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    Extreme Makeover Church Edition: A miracle on Imperial Avenue

    St. Stephen’s Cathedral of San Diego received a much-needed makeover just in time for the holidays. More than 400 volunteers from various organizations — including Maranatha Chapel, Impact Urban America, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral — joined forces to renovate the 40-year-old structure.

     “We had been praying for a miracle,” said Bishop George McKinney, pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. “But this extreme makeover was beyond our expectations. It has generated a new excitement and enthusiasm in our congregation.” With less than 30 days of planning, the completion of the extensive project was nothing short of a miracle. The renovation occurred over a two-week period in early December, with its grand finale on Dec. 16. The estimated value of the project exceeded $250,000, but with generous donations from corporate sponsors and volunteer labor by general contractors, skilled tradesmen, interior designers, and servant leaders, the project was completed at a fraction of the cost. The project was financed by personal contributions made by the congregations of Maranatha Chapel and St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

    Before the renovation, garbage cans, placed in the basement, collected rainwater that seeped through the walls from the leaking roof. Water heaters and kitchen appliances were broken and failing. Water-damaged wallpaper curled from the walls of the kitchen and daycare center as a result of multiple flooding.

    “Rather than building huge churches,” said Terry Warren, publicist and spokesman for McKinney, “Bishop has dedicated millions of dollars to education and put the money back into the community.” Now, as a result of the volunteer labor and corporate donations, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been completely restored with new carpet, paint, light fixtures and draperies. Inspirational scriptures have been hand-painted on the walls behind the pulpit and skilled craftsmen replaced the wooden cross, which hung from the ceiling, with a slightly smaller version now situated as a focal point in the front of the church. The church also received an early-learning computer lab complete with child-developmental software, thanks to a generous donation from Hewlett Packard and other organizations. Even the exterior of the church received a makeover with $6,000 in trees donated by People for Trees.

    Over the decades, St. Stephen’s has become more than just a spiritual oasis for the community. McKinney and St. Stephen’s have launched food programs for the poor and educational programs for under-privileged youth. They offer crisis counseling and provide shelter for the homeless and aging.

    “With all that Bishop McKinney has done for the community, we wanted to do something for him,” said Ray Bentley, pastor of Maranatha Chapel. “It is opportunities like this that allow people to serve God and put feet to their faith.”

    Bishop McKinney received national recognition when Rev. Billy Graham nominated him for the position of Senate Chaplain. McKinney, author of the 1997 book, Cross the Line, sets for a plan to unify suburban and inner-city communities.

    “This renovation is more than faith in action,” said Estean Lenyoun III, president of Impact Urban America and associate pastor at Maranatha Chapel, “It is reconciliation and a cooperative effort between churches. Together, we can refurbished their facilities, enhancing their outreach and impact on the inner city and suburban communities.” According to Estean Lenyoun, this makeover is the first of an ongoing plan to assist churches to bridge cultural and economic divides. The theme of the team was evident by the motivating scripture branded on their shirts; “How good and how pleasant it is for the brethren to dwell together in unity.” Psalm 133

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