by Steve Vistaunet
SPOKANE, Wash., 6/20/2011 - The landscape wasn't complete, but the joy and relief wrapped up in the Grand Opening celebration for the newly rebuilt Upper Columbia Conference office in Spokane, Wash., was palpable. Robert Folkenberg Jr., UCC president, welcomed representatives from local and state government, and several hundred other folks who came Monday, June 20, to tour the facility.
Bob Kyte, Adventist Risk Management president, reflected on the miraculous providence that provided adequate insurance coverage to replace the original building destroyed by fire in December 2008. "This currently represents the largest single payment in the history of our organization," he remarked, then quipped, "it's a record we hope will stand for a long, long time."
Folkenberg paid special tribute to Bill Skidmore, UCC human resources director, who oversaw the project as conference laison with the architects and contractors. He also noted the resiliency of the office staff who exhibited "a tremendous spirit and constant commitment to the mission of the church" in spite of the fire and temporary relocation.
The new office is 4,000 square feet smaller than the facility it replaced. Everything is contained on one level. Natural light from skylights and large windows washes through nearly every nook and cranny. Signage with the three angels motif is being placed both inside and outside the building.
Herman Schreven, Adventist Book Store manager, is nearly rhapsodic about his new area. "In our old building," he says, "we had to hand truck all our food inventories over to the store ... through the snow." Now adequate space and storage is simply in the next room.
The testimonies of God's providence throughout the project are numerous. "The initial loss was devastating," Folkenberg said, "but the end result is an added blessing to our church. And," he adds, "the insurance monies funded the replacement. No church money was required." That didn't come without careful and sometimes seemingly small decisions: Metal instead of wood door frames; and hydro-seeding outside grass instead of laying sod. "A lot of little choices," says Folkenberg, "added up to big savings and a project that came in under budget."
Doug Johnson, vice president for administration, recalls the questions that came directly following the fire. "Even while the building was burning, we found ourselves asking ‘Where do we go from here?'" he says. "But every step of the way, God more than met our needs and astounded us with answers we'd never dreamed of.".