A building that once housed a strip club is now home to the newest Baptist church in Anchorage, Alaska, thanks to a pastor who sensed a calling to the “Last Frontier” and a realtor who had a goal of seeing the structure transformed.
Open Door Baptist Church opened its doors last October in the same building that formerly was home to Fantasies, a strip club that came under legal troubles due to unpaid wages and controversy over its liquor license, according to the Anchorage Daily News. The building’s owner wanted to sell, and realtor Mike Gailey had a unique idea: turn the property into a church.
“It was kind of a redemption story,” Gailey told the Anchorage Daily News. “And I knew churches, Christians, they love that story.”
At first, Gailey had trouble finding a buyer. But then he began working with a property developer, Linda Dunegan, who shared his goal. She agreed to purchase the building.
For Dunegan, the idea was personal: Her mother once worked as a stripper in Anchorage. Dunegan, a Christian, wanted to see the strip club – with its poles and catwalk – transformed into a congregation. She had grown up with shame, knowing how her mother earned money.
“This church came about because I prayed for five years,” Dunegan told the Associated Press.
Open Door Baptist, a church plant, launched last year under the guidance of pastor Kenny Menendez, who had lived in Oregon and worked in the aerospace industry but sensed a calling into the ministry.
Menendez moved his wife and their three children to Anchorage.
“It is a fast change of life, but you know, the things that are impossible for man are possible with God,” he told the Daily News. “And the Bible also says that without faith, it’s impossible to please Him. So we took that leap of faith, so to speak.”
The congregation, Menendez told the Associated Press, is a beacon for Christ.
“I would say God is pleased to have a change, a transformation in the building, a place that really ultimately points more people towards Him instead of away,” he said.
Photo courtesy: ©Open Door Baptist Church Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.