By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (firstname.lastname@example.org)
FORT COLLINS, COLORADO (ANS. JUNE 6) Bright lights, loud music, and the smell of booze, cigarettes, and perfume formerly permeated A Hunt Club, a strip club in Fort Collins, Colorado.
That’s all changed. According to a story by Shannon M. Nass for PE News, Genesis Project Fort Collins now stands “as a symbol of hope, new beginnings, and redemption in the former spot of lustful and destructive desires.”
After giving his life to Jesus as Savior, club owner Aaron Bekkela said he felt compelled to sell the property to a church.
He approached Dary R. Northrop, senior pastor of Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. Bekkela and Northrop had earlier established a friendship after Bekkela learned that one of the dancer's mothers and her prayer group at the church had been praying for him for years.
Upon divesting himself of interests in the strip club, Bekkela visited the church and met with Northrop to share of his exit from the industry and his commitment to the Lord.
Inspired by Bekkela's desire to move away from the industry, PE News reported Northrop said he saw it as a great opportunity to plant a church in one of the most under served areas of town. The congregation had already planted two churches nearby.
Bekkela invited Northrop and Timberline Executive Pastor Rob W. Cowles to tour the club one afternoon before it opened. When they entered a dressing room, Cowles was overcome with emotion upon seeing pictures of children of dancers on lockers.
“It just broke me,” Cowles said. “Before I even knew what I was saying, I said ‘we really need to plant a church here and I need to lead it.’”
With Northrop's support, Cowles left his position and began preparing the new work, Genesis Project Fort Collins.
An anonymous donor purchased the building on behalf of the church. Genesis Project in Ogden, Utah, which has a mission similar to Timberline Church, contributed $5,000. Resurrection Fellowship in nearby Loveland, Colorado, also contributed $13,600.
PE News said Resurrection Fellowship Senior Pastor Jonathan Wiggins is part of a group of pastors who toured the building while it still operated as A Hunt Club. Wiggins said he sees the value of a church opening in the same locale as the former A Hint Club. It becomes a statement of redemption.
The 7,200-square-foot building is now home to a 200-seat worship center. Services began in Jan., with a dedication ceremony on Feb. 8.
In keeping with a vision to minister to needy people, a coffee shop soon will open employing at risk youth to learn job skills. The coffee shop will serve as a venue for people to gather daily and to build relationships.
A donated trailer is being remodeled into a community center. There, PE News said, General Educational Development tests and English as a second language classes, dinners, and movie nights will be offered to residents of the mobile home park bordering the church's property.
Once the commercial kitchen is remodeled, local chefs and restaurant managers will provide training in culinary and restaurant careers.
A partnership with a local nonprofit organization has provided connections to hotels and restaurants willing to hire those who come through the classes. A mobile food cart will be used to feed the homeless.
While a church isn't defined by the its meeting site, Cowles said this project does serve as a metaphor for the transformative power of Jesus Christ.
“We don't create new beginnings; we know only Jesus can do that, but we create the space for that to happen and that primary space is authentic relationships in a consistent journeying with people,” PE News reported that Cowles said.
Photo caption: The A Hunt Club before it closed.