VALPARAISO — Ben Lamb said he was about as down as he could be a few months ago.

Pastor of GracePoint Church, Lamb said church members had been giving with open hearts and wallets for months to help finance a new church facility.

"We had kids bringing in bags of coins from their piggy bank. People were giving up vacations they were planning," said Jeff Smith, worship director.

Then push came to shove. They met with the lender, who told church officers they needed to come up with $300,000 to guarantee a loan.

"I was overwhelmed. We worked so hard, but, I thought, it was over," Lamb recalled, saying he was about to tell church members their plans for their own home were finished.

Then, he said, God intervened.

One Sunday soon after, a man who had been attending the church for four Sundays committed $150,000 to help guarantee the loan.

"After the second service, here comes this lady. She's said, 'I've got this coin'," recalled Lamb, adding both benefactors wanted to remain anonymous.

Initially, the woman wanted to loan the coin to the church to help guarantee the loan. Minutes into the conversation, said Lamb, she changed her mind. She would donate the 1866 Double Eagle $20 gold piece to the church.

"It said on it 'In God we Trust'," Lamb said.

The coin, it turns out, could be valued at $300,000 or more and is scheduled to go on auction Thursday in Schaumburg, Illinois, through Heritage Auctions.

"If somebody doesn't believe, this has to change their mind. He put us in that corner that we got to have faith and trust," said Lamb.

The coin has also turned the little church that had moved from one makeshift home to another since its founding eight years ago into a national celebrity.

Lamb said the two congregants made their donations in February. The goal was to keep it a secret for a couple of months. Then the coin hit the cover of Heritage Auctions' magazine.

The Associated Press noticed. Then came the local, regional and national media. He's received interview requests from as far as Los Angeles; Dallas; Virgina Beach, Virginia; and Bozeman, Montana.

Lamb had to tell the congregation early before they heard the good news through the media.

The little church that could

Lamb said the church was formed in 2009. It is non-denominational and caters to those he calls the "unchurched."

Twenty-four people attended the first service held at the Legacy Banquet Center.

The church "took off," said Lamb, describing it as being "big on production and creative environment."

The trailer that stored the church's equipment between Sunday services grew from eight feet to 16, then to 21 feet. Now a 53-foot semi trailer is used.

The church moved services from the banquet center to Washington Township Elementary School in 2012 and has maxed out its capacity. Today there are about 750 members.

"We weren't going to be able to meet there much longer," said Lamb, adding officials began scouring Porter County and Valparaiso for a new home before they found the former furniture store on U.S. 30 on Valparaiso's west side.

They purchased the building and began a fundraising campaign in 2015.

The plan is to construct the church in phases, including a 526-seat auditorium and a "Jesus version of Disneyland for the kids," he said.

Now, said Smith and Lamb, the plans can move forward.

"We had to keep trusting in God," said Smith. "It is a confirmation that what God starts, he finishes."

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.