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Would Jesus Buy a Gas Station?

Most people don’t take real estate advice from a drug dealer behind a gas station in North Minneapolis. But Larry Cook, bishop of Real Believers Faith Center, is not most people.

About a year ago he confronted some young men selling narcotics in the alley between his church and the corner store that seemed to do more business in illegal goods than snacks or fuel. Things got heated pretty quickly. Voices were raised.

“The owner don’t care about it,” one of the young men yelled, as Cook and his wife, Sharon, recall the confrontation. “If you want to do something about it, you need to buy the gas station.” “I will,” Cook responded. “I absolutely will.”

What the man selling drugs didn’t know is that Cook had actually been thinking about buying the store for the past 25 years. He believed he was being called and when the time was right, God would expand his ministry to include this sore spot in the neighborhood, the store at the corner of a busy intersection.

North Minneapolis has struggled for a long time. In the 1950s, there was a thriving African American community, with lots of families, churches, and Black-owned businesses. Then there was a wave of white flight, followed by racial unrest that scared away financial investors, and the construction of an interstate that cut Near North off from downtown. Today, the area is marked by instability and poverty.

In the fall of 2022, the store came up for sale, and Cook and his wife put everything they had toward the purchase of the $3 million property. They’ve now reopened it under the name the Lion’s Den, a testament to faith surrounded by danger and their belief that even urban blight can be redeemed.

Sharon Cook said, “This is what Jesus would do. If he was walking in 2023, he would buy this gas station. He would feed the hungry. He would lend a helping hand to the elderly the same way we’re doing.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

Facing poverty, crime, and closing businesses, Christians can look to transform their communities.

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