International House of Prayer to make Grandview its World Headquarters
Twenty-four hours a day, every single day of the year, the former Terrace Lake strip-mall off Red Bridge Road in South Kansas City is buzzing with activity. The parking lot is packed with license plates from across the country, and faces from around the world hurry to get inside. A few enter the Forerunner Book Store-also a publishing company-to purchase books, CDs, t-shirts or even ear plugs.
Some enter the Higher Grounds coffee shop, where hip-looking young adults and teenagers sip coffee and chat with one another from behind their laptops. Others engage in excited conversation while watching live music performances on flat-screen televisions mounted in the corners of the café. A few adults are scattered throughout the trendy café-lawyers, nurses, business people-even the former City Administrator from Raytown.
But most scramble into the main entrance of the strip-mall, leading to what looks like a small concert hall. A rock band-the one being broadcast in the café-performs loud, rolling rhythms, while the lyrics of each song scroll on TV sets throughout the room like a large karaoke party. Hundreds of fans wave their arms in the air and sing along, while video cameras capture each moment and send the performance live to computers and televisions throughout the world.
The sights seem typical for a college campus. It isn't until you stop and listen that you realize this is something far different. In the coffee shop, there is talk of fasting for the Bridegroom.
The CDs in the book store are volumes of teachings about the End Times.
And the rock band is praising Jesus and his return, while the fans sway in a continuous state of prayer.
This is indeed a campus, but these aren't college students. This is the International House of Prayer-Kansas City (IHOP-KC), a training ground for thousands of missionaries who believe they can play an active role in preparing for, and ushering in, the second coming of Christ.
With its focus on around-the-clock prayer, the IHOP-KC religious organization has grown from a humble start off Grandview Road in 1999, and has expanded to numerous buildings throughout Grandview and South Kansas City. A self-proclaimed "spiritual community," IHOP-KC has drawn nearly 4,000 Evangelical Christian young adults and families to its campus to study to be missionaries, pray, fast, and perform music.
The group has now purchased a prime portion of land in Grandview.
Directly across 71 Highway from Truman Corners, IHOP-KC plans to build its world headquarters on the 100 wooded acres formerly owned by President Harry S Truman. The site is planned to include a large worship center, classrooms, and student housing as well as other buildings. Using its influential connections throughout the business world, IHOP-KC is also trying to recruit retail-including possibly a "big box" chain store-to locate on 25 acres at the corner of the property, near Harry Truman Drive and the East Access Road.
"This is going to change Grandview," said Gary Cooper, financial
officer for IHOP-KC. "We draw approximately 150 families each year that choose to stay here in this area. We have a lot of people who understand investments...and if we grow to what we think we're going to be, this is going to have a huge economic impact in Grandview."
While IHOP-KC locating its world headquarters in Grandview is seen as a positive by city officials, the group has received criticisms from some of its neighbors in South Kansas City. The influx of people into the Terrace Lake and Birchwood Hills neighborhoods has created some parking problems, and the around-the-clock schedule of those training to be missionaries means neighbors can sometimes come and go at odd hours of the night.
"I've heard of a few complaints," said Tim Henry, president of the Birchwood Hills Homes Association. "But honestly, IHOP has had a very, very positive influence on our neighborhood. I think some people are just leery of the group because they don't understand them."
There are many around town who don't know who or what the International House of Prayer is, and may have questions or misconceptions about the group.
"I have met with IHOP leadership and found them to be acutely aware of the public perception of their organization," said State Representative Jason Holsman, whose district includes portions of Grandview and South Kansas City. "They understand their beliefs that we have entered the final days of earth may not be met with mainstream acceptance."
Understanding IHOP-KC's mission, their connection to President Truman, and the type of people involved in the organization may help to clarify just how the group could impact Grandview's economic and political future.
HISTORY OF IHOP-KC
The International House of Prayer was founded by Mike Bickle in 1999. For many years prior, Bickle was the pastor of the Metro Vineyard Fellowship at Blue Ridge Blvd and Grandview Rd. During his days as the pastor of the Metro Vineyard, it was the scene of many conferences and events in the Charismatic movement in the 1980's and 90's, which places special emphasis on the person, work, and gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues, divine healing, and prophetic word. IHOP-KC's prayer meetings began in May of 1999 in a trailer off of Grandview Rd, which now houses the Forerunner Music Academy. On Yom Kippur in September of 1999, 24-hour prayer sessions began seven days a week. located ?, the Forerunner School of Ministry-located in the former Metro Vineyard Fellowship church on Grandview Road, the Forerunner Music Academy-located ?, the Children's Equipping Center kid's ministry-located on the corner of Blue Ridge and Grandview Road, as well as numerous evangelical outreaches and international programs.
MOVING THE HEAVENS: THE MISSION OF IHOP
IHOP-KC is a non-denominational Bible-based faith organization with approximately 3,500 members, staff, students and interns. The group focuses their ministry on intercessory prayer teamed with music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Missionaries pray for a number of things, including Israel, a spiritual revival in the Kansas City metro area, healing the sick, and the return of Christ.
Unlike many Evangelical groups, IHOP believes that Christians can take an active role in ushering in the return of Christ. They are an End Times prayer movement which feels they will, according to their promotional video, "emerge to prepare the spiritual atmosphere over the nations of the Earth for the second coming of Christ." They believe that the End Times will occur when humans in every part of the world have properly prepared and are calling for His return, and they are working actively to make that happen.
The group hopes to train missionaries who will start 100,000 24-hour prayer centers across the world. More than 150 have already been built, with three in Jerusalem, where the music and prayer at IHOP is broadcast on a live webstream. "The thing that drew me here was a community of people who give themselves to prayer and fasting and believe that prayer actually moves things in the heavens," said Alison Watkins, a full-time IHOP staff member. After studying at IHOP, Watkins helped to start a 24-hour House of Prayer in South Carolina and one in San Fransico's Haight-Ashbury district.
IHOP-KC offers four internships which focus on extensive time in the IHOP prayer room, outreach programs, and classes through its Forerunner School of Ministry (FSM) and Forerunner Music Academy (FMA).
Onething is a six month internship program for young adults 18-25. Fire in the Night is for those 18-30, who ensure that the prayer and music in the worship center continue from the hours of midnight to 6am every night. The Intro to IHOP internship is for all ages, where individuals and families go through training and spend time in the prayer room. The Simeon Company internship is for adults in their 40s, 50s and 60s who attend a core class at FSM and are considered to be the "moms and dads" of the mission base.
Currently, the Forerunner School of Ministry has over 1,000 full-time and part-time students. The music academy has nearly 200 students.
"My reason for being here was to develop a love of prayer," said Bruce Kim, a Korean-American from California who plans to use his IHOP training to become a missionary in Japan.
THE TRUMAN CONNECTION
In May of 1983, the Metro Vineyard conducted a 21-day fast. During that period of prayer and fasting, Bob Jones-- a prophetic speaker from Arkansas not affiliated with Bob Jones University- revealed to Bickle that he would some day begin a 24-7 prayer ministry that would be linked to Harry Truman's home. "You are an intercessor and a youth pastor," Jones said in his prophecy to Bickle. "You will lead a worldwide youth movement of prophetic singers and musicians that God will use to touch Israel...You will have a ministry of intercession for Israel like Harry S Truman...The Lord will place you near his home as a prophetic sign."
IHOP purchased President Truman's portion of his family's farm-the 125 acres across from Truman Corners Shopping Center-from the Goldberg family 50 years to the day that the Goldbergs purchased it from Truman himself.
It was a businessman from Texas who made the purchase possible. He was so impressed with the mission of IHOP and its seeming destiny to be located on Truman's former home, the man wrote a single check to buy the land on behalf of the organization.
There is another connection between the group's mission and Truman. The birth of the modern state of Israel has been seen by many Christians as a sign that the End Times foretold in the Scriptures were near at hand. Truman, a Baptist, played a direct role in the creation of the State of Israel.
While other world leaders and U.S. officials waffled, Truman provided leadership to garner support within the United Nations for a State of Israel. At midnight on May 14, 1948, Israel declared itself as a nation. Eleven minutes later, against the advice of Secretary of State George Marshall, Truman publicly recognized the provisional government of Israel. According to the Truman Library, when President Truman met with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion of Israel in 1951, Gurion presented him with a menorah as a token of esteem for President Truman's support in the creation his nation. Since then, several books have been written discussing Truman's policy toward Israel, which has shaped the relationship that the United States has with them today.
The members of IHOP-KC plan to call their new world headquarters, "The Truman Prayer Center."
THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF A RELIGIOUS HQ
Although the plan for the IHOP World Headquarters is still in its early stages, the proposal calls for converting Truman's former farm land into a worship center, with buildings for its administrative headquarters and schools in a centralized campus environment. Grandview city officials have expressed their support for the plan, and believe it will be one of the biggest windfalls for city in its history. "The project will bring major new traffic to the area and increase sales for nearby retailers," said Economic Development Director Alan Kenyon. "It will give Grandview a conventions-type of development almost overnight, because the organization has a constant inflow of individuals coming to convocations and other meetings. One such event held in late 2007/early 2008 attracted an estimated 22,000 participants to Bartle Hall, and monthly (sometimes more frequent) on-site special events currently attract around 1,200 visitors."
Grandview Mayor Bob Beckers said he believes the plan is a win-win for Grandview. Although the religious status of IHOP-KC means that property could become tax-exempt, Mayor Beckers said he feels the economic impact will far outweigh any loss of property tax.
"That land has sat vacant since the Earth was formed," Beckers said. "It usually collects $5,600 in property tax as an empty lot. But now, IHOP is bringing in a lot of people and several businesses already to the area, with more to follow. Retail-wise, it's only going to help Grandview because the increase in people will increase demand for stores, restaurants, and other developments." As IHOP-KC purchases lagging shopping centers and apartment complexes throughout South Kansas City and Grandview to accommodate their growing size and need for temporary housing for interns, one question becomes a clarification about when a property can be considered tax-exempt.
According to Grandview City Administrator Cory Smith, current law indicates that there is a two-prong test regarding the tax-exempt status of church property:
1) Is the property owned by a religious not-for-profit organization or a church?
2) Is the property itself being used for religious purposes?
"While we have not had this issue before that I can recall, we would certainly think that apartment complexes, if they were being rented for instance, could still be considered a commercial property for tax purposes," Smith said. "The same would apply to a coffee shop or book store owned by a church. However, we will have to see how they [IHOP-KC] and Jackson County treat such properties as they become owned or built by the church."
As for IHOP-KC's plan to attract a retail development on the 25 acres near the southwest corner of the property, Smith says that if the group was able to attract retail businesses to buy or lease a parcel of their property, it would be considered retail business for sales tax purposes and commercial property for property tax purposes.
This portion of land is also located within city TIF #3, which was approved back in 1990 and expires in 2013.
"It would at minimum have to be amended, and probably a new TIF would need to be carved out of the original TIF #3 if it was determined that TIF was needed as an incentive for retail in that area," Smith said.
STABILITY IN AN UNSTABLE HOUSING MARKET
While many of those who come to train at IHOP-KC only stay for the three or six month internships, many more relocate their families from across the country to South Kansas City and Grandview. "Our members already own dozens of homes in Grandview," said Gary Cooper of IHOP-KC. "The homes are affordable, and the neighborhoods are safe. We will stabilize and strengthen the housing market in Grandview."
Mayor Beckers said that in his neighborhood, he already has two new neighbors who bought homes on his street because they moved here for IHOP-KC.
Cooper said that IHOP-KC participants have already reserved 20 of the 31 lots in the first phase of Creekwood, a new Grandview subdivision planned for the property adjacent to the site of IHOP's future headquarters.
In the Birchwood neighborhood near IHOP-KC's current site, Homes Association President Tim Henry has seen house prices go up since the organization came to town. Two Birchwood Homes Association board members are associated with IHOP, and many more live in that neighborhood.
While the country struggles with a sub-prime mortgage crisis that has left empty homes in a state of foreclosure in nearly every neighborhood, Henry says IHOP members have been known to purchase homes outright, with no debt, and invest a significant amount of money into the property to fix it up.
"I could show you a dozen homes where IHOP people have purchased the houses and made a significant investment into improvements," Henry said. "When they fix up these homes, they do it first-class."
A complaint by some in the Terrace Lake Homes Association has been that some homes were purchased, and a number of temporary guests would move in to stay at those homes while studying at IHOP-KC.
HAS THIS IMPROVED?
So many families and individuals are moving to the area because of IHOP-KC, the group runs its own realty business.
A SHIFT IN GRANDVIEW'S DEMOGRAPHICS
Fifteen years ago, Grandview was considered a traditional, ethnically-diverse, politically-liberal, working-class suburb of Kansas City. In the mid-1990s, the school district began seeing a shift in its demographics, to the point of being deemed by many as an "urban" school district. The student population saw an increase in minority students, and a higher percentage were of a socio-economic status that was low enough to qualify for free or reduced lunches. The number of families in Grandview also showed a decline, and today, the Grandview school district is making budget cuts due to a loss of more than 300 students in the 2007-08 school year. Now, IHOP-KC could bring as many as 150 new families to live in Grandview and South Kansas City each year. While there is definite ethnic diversity at IHOP-KC, a majority of the families are white, middle class or even upper-middle class, and politically conservative.
"Individuals associated with the movement already are moving into the City," said Kenyon, the Economic Development Director. "A good number of them are buying homes, and some are starting new small businesses. Overall, the inflow of new residents seems destined to alter Grandview's market demographics."
Many associated with IHOP-KC are highly educated, professional couples and their children. Michael Miller, for example, recently quit his job as the top City Administrator for the City of Raytown in order to become an intern at IHOP with his family.
Some are well-connected business men and women throughout the United States, who purchase homes in the area simply to be near the worship center whenever they are in town. Others are typical, middle-class families who feel drawn to the IHOP-KC community. While many IHOP-KC families home school their children, the Grandview School District is hoping that
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Meanwhile, the change in demographics could also alter the political landscape of the area. In a number of elected seats in Grandview and South Kansas City, Republican candidates have not even tried to run because of the typically high support for Democrats in the area.
Such was the case with the State Representative-45th District position covering a portion of both Grandview and South Kansas City. Jason Holsman, a Democrat, won the primary and had no Republican challenger on the ballot. A week before election day, however, a last-minute write-in campaign was waged by an IHOP-KC member who was running on a pro-life agenda only.
The write-in campaign failed, but the number of politically-conservative people moving to the area for IHOP-KC could result in a newly emerging voting block for Grandview and SKC politicians.
A PART OF THE COMMUNITY
Currently, the International House of Prayer is raising funds to make its plans for its world headquarters a reality. According to Gary Cooper, IHOP-KC's current site at the former Terrace Lake shopping center will likely be used to expand its Simeon Company internship for older adults. In the meantime, IHOP-KC is working to involve itself within the Grandview community.
"IHOP-KC helps facilitate the chaplaincy program for the Grandview Police Department, and cooperates with the City of Grandview and the Grandview Chamber of Commerce in their economic development efforts," Cooper said. "We encourage members, staff, students and interns to support the Grandview area personally through the buying of homes, goods and services, and through the relocation or opening of businesses to enhance and promote the continued growth, prosperity and community aspects of the Grandview area."
"It's a wonderful thing for Grandview," Mayor Beckers said.