(By Jay Senter, Shawnee Mission Post, Kansas). The old farmhouse wasn’t in great shape.
With a sagging roof and aging innards, the 1930s structure seemed fated for a bulldozer, an attractive target for a teardown-rebuild project given its setting on a two-acre lot in north Leawood.
Instead, the “Mustard Seed House,” as its proprietors have now dubbed it in reference to a biblical parable, has become the symbol of rebirth for a northeast Johnson County church that was on the verge of closing just a few years earlier.
At the start of 2009, both Ryan Kapple and Curt and Rachel Petersen were still near the start of new chapters in their lives. The Petersen’s had just moved back to Johnson County, where Curt grew up, from D.C., where he had been practicing law the past few years. Kapple had taken over as the senior pastor of Leawood Presbyterian, the oldest church in the city, in late 2007.
Curt credited Kapple with setting him on a path to success back in his high school days, when Kapple was the youth pastor at Colonial Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Mo.
“That’s kind of where my life was changed,” Petersen said. “To this day, he’s had more impact on my life than anybody.”
When the Petersens relocated to Johnson County, Curt and Rachel were eager to reconnect with Kapple. They started attending services at Leawood Presbyterian [Presbyterian Church (USA)] — where the pews were sparsely populated. Prior to Kapple’s arrival, Leawood Presbyterian’s congregation had dwindled to just a handful of members. The pastor set about trying to inject new life and energy into the church, but with so few congregants, finances were tight.
So when Curt heard that the owner of the house directly to the west of the church on 83rd Street was interested in selling, it presented a conundrum: The strategic value of the property to a church without a parsonage or much meeting space was difficult to overstate, but the price tag was daunting for such a small congregation to take on.
“Two acres in Leawood next to the church? I went nuts,” Curt said. “I said, ‘We’ve got to find a way to buy this.’”