Dateline: 3 June 2006
This blog is, in part, a continuing chronicle of my family’s real life exploits and aspirations. It is a story that unfolds every day, often with surprises. Recent developments with the Grange hall are a perfect case in point. Those of you who have been reading here for awhile know of our intention to buy the old grange hall. The land would be used for growing garlic and other marketable crops. The building itself would serve as the international headquarters of my humble home publishing company, Whizbang Books. The kitchen would serve as a place for Marlene to bake her bread (which she sells) and have her soap business. Plenty of extra room would remain for other possible functions. I wrote about the details of the purchase in a previous blog titled, “My Agrarian Family Vision, Part 2.” In order to purchase the property, we had decided to do something we had never done before—get a mortgage from a bank. Not a big mortgage. Just a little one.
That said, we had every intention of purchasing the Grange hall... up until 10 days ago.
It was a Wednesday. Marlene called me at work to let me know that the loan lady from the bank had called and was finally going to process the loan that afternoon. But the terms had changed. The bank wanted 1.5% more interest. Or, we could have the same interest rate originally agreed upon if we put our home up as collateral and paid some sort of extra fee of $600. I told Marlene that was a significant change and we would have to think about it. She said the loan lady needed to know right away. Oh, really!.......
The bank had strung us out for over five weeks. Then, at the last minute, they presented us with what appeared to be a bait & switch scam. This new development renewed my long and deeply-held cynicism about banks. I knew the moment Marlene told me the new details that there was no way I would ever borrow a cent from this small, hometown bank that we had always thought so highly of.
That evening I called the Grange lady we have been communicating with to let her know what happened. She was very understanding. I told her I might check with another bank, and we were going to give the whole thing some serious thought over the Memorial Day weekend.
Then I spoke with Marlene’s brother who is in the banking business in Rochester. He said what happened was not typical and was probably due to an inept loan officer or one that is overworked. He explained that most banks would want us to get a home equity loan to buy the Grange. Then he commented that being completely debt free, as Marlene and I currently are, is a unique situation. He said that most people are, in his opinion, way too far in debt—so far that they will never be out of debt and will never be able to retire, and the American taxpayers will probably have to take care of them in their old age. He said he knew of several people who carried a credit card balance of six figures. And he told me he was very concerned about the debt problem that exists in this country. I questioned whether such a situation was sustainable. He said he didn’t think so.
Before the bank called us on Wednesday, we were planning to move Marlene’s soapmaking supplies in on Friday (two days later). The Grange had already given us a key to the place! That’s how certain we were that we were going to be buying the property. But when the bank changed the terms, that stopped us in our tracks.
I believe things happen the way they happen for a reason. And I’m particularly sensitive to the Lord’s leading when something appears to be falling into place but it really isn’t. Why had it taken so many weeks for the bank to process a simple loan? Why, right out of the blue, at the last moment, did the bank change the terms of the loan? Why was it going to cost us a few thousand dollars to get a perfectly fine kitchen up to county health department standards (something we only found out a couple weeks ago)? Why were we buying this place, anyway? Did we really need it? Could we get along without it? Was it really right to be borrowing money for this thing? Were we jumping the gun and trying to short-cut God’s provision for us in this matter of our family’s agrarian family vision? And wasn’t I, Herrick Kimball, the guy who, since he was16 years old, has been strongly convicted that debt is bondage and that I should never borrow for anything unless it was an absolute necessity?
Those are some of the questions Marlene and I asked ourselves. And then I remembered what I read in a Harvey MacKay business book years ago. He said something to the effect that there is no business deal so good that you can’t say no to it and walk away.
When we went to bed that night, my mind was pretty much made up, but I kept it to myself. I would see what developed in the next few days. But a few days were not necessary. Marlene had an uneasy sleep—she stayed awake thinking and praying about the matter. In the morning she informed me that she did not think we should buy the Grange. So we both felt the same way. That settled it. We would move on and not look back.
So I guess that ends the “Grange Hall chapter” in our family’s life story. We are not disappointed at the outcome. On the contrary, we are relieved. We will continue to be grateful to the Lord for His blessings and provision in our lives. We will continue to live simply and be even more productive on the 1.5 acre homestead God has blessed us with. We will continue to work hard, spend less money than we earn, and save the difference. And we will continue to trust that the Lord will provide for our agrarian vision of family farm land, debt free, in His time.