A new church in Anchorage conveyed a redemption story, when a strip club was turned into a house for God. The people involved in the project saw how the Lord worked all through the circumstances, calling the scenario as "providential."
Realtor Mike Gailey revealed that the details leading to having the church fell into the right place.
"Everybody at some point or others sort of succumbed to this sense of providence and guidance that just was undeniable," he said, captured by Alaska Public Media.
Gailey had always thought that the building "ought to be a church" since the moment that the owner of the strip club, "Fantasies," approached him to sell the property.
He said that his idea was unusual but the building was an appropriate place for such given the space and foot traffic. He was also fascinated with how the story will resonate with people in the city.
"It was kind of a redemption story. And I knew churches, Christians, they love that story," he said.
Gailey stated that even the owner herself was thinking of converting the place into a church. She tried to find people who could develop the place into one but failed.
Then the owner suggested Gailey to talk to a developer who expressed interest in occupying the space, describing the woman as a tough person and someone from the military. But the owner warned him that the developer will not be paying for the commission.
Gailey made some research on the woman and discovered that they are connected with each other, being both former members of the military, spending some time in Vietnam, and even knowing the same Vietnamese doctor. Moreover, they had already met 10 years ago in a dinner in Hanoi.
"By that time, the coincidences were so statistically improbable, so outrageously providential, really," he shared.
He then met the developer, Linda Dunegan. They went together to see the building and the woman revealed her secret connection with the place.
"I said, 'Do you know why I want to buy this place? It's because my mother was a stripper,'" Dunegan told Gailey.
The woman said that her mother was an immigrant from Vietnam and had worked as a stripper in Anchorage. She also thought that her mother might have even worked in "Fantasies" herself. Dunegan claimed that when she was a child, she felt shame with her mother's work. For her, turning the club into a church would be a way of healing.
"It was very hard for me to see those strip poles. It was really hard for me, because I had condemnation in my heart from my mom. So I think the redemption story is not for the public. It was for me and for my mom," she disclosed.
Dunegan proceeded to buy the building. Nate Baer, her realtor, had some reservations and was not convinced that turning the place into a church would work out. But the woman was persistent.
Another issue that they had to address was finding a pastor, which they thought was challenging given the pandemic.
But God provided them a minister and found a man who just moved to the city from Oregon: Kenny Menendez.
Before they transferred to Alaska, Menendez was living a comfortable life, working in the airline industry. But when the pandemic hit, Menendez's family was affected and decided to move to Anchorage.
"We had to decide as a family what was important to us, and to us, what was important is church in general," Menendez said.
"It is a fast change of life, but you know, the things that are impossible for man are possible with God. And the Bible also says that without faith, it's impossible to please Him. So we took that leap of faith, so to speak," he further stated.
He was already starting to hold regular Bible studies when Dunegan called him, looking for a church to occupy her building. Menendez believed it was the right place.
What was once a strip club has become the Open Door Baptist Church of Anchorage.
Pastor Menendez and his wife believed that their move to the city is also providential.