Inner City Miracle

This is the story originally published by Dan Van Deen chronicling the events surrounding Tom’s ministry and how they were able to move from their dilapidated machine shop into their new building.

As you read through this, bear in mind that these events took place in 2003…


Last August, New Beginning Assembly of God, Pastor Tom Fortini and his congregation of about 65 or so, were working hard in the inner city of Youngstown, Ohio. Located between a pornography shop and a gentlemen’s club on the city’s entertainment strip, it didn’t appear to be an ideal spot for a church feeling led to minister to inner-city families. But apparently, God had them there for a reason.

Today, just eight months later, New Beginning A/G has an incredible new home in the inner-city neighborhood. Valued at nearly $450,000, the church is also now fully furnished, complete with computers, copiers, pews, church van, choir robes, hymnals, Bibles, furniture, sound system, three pianos, an organ, a library–even an established daycare tenant that pays $1,500 a month rent.

And New Beginning A/G got it all – church, property, furnishings, supplies, everything – for free!

It all began three years ago, when Pastor Tom Fortini left his comfortable position in a suburban church and took over a failed inner-city ministry. According to Fortini, inner-city Youngstown is a tough area and one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the state. Drugs are plentiful and prostitution is not uncommon.

“We started with a core group of about 25 people from our mother church [Highway Tabernacle, Youngstown, Jay Alford, senior pastor],” said Fortini. They didn’t have much money, but according to Fortini, the congregation had one great asset: extraordinary faithfulness.

The building the congregation was meeting in was an old machine shop. “The roof had been recently repaired but not before a lot of water damage had been done to the interior–it was in terrible condition,” Fortini said. “We did a building fund pledge in order to refurbish the sanctuary–$15,000 was pledged, and every dime of it came in on time. I’ve been told by other pastors that 100 percent pledge fulfillment is rare.”

Over the next three years the church did a lot of renovations to the property. They were unsure whether God wanted the church to continue in its location or to move into the neighborhood. They began to pray. “We petitioned the Lord persistently,” said Fortini.

However, since they were unsure if God wanted them to move, they prayed, “Father, if you want us to move, we ask you to give us a building, just give it to us Lord, for if someone gives us a building, then we will know that it is You.”

Four blocks away, a Disciples of Christ (D/C) church was making its final preparations to disband its congregation. Several churches had been in contact with the D/C board for quite some time, expressing interest in the property.

Last August, Fortini and his congregation were notified about the “outside chance” of getting the property–that was if the church hadn’t already made its final decision.

“We walked into this Board of Trustees meeting–we didn’t know them–and you have to understand, they had been in dialogue with other churches for some time,” Fortini explained. “About 15 minutes into the meeting, it appeared as though they were talking like the building was already ours.

They gave us a tour of the grounds. We were there for hours. The board voted unanimously to give us the church and all its assets–and the congregation agreed!”

Although Fortini believes the ministries that New Beginning A/G are involved in–food pantry, clothing, busing ministry, working with the homeless, and others–met the desire the D/C wanted to see the church used for, he has a better explanation of why they received the incredible gift.

“The Lord just gave us favor–you could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in that room.”

Miraculous? Yes. But the story doesn’t end there–it gets better.

A couple weeks after the transfer was finalized, a member of the D/C Board of Trustees walked into Fortini’s office and handed him an envelope.

Inside was a check for $50,000. The next week, the trustee dropped off another envelope with a check for $40,000!

“She [the trustee] told us that the church had a savings account we were entitled to as part of the assets–we thought it was maybe three or four thousand dollars,” said Fortini, still in disbelief.

Apparently, the D/C church had a significant amount of money invested in CDs that they cashed in and presented to New Beginning A/G.

“I was hesitant to share this story, because I didn’t want to sound like I was bragging or putting a spotlight on our ministry,” said Fortini. “But if this story can be used to encourage ministers out there who are experiencing tough times, I want it to be told over and over. God is so great! He can do anything!”

–Dan Van Deen

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