“I’m sorry I missed your call, but I’m probably busy allowing God to show up and show out in me,” first-time homeowner Sandy Taylor proclaims on her voicemail after she belts a couple of lines of a gospel song to proclaim herself a “Living Testimony.”
She and her husband Harry Taylor both credit God for enabling them to buy a home through the Impact Northwest Shelby County Community Development Corporation (Impact NW CDC), a homeownership and discipleship ministry of Impact Baptist Church and Ministries of Memphis.
They’re the first couple to complete the program that allows renters to buy renovated homes at half their market value after faithfully paying rent for a year. Church attendance is a program requirement.
The Taylors credit God not only for homeownership, but also proclaim miraculous deliverance from drug abuse and addiction. Harry Taylor, who’ll be 72 years old Dec. 26, said he has bought and lost several homes in his lifetime, having suffered heroin and alcohol addiction after fighting in the Vietnam War. It’s the first home for 59-year-old Sandy, who said she was a functional addict in New Orleans before she cried out to God for deliverance.
Part of Sandy’s living testimony is her belief that she’s “a walking miracle.” She’s been declared dead three times after suffering three heart attacks, with paramedics working 45 minutes after the second episode to restore her, the Taylors said. She has a pacemaker and a defibrillator installed.
Sandy is the sister of Impact Memphis pastor Mike Ellis, and Harry has joined Impact’s ministerial staff, but the Taylors said they received no special treatment in the five-year loan program.
“I know it was nothing but God,” Sandy said. “And it’s a relief. It’s a way of being able to move on in life and do other things. And (have) an opportunity maybe to help other people.” For Harry, “It’s truly a blessing, especially when you get in the latter part of your life. When you get older and you’ve made a lot of mistakes, you’ve lost things, and then God gives you an opportunity.”
Impact NW CDC has donated two homes to couples who needed housing. A single father is in the process of buying a home, five homes are being rented, and one was sold to a company to help fund the program, Ellis said. All of the homes are in the neighborhood of the church at 2025 Clifton Ave.
“In the Kingdom, we need to teach our church family how to become owners and not just renters,” Ellis said. “We put them in a program where they could show their faithfulness to God, and at the same time teach them to pay their rent on time, teach them to pay their bills on time, and give them a reward for it. The reward is that they’re getting ready to be a homeowner in five years, where they didn’t have to pay interest to the bank, they didn’t have to pay closing costs.”
The program began in 2012 after the church received the properties in a series of donations. The church renovates the homes, sells them at half of the appraised value and finances the sales, preventing applicants from having to deal with bank loan programs.
“This is a part of our discipleship program,” Ellis said. “Selling them the house, the way we did it, was a piece of that program that gave us the right to share the gospel with them. They had to come to church because they were in the program.”
Both of the Taylors said they accepted Christ as children but strayed from the faith. Sandy moved to Memphis after Hurricane Katrina to be near her brother. Today, Sandy sings in the choir and works in the church’s feeding ministry.
Harry Taylor, who sensed a call to ministry after enrolling in the homeownership program, is planning to begin a drug treatment ministry at the church after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.
“After I met Sandy, I started coming to church with her, and that’s when I first got introduced to Pastor Mike and his ministry. I liked it and I stayed with it,” Harry said. “My spiritual life grew quite a bit since I been there. I went from being a regular member, to deacon and now I’m a minister at the church. So I have grown immensely since I’ve been there, under his leadership.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.)