owed $41,687.50 in house loans.1  By the end of 2019, we owed only $35,062.50.

Here is how that $6,625 difference breaks down. We repaid $5,750 in loans in 2019 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. Also, two lenders forgave a total of $750 in principal. In total, we were forgiven $875 in principal and interest in 2019. We are thankful for this generosity! $875 (forgiven) plus $5,750 (paid) equals $6,625. This means our house debt declined by $625 more than we expected in 2019.

Since we began repayments in April of 2016, a total of 28 lenders have receive partial or total repayment. Another 33 lenders are still awaiting their first repayment.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment? At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within six years—by about October of 2025. As promised, we are using a random number generator (and prayer!) to select who is repaid each month. If you have a financial squeeze, however, feel free to let us know and we will consider prioritizing your repayment as possible.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is still tight, but slightly better than a year ago, thank God. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, but my number of piano students grew in 2019. I temporarily reached 30 students, finishing the year with about 27—about nine more than a year ago! In addition, as was true a year ago, I have more students who hope to resume or begin lessons in January. By now my biggest growth obstacle is time—do I really want to begin teaching Friday evenings or Saturdays?

Our largest expense in 2019 was finally getting three big trees removed from our backyard. What a relief!

One tree was dead, two were unhealthy, and all three were a hazard not only to our house, but even more to our neighbor’s house. Several initial quotes back in 2016 were for $5000 and $6000, so we cut vines off around the base of the trees, waited for the vines to die and drop, and prayed whenever it got windy. A shout-out to Boutte Tree, who gave us a fair deal ($3,240) and demonstrated a lot of expertise getting the job done!

Other “extra” expenses for 2019 included:

  • A 1-1/2 year Greek class I finished in July (highly recommended—see here)
  • Physical therapy for my shoulder (covered under Samaritan Ministries–mention us if you sign up!)
  • Continued cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters (see videos below)

House projects in 2019 were very minor,  though I did do some flood-proofing in the basement and also began soundproofing the door between my piano studio and Zonya’s kitchen—a much-needed effort!

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $215,000.

Church and Witness

As I shared last year, we are no longer actively pursuing a formal church plant in our neighborhood. We have been attending Cellebration Fellowship in Clarkston, GA, for over a year now. The people there have been welcoming, and we have fit in as we are able. I’m recruited to play piano most Sundays and I preached one sermon this year; the girls enjoy Sunday school; and we’ve all been blessed by the various personal expressions of friendship we’ve received. Loneliness is still real for most of us, however, and Zonya and I are experiencing the common midlife awareness that life has not turned out as we once dreamed.

Despite our questions, “the house that God bought” saw ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • A neighbor girl who often comes looking for our daughters
  • A hungry man who sometimes knocks on our door
  • Several new neighbors glad for friendship and support
  • Our own children, whom Zonya faithfully homeschools
  • A couple who stays overnight when they come to Atlanta for medical appointments
  • My blog writing efforts
  • Praying for God to put his angels around our neighborhood each night
  • International students who came for a vegetarian Thanksgiving

Dad’s Health

At risk of turning this post into a virtual Christmas letter, I’ll mention one more big change in our family in 2019: This fall we learned that my dad’s cancer has returned, with a tumor in his chest (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma). In early December we traveled to Canada, where we helped Dad and Mom and my siblings weigh this sorrow and make decisions about treatment. Dad and Mom have decided not to pursue any chemo, but simply to trust to God the number of his remaining days. Doctors predict less than six months; God knows.

It was a special privilege to spend time with Dad during this visit, joining him and Mom at the medical clinic when the results of his latest biopsy were shared, hearing stories from his boyhood days, and praying together as a family. Thanks to each of you who are praying for Dad!

Me with my parents, Ken and Elaine Gingrich.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters.  We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for the coming year. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2020 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight Gingrich

  1. Accountant readers might notice that figure is $250 less than what I reported a year ago. That is because on December 31, 2018—after I published my 2018 year-end report—one lender changed his $250 loan into a gift. (Thanks again!)

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Churchfunding: 2018 Year-End Report

Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? In short, we are making monthly repayments as planned and remain deeply grateful for all who helped us purchase this house. However, there are changes to our church planting activities which I will share at the end of this post.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2018, we owed $48,037.50 in house loans. By the end of 2018, we owed only $41,937.50. Here is how that $6,100 difference breaks down.

We repaid $5,470 in loans in 2018 at the planned rate of $500 per month. Why is this total not $6000? Several lenders, when offered their promised repayment, declined the 10% interest we had promised. One declined $500 in principal as well. We are thankful for this generosity!

In total, we were forgiven $630 in principal and interest in 2018. $630 plus $5,470 equals $6,100. This means our house debt declined by $100 more than we expected in 2018.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At the promised $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 7 years—before the end of 2025.

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow is tighter than I predicted a year ago that it would be. I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books (extra over this holiday season), but my number of piano students plateaued in 2018. I temporarily reached 23 students, but finished the year with the same number I had a year ago—about 18. On the positive side, as was true a year ago, I have a handful of students planning to resume or begin lessons in January. If I could reach 30 students, our cash flow would be more manageable.

Our largest expense in 2018 was buying a “new” (2002) Toyota Camry to replace an old Jetta. We were not sad to see the Jetta go, though we received less than we asked for it, and slightly less than the buyer promised to pay. Other “extra” expenses included a Greek class for me (highly recommended—see here), cello and violin lessons for our two oldest daughters, and some business tax I had overlooked.

House projects in 2018 were very minor. A hall closet finally got proper shelving:

And, much to the mutual relief of thirsty neighborhood children and a mother weary of distributing drinks, we installed a fountain in our front yard!

The dead backyard trees and leaky shower and unusable basement entrance I mentioned a year ago are still awaiting their turns.

Meanwhile, we experienced our first significant flooding in our basement just this past week, due to heavy rains.  A leaky and inadequate city sewer line through our yard exacerbated the problem. Priya and I carried out about 100 gallons of water in pails. I expected this would happen sometime. Now we know where the “weak points” are. I am hopeful we can seal off some of the leaks and slow the flooding next time.

House prices in our neighborhood continue to rise. More vacant homes are being refurbished and inhabited, including on our own street. The real estate website Zillow, which estimated our house value at $81,000 back in March 2016 just before we bought it for $65,000, now estimates our house is worth about $188,000. It predicts the value could increase by around 15% in the next year to nearly $216,000. God knows and time will tell.

Church Changes

“The house that God bought” saw many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • 23 Sunday morning church gatherings (avg. 13 in attendance)
  • Several Bible study sessions
  • Many piano students and a “Living Room Recital”
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and fountain with neighbor children
  • Sharing food with hungry people knocking at our front door
  • Hosting international students for Thanksgiving
  • Homeschooling our children

In early November, however, the couple who invited us to Atlanta to join them in church planting decided to step out of this church planting effort. The Smuckers are focusing instead on other learning and ministry opportunities in the community. As a result, Followers of Jesus Church Atlanta is no longer an active gathering.

Our family is seeking God’s direction for this changed situation. We have opened up ourselves to the counselors who helped us during our decision to move here. Meanwhile, we have been attending a church on the east side of the city, Cellebration Fellowship, where my Choice Books supervisor and his family have also recently started attending. The pastor and church there have shown us grace.

We realize that many of you who supported us in our churchfunding house loan project did so in part because you were excited about supporting a church plant effort. We have not given up on this possibility, but feel a need to re-evaluate this goal in light of changed circumstances.

We welcome your prayers as we seek God’s light for life and ministry in the coming year. If you have questions or counsel, we invite you to contact us privately.

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters. We want to faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018 and be salt and light in our community.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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Churchfunding: 2017 Year-End Report

Since our “churchfunding” house loan was a public adventure, I want to give public updates from time to time. How is it working for us by now? Very well, thank God! We remain deeply grateful for our house and are making monthly repayments as planned.

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure. We purchased our Atlanta house on March 25, 2016, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families.)

At the beginning of 2017, we owed $55,112.50 in house loans. By the end of 2017, we owed only $48,037.50. Here is the story of that $7,075 difference.

We repaid $6000 in loans in 2016 at the planned rate of $500 per month. All our “older lenders” have now been fully repaid and we have started selecting lenders of all ages for repayment, using prayer and a random number generator.

Another $1,075 in loans was forgiven this year. Two lenders turned loans into gifts, and a third clarified she didn’t want any interest after all. What a blessing!

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

At $500 per month, we should have all remaining lenders repaid within 8 years—before the end of 2025.

(Note: Careful readers may notice that the figures here don’t match what I reported a year ago. My figures last year were too high. When we first invited loan pledges, we received more offers than we needed, so we declined several of the last offers. A simple glitch in our spreadsheet, however, made it record these offers as if we had actually received them. It was a pleasant discovery midway through 2017 to find we owed over $5000 less than I thought! If any lenders have questions about this, please contact me directly for more details from our records.)

Cash Flow and House Happenings

Our cash flow has stabilized a lot over the past year. It helps when you don’t have to install a $10,000 AC and heating unit like last year! I continue to work three days a week for Choice Books, and piano teaching is growing. I had about eight students a year ago but I finished 2017 with about eighteen. I have another half dozen ready to begin this month. Unlike a year ago, income is pretty much equivalent to expenses, thank God.

Some of our largest expenses in the past year included braces for our oldest daughter, a new washing machine, and our biggest 2017 house project—finally installing a kitchen sink! Mark and Marj Otto and their family generously volunteered several days to help us with this project.

Here is a “before” picture:

Zonya patiently endured the above for 15 months. Can you understand why she looked like this when things improved?

Here is a photo of the kitchen sink area today:

We hope to replace or add a couple more cabinet sections over coming years, but the most urgent kitchen renovation is definitely now done.

For 2018 I expect to turn sights elsewhere, probably first to unfinished closets and hopefully to several dead trees looming dangerously in the backyard. Other projects such as a leaky shower and an unusable basement entrance will await their turn.

“The house that God bought” has seen many ministry opportunities over the past year, such as:

  • Many house church gatherings
  • Overnight guests, including Irma evacuees
  • Lending a listening ear to senior piano students
  • Sharing our yard, bike pump, and cups of water with neighbor children
  • A couple video discussion evenings with neighbors and friends
  • A “living room recital” with piano student families
  • Sheltering neighbor children during a domestic dispute
  • Hosting international students
  • Homeschooling our children

We remain deeply grateful for all our churchfunding supporters, and we welcome prayers that we will faithfully steward this house for Jesus in 2018.

For Christ and his Church,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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