DeKALB – On Sunday there were two reasons for celebration at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church:
It was the church’s 32nd anniversary and the first week they didn’t have a mortgage to pay.
To mark the occasion, the church gathered to light their mortgage document on fire.
“Biblically, you put things on an alter before God and burn them, never to resurface again,” said Reverend Dr. G. Joseph Mitchell, senior pastor at New Hope.
The auditorium was bright, light flooding in from 30 windows and bouncing off the white vaulted ceilings.
These ceilings in turn bounced the echoes of applause and shouts, music and singing, back down among the comfortably close congregation.
A visual goal tracker off to the side revealed the journey, with incremental dollar amounts building up to the final $250,000 of the original $1.6 million loan.
Every dollar amount was scratched out in black ink, all the way to the top.
“God has built this house for God’s glory and as a respite for those in need of love, forgiveness, grace, protection and healing,” a speaker called out.
“This is God’s house!” the congregation called back.
Mitchell summoned up the authors of the church’s life story to the front in waves: The 19 original members who met in his father’s (Rev. Dr. Leroy Mitchell) living room in 1989,
the group who met together during their “Nomad Period” in the conference room of the Holiday Inn or
Seventh Day Adventist Church, and those who were there when ground was broken on the Twombly road building that Mitchell calls “The
Little Church in the Cornfield” more than 20 years ago.
He handed the lighter to his father and mother and held up the notice for the congregation to see that their debt was, in terms full of religious significance, “paid in full.”
Both pastors, father and son, had tears in their eyes as the document caught fire and the congregation erupted with joy.
Without a mortgage payment, the church could support the families whose homes were lost in fires in DeKalb apartments this past week.
“I think it’s God’s will that we have no mortgage payment today,” Joseph Mitchell said.