“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
For those who have been at the church for a while, you’ve probably heard some whisperings about “Del Prado.” It might sound a bit like El Dorado, the mythical city of gold in the mountains of South American, or the ever-elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
So what even is “Del Prado” and why is it important to FPCSA?
Back in the early to mid-1960s, Mary Thomson, a strong member of FPCSA, donated a ground lease of property (approximately 18 acres in Garden Grove) to a number of different charities, including the Salvation Army, the American Heart Association, FPCSA, and several others. FPCSA received the largest share: 30%. The ground lease – a 65-year term – began in 1968 and extends until 2033.
At some point, the property became a mobile home park. The charities hired an outside management firm to oversee the property. Over the years, that management company bought out all the other charities. Currently, we hold our 30% share and the management firm owns the other 70%.
In 1998, an amendment to the lease was agreed to by both parties, in which FPCSA would receive quarterly payments. Every few years those payments have increased. We are currently in the final phase of that amended agreement and we receive $96,000 a year. If we look at our current budget, this amount pretty much covers our annual facility costs. In other words, the income from the Del Prado property keeps the lights on, the water flowing and the doors open. Wow! What a gift to our ministry! I wonder if Mary Thomson had any idea what her donation would mean to her beloved church.
So why am I devoting the Pastor’s Page to this subject?
First, it’s the season of Thanksgiving and it’s the anniversary month of our church family. I thank God for the many people who have committed to the ministry of FPCSA throughout its 139-year existence. I thank God for the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. And I thank God for the many of you who continue to invest in the kingdom of God by financially supporting the ministry of FPCSA to this day. Thank you!
Second, over the years, the management company has offered to buy out FPCSA, as they did with the other charities so that they would be sole owners. Most offers were what we would call “lowball” offers. As we close in on the end of the lease agreement, the value of our share goes up. If they can buy us out, then the management company is golden. However, if the lease runs its course, then all bets are off in 2034. We are 30% owners of the property. And we can freely negotiate the terms.
In the past few years, FPCSA has struggled financially. Longtime members who were large donors have died or moved away. The current culture in which we find ourselves does not support church giving as it once did. Like most urban and many mainline denominational churches, our congregation has declined in numbers.
Our Administration Committee has wrestled with what to do with the Del Prado property. Do we sell it and live off the income as long as we can? Do we sell a portion of it, so that we can reach the 2033 date? Perhaps we sell a portion of our 30% share, maybe sell 10% and keep 20%; at least we would have something. Or do we try to hold out?
The Administration Committee has spoken to several financial advisors, realtors, and mobile home park specialists. The overwhelming response is this: Keep the property intact as long as possible. According to these advisors, we are making a fraction of what our share is worth. But the contract is fixed and cannot be changed. If we can make it to 2033, we have a clean slate and we can negotiate for a percentage income rather than a fixed rate. And that way, with every increase of income to the property, the church would see an increase to their annual income. What an incredible gift that would be to the future members of FPCSA.
The Del Prado property is near Disneyland. The possibilities for the future are extensive.
So, now you can understand why I am telling you the story of Del Prado. At the time, this donation was an extraordinary gift to FPCSA. And Mary Thomson has blessed decades upon decades of churchgoers, as well. Because of her donation, we have been able to maintain our presence in downtown Santa Ana, a light for the kingdom of God in the heart of Orange County.
Del Prado is a gift that continues to give.
If we hope to keep this valuable asset, then we need to maintain our income for the next 11 years. Realistically, a church should be able to remain in operation because of the ongoing tithes and offerings of the membership. That’s just good stewardship. But we recognize that we are in an increasingly difficult location for income. And we also know that we are in an incredibly rich area for ministry!
Now, I know some might be thinking, “Gosh, I don’t even know if I’ll be around in 11 years.” Fortunately, Mary Thomson did not think that way. She recognized her gift was an investment in charities that transformed people’s lives. She wasn’t thinking about herself; she was thinking of others… people she would never meet. Let’s avoid that “What’s in it for me” mentality and consider how we might invest in the kingdom of God in a way that blesses future generations for decades to come.
Please consider your giving this coming year and the next few years. Offer thanks to God for the many blessings in your own life. Offer thanks to God for all who have supported you in the past, and for those who supported the ministry of FPCSA both past and present. And consider how you might invest in the kingdom of God here so that this ministry might remain flourishing and blessing this community for decades to come.
A final comment. I invite members to consider ways that their gift might continue to give. Have you considered including FPCSA or other non-profit organizations in your will? Not only is this good and proper stewardship of what God has placed into our hands, but it is also an incredible investment into the future of the kingdom of God. And it’s also a testimonial to family and friends of where our priorities are and where our heart is. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21) Consider giving gifts that keep on giving.
As always, I remain yours in Christ’s Love and Service,