The Unseen Story


Simply Say Yes

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Okay, my name is Mike Semerad and I love Jesus. I live up in the Pacific Northwest, in Spokane, Washington. I have a Landscape Architecture Design Build company that works out of Bellevue and Spokane. I have a wonderful family. I was Catholic most of my life. There’s good things in the Catholic Church as far as focusing on God, but I didn’t understand what a personal relationship with Jesus was. 

I had gone to a place called Malibu, which is a young life camp in Canada. There was a gentleman up there named Jim Rawlings, that told me about a personal relationship with Jesus. I came back just on fire from that. Right about that time, I was looking at starting college, and I went to Washington State University. Shortly after that, I was in a fraternity where I was President of my pledge class. My first night in that place was 32 kegs of beer and three sororities. I followed that road, and I stayed in that place, going to church occasionally, knowing that I love God, but I’m pretty much in hell, to be honest with you. 

I went through marriage and divorce a couple of times. I had kind of a starter marriage, very short marriage, and I had, what I would call my kind of real deal marriage, where I had my kids. We were party people, you know. I had a wine cellar, and we had all these party friends. We’d go out for a date night, and we’d get to the bar and call our friends. You know, we just never even knew who each other were to be honest with you. The marriage ended up terminating, because my wife had been in an affair for about a year with a guy, as I was slowing down in the partying, I think he was speeding up. But I won’t go into the details of the story. 

It was a horrific time and what that led me to, ironically, was having my face on the floor as it says in the Bible. I was so hurt, I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand all these horrible things could happen. I was trapped in this world of my own making. But as I was going through that stuff, He just kept pulling layers off me and kept impressing on me this personal relationship.So I’m in the Word, I’m reading that stuff, things are starting to change. 

Right about that time God started bringing me young men. He just brought them in and I’d always had a heart to help people. But He started bringing in, you know, maybe a landscaper, an architect, you know, different companies of all different types in the office. Two critical things happened at that point. First thing is, I said, “Yes.” I’d had enough in me of His love to say yes, to be able to help these guys, not charge them or anything. The second thing is I started tithing.

You always hear about people tithing and what that does, and you trust God with a little bit of your money, and He trusts you. Well, I started putting 10% of my personal money into an account. At first it was to the church and then it was just into an account. Everything just started moving. This is probably eight or 10 years ago – to give you an idea. So I was just moving along and still transitioning from this other world. This, you know, guys talk about their testimony – this day and this hour they were saved – I do not have that. I have this range of time that God was working with me and pulling me and showing me everything. It’s just been so beautiful for my faith. 

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It’s funny, it says in the Bible, “faith without works is dead.” But when you start giving, and you say “yes,” and start giving like that, it’s amazing what you learn and what you see Him doing that gives you so much faith. That’s an important thing. 

I’ve got a couple of stories here. I’ll tell you the first one. I’m here at my desk, all these guys come in, and I’m here one Thursday with a guy named Christopher James who’s got some really beautiful Christian artwork, and I’m helping him build his company. He just happens to say, “Oh, you should talk to Stan Busby.” And that’s how it always happens. It’s like, ‘You should talk to this guy…you know. I’m like, “Stan Busby? I went to high school with a guy named Stan Busby.” 

A week goes by, and I’m sitting here at my desk. There’s cars outside, I can see [them] going by from the second story here in our office. I’m sitting here working on my computer, and I’m just like, Oh, Stan Busby. I gotta meet that guy, right? The Holy Spirit. So I email Christopher James, Hey. Can I get Stan’s contact information? Christopher, in the past, never gotten back to me [quickly]. It takes him one or two days because he’s never in front of his computer, which is not a problem. But he gets right back to me within like 30 seconds, “Here’s Stan’s contact.” 

So I grabbed my phone here and I call Stan Busby. Stan Busby has a ministry called Climbers for Christ. He takes people up all the volcanoes like Mount Rainier and stuff. Instead of charging guide fees, he just says, “I want to preach the gospel to you and that’s it.” He has ropes courses. This guy’s probably my best friend in Christ – now. (It kind of gets me choked up even talking about these guys.) 

So I call up Stan, right? –You’re keeping in mind the timing of what I’m saying, right?– I call up Stan and he doesn’t answer after three rings, and I get his voicemail. He says, “Hey, this is Stan Busby. Sorry, I missed you. Probably helping kids or something. If I don’t get back to ya, seek Jesus. You won’t be disappointed.” And I’m like, Oh, my gosh, I love this guy. So I hang up my phone and I call him again, because I want Dan in my office, who’s a believer, next to me; I want him to hear it. It rings over three times. But this time Stan answers the phone. 

So I’m like, “Hey, Stan, this is Mike Semerad from high school. He goes, “Oh yeah I kind of remember.” You know, we weren’t really friends. And I go, “I think God’s trying to get us together.” He goes, “I love that. I’m in. I want to meet ya.” He said, “I live up north from Spokane, and we come into town twice a month with my flatbed truck to get big pallets of food for all the people up here that are hungry.” He said, “If you tell me where your office is, maybe next time I come into town, we can hook up.” 

So I said, “Yeah, Stan, my office is on Nevada Street.” He goes, “Well, that’s funny. I’m on Nevada street right now.” And I look –You know, Spokane is a big city, you understand, right?– This is one street and there’s a three second window that I can see cars coming across my view between the edges of the windows. I said, “A green truck?” He slams on his brakes, turns around. Remember the week ahead of time? Remember the two calls? This is how Jesus worked. A little tiny piece of how He works. 

Stan comes up into the office and I meet him and I talk to him. I said, “Stan, this is crazy that this happened. There’s got to be something more than this. Is there anything you’ve been praying for? What’s going on in your life?” He goes Mike, “My wife and I were on our knees this week, like we’ve never been. Our car just went down and our daughter who was getting to work was using our other car and that broke down too. We don’t have any wheels.” Because of the money I was talking about in these accounts, I was able to…I think we got him a new used car and then fixed their daughter’s car. That’s just what God had for Stan. 

Now I should also mention, this guy has 12 kids and he’ll completely like, he’ll go and do tree jobs. He’ll climb trees, because he’s a climber too, and he won’t even charge people. He’ll say, “Whatever you can afford or get a bid and I’ll do it for half or nothing. I just want to talk about Jesus.” He’s got 12 kids and he gives it all away. So we’ll just call that the three second story. We’ll call that God’s planning and timing and so many different factors that had to get that down to…And did He have to show me three seconds? I mean, we could have just hooked up a week later. How much does our Father love us? Right. 

So one of my other brothers’ names is Charlie Buffer, and he’s another guy that gives it all away. He has a ministry called Monarch, which is basically helping inner city kids. Like the tough kids and helping them to have a different way of life. I’m helping him with Monarch and he has little side companies he’s working on and we’re doing some work together and we’re becoming brothers. He has a group home with these kids and he takes everyone out except for one kid to go downtown and do some work to help some people. That kid burns down his house. 

So now, their whole group, they lose everything. Someone from his church gives him a barn to live in and they kind of had it outfitted like a house. [It’s] up north, kind of by where I live, and the guy said, “You can live here for six months rent free.” So Charlie is living there. We’re talking. We’re working through Monarch. At the same time, there’s an old piece of land by where my landscaping company used to be that’s beautiful. It’s like 76 acres. It’s in a hidden valley right in north Spokane, you would never know it’s there in town. Right about that time, when I’m working with Charlie, this gentleman, Ray Stein, calls me up and says, “Mike. You know that big piece of land? You always said, ‘If I was going to sell it to let you know,’ because I’m getting older, and I really want to do that.” 

At the same time, Charlie’s runnin’ out of time. He’s in this house up north, it’s six months, they’re just paying the first month’s rent. It’s like $1,700 a month, which they can swing, but it takes a lot from their ministry. Right. So right then, as I’m doing the research on this land, Ray Stein calls me again. He says, “Hey, Mike, you know, down in that valley by the river, down there that little white house you always ask about?” Well, that little house has been rented out from Ray for 17 years straight to his relatives and has never been available. Right? He says, “Well, my nephew just moved out with two weeks notice. It’s the craziest thing. Do you want to come see that place? Because I know you always talked about wanting to use that for something.” I said, “You bet Ray!” 

So I went down and I met him in this beautiful little white house, down the creek, in the middle of this beautiful valley, right? And he goes, “What do you think?” You know, it’s an old house. It’s beautiful. I said, “Ray, this is great.” And he goes, “Here you go.” He hands me the keys and says, “I know you have someone for this rent free. We’re covering the insurance.” I’m like, “Wow, Ray!” Needless to say, Charlie was in there two days later with his whole family and Monarch. That’s his base of operations now. So you’re seeing this big, beautiful piece of land, now Charlie’s there, and how God is moving in different speeds at different times, way ahead of time. 

So [Charlie’s] in there and I start doing research on the land. I go and sit down with a guy named Todd Whipple, who’s a big engineer here in town, and I’m looking at his big screens on the walls, and we’re talking about this piece of land. He goes, “This is a beautiful piece of land.” He said, “But, Mike, unfortunately, it’s zoned urban reserve. Which basically is something that is a zone that has to wait for Growth Management to happen before you can really do anything to make money with it.” I’m like, Dang it. I had a buddy who brought me there, Jeff McCloskey, he is Christian guy, and he’s like, “Dang it. Well, that’s too bad. I don’t know what to say.” 

At this time, Charlie’s living down in the land, and he’s starting to send me emails that say, “Mike, all these kids, I’m helping? I’ve just got it on my heart. We’ve got to build them a summer camp. They’ve got to have a place where they can get out of the inner city. They can know there’s possible change. They don’t have to go down this road anymore.” He starts sending me this right then. You know, God’s timing is. He’s sending me this, “They gotta have horses. They gotta have basketball. They gotta have all these different things.” Right? I’m like, “Okay.”

As I’m leaving Todd’s office, I just stopped and say, “Hey, what about a summer camp? You know, could you ever put a summer camp on this land? Because this is such a beautiful hidden area in town.” And Todd’s like, “No, you can’t do that because that’s why summer camps are always way out of town. You can’t get that zone. It’s impossible. Because look…” He went down through this big screen and showed us. He got down to the bottom and he goes, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s zoned for a kids summer camp!”  The guys I’m with all almost start crying. He’s like, “I’ve been developing all these years. I’ve never seen anything like this happen before.” So I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.” Okay. So here we go. 

Again, God’s moving all this stuff. We start designing a summer camp. I sketch up this big plan and God’s just moving my hands, and I have all these great ideas. I want to make it great for the kids. I decided right then that this is going to be something that’s going to be in a trust, a charitable trust. I’m never going to make a dime off this. It’s completely God’s deal, right. 

So we started working on this thing, and I make a model for it. (I’ll show you the 3D model after we’re done here. So you can see what it looks like.) But all these things start happening around it. We get the zoning, which is impossible. We’re working right now with the owners on the cost of the land. I was hoping they’d gift it. I still don’t know God has up His sleeve for that. We’re gonna find that out. But I’m bringing in people. I’ve got to make this Charitable Trust. I bring in my attorney, he probably charges $350 an hour, you know. I showed him the project and he’s like, “You don’t know me Mike and what my heart is, but you’ll never pay for an attorney on this thing. I will do everything. I will open all your companies. I’ll be your attorney, whatever you want.” 

I have an SEO guy that does all my SEO work. He’s a brilliant guru that handles all our, I pay him 10s of $1,000 every year, I show him the project. He lives in Seattle, which is five hours from here. He says, “Mike, I grew up in Spokane, and I walked those railroad tracks next to this land. I have seen all the hurting kids, you will never pay for any SEO work. I will make your websites. I’ll make everything.” The graphic design company comes in. God brings, of course, her at the same time. All the graphic design work, all the corporate identity, all free. It’s just like God is just laying down one by one by one. 

This is going to be a $10-$20 million summer camp. This has multiple legs.l I’ll show you after we’re done. It’s so big, right? It’s so much bigger than I am. You see what I’m saying? It’s just incredible what’s happening. It’s all just how God maneuvered this to happen and I’m just hanging on with both hands and just loving seeing what God’s work really is. I thought it was my work. It really isn’t. I’m just a guy with some hands and that loves Jesus.

So that’s His love. I just want you to you know, through this podcast, to realize that’s how deep His love goes when you simply say yes.

So that's His love. I just want you to you know, through this podcast, to realize that's how deep His love goes when you simply say yes.

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