A “for Sale” sign had been posted on the land next to our church property for weeks. On May 12, 1999, something told me I should call the owner and ask about the property. When I called, the owner informed me, “Tomorrow morning a buyer is going to sign for the land. They’re paying $500,000 cash.”
“Who is the buyer?” I asked.
“The Tsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, the owner replied.” (Tsi Lai is the largest Buddhist temple in the Western Hemisphere.)
Shocked, I hung up the phone. I foresaw the spiritual darkness that could descend on our entire town if the temple moved in. When I told my wife, Kim, she immediately called the owner and blurted out, “Don’t sell the land! We’ll buy it for $525,000.”
My jaw dropped. “We don’t have $525,000!”
“I know,” she said. “I just didn’t want them to buy it.” She called back the next day and asked the owner to give us six months to raise the money.
The temple’s plan, we discovered, was to establish an auxiliary temple on the land.
We believed that God was putting us in the gap on behalf of this land (Ezk. 22:30). As we searched the Scriptures, we were impressed that we should hold onto 2 Chron. 20:15-16: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them.” We knew the battle was God’s, but we had been told to march. By faith, we asked God to do for us what He had done for Jehoshaphat in defeating the armies of Moab and Ammon.
We also claimed His promise in Josh. 1:3: “I will give you every place where you set your foot.” So we “set our feet” all around the property’s perimeter. On Sunday, May 16, we anointed the two acres with a bottle of cooking oil. Kim resolved to get a wider spread of oil on dirt, so she put her oil in a spray bottle. I couldn’t walk behind her and pray without laughing. I had to walk ahead of her to concentrate.
I kept thinking of Ezekiel. God told him to do the weirdest things: play with a clay tablet, lie on one side then the other for days, shave off his hair, etc. These were prophetic acts which, absurd as they must have appeared, reflected what God was doing and would do in the spiritual realm.
I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to follow in Ezekiel’s example. I put a Bible inside a plastic bag. With a group of intercessors, I dug a hole in the center of the property. We buried that Bible there and pleaded with God. Then we made a declaration by faith that we had symbolically planted God’s word there and that no temple would be built on that land. We felt led to pray that either a church or homes would be built there.
On May 19 in the middle of a home cell group, my wife sensed the Holy Spirit prompting her to visit the owner. The group released us and prayed God’s blessing upon us. The lady was a Christian who really didn’t know anything about the buyers. We talked to her about the kingdom of darkness versus the kingdom of light. We prayed with her then left.
Through the following weeks we fasted, prayed, and believed. We even tried to raise money. I was drawn to Is. 43:22: “You have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.” And Is. 63:6-7 “You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.”
So through the end of May and into June, I visited every church in our city as well as churches in neighboring areas. I contacted congregations and intercessors around the world. I fasted. I worked and prayed to the point of exhaustion and illness. At that point I sensed the Lord saying, It is enough. Just trust Me now, and watch Me work. So during July I rested, ate regularly, and waited on God. I sensed He would now bring the victory.
Though the temple offered the owner $550,000, the owner refused to sell. In August a real estate broker bought it and subdivided it. Today five homes stand on that land.
This experience taught me the value of obedience to the Holy Spirit, boldness, and persistence in prayer. I developed a commitment not only to my church but also to my city. And out of the prayer contacts I made that summer, a dozen local pastors and I started a vibrant pastor’s prayer network. It’s still going strong today.