Browsing through the monthly agenda of the City Plan Commission, the august body tasked with interpreting and tweaking Dallas' arcane zoning rules, is typically a snoozefest. Whether to allow insignificant amendment to this-and-that SUP, if PDD 762 allows such-and-such a use, etc. Something caught my eye on Friday as I glanced over the plan for this week's meeting. Seems an outfit dubbed Jesus Calls International, Inc. wants to create a single lot from a couple of mall pieces of land on the southwest corner Stemmons Freeway and Round Table Drive.
My first question, after Isn't he worried about long distance charges?, was What the hell is Jesus Calls International? Thanks to Google, that question wasn't terribly difficult to answer.
Jesus Calls is a global ministry founded by Late D.G.S. Dhinakaran and Paul Dhinakaran with a divine vision to heal millions of brokenhearted people through the matchless love and compassion of Jesus Christ. The ministry operates with a dedicated mission. "Pray for all people of all nations and all backgrounds" - who are sick and troubled, having none to intercede for them so as to receive miracles from the Almighty God. Thus, Jesus Calls Ministry is fully committed to bring God's immense blessings and His healing touch to millions of brokenhearted people in their soul, mind and body through its different facets.
Okay, but what do they want with Stemmons? According to DCAD, the group purchased property there back in March, a vacant two-story white building in an industrial district.
Poking around a bit further on the website, I found a number for Jesus Calls' only U.S. "Prayer Tower," which happened to also be located on Stemmons, a couple of blocks from the new property. I called and was greeted by Paul Dhinakaran himself.
"My precious friend this is your brother Paul Dhinakaran welcoming you to Jeeesus Calls," he said in a lounge singer's deep, velvet hiss. "We are here to pray for you and do everything to bring healing to the broken hearted. Your prayer request means so much to me, all your requests will be sent to me and I will pray and write back to me."
Brother Paul went off the line and was replaced by another male voice, this one inflectionless and anodyne. "For prayer please press one, to place an order or make a donation, please press two." Et cetera. I pressed 0, hoping for an operator, but was told that all prayer representatives were busy. After two minutes, another voice came on the line, this one belonging, as far as I could tell, to a live human being with a distinctly American inflection. He asked how he could pray for me.
Actually, I explained, I was curious as to Jesus Calls International's plans for the property on Stemmons. I had seen something about it on a city agenda and wanted check. It took some back-and-forth to get him to realize that by city agenda I didn't mean I saw Jesus Calls on TV and want to pray with you.
"This is actually prayer line," he told me. I told him I had already gleaned as much but there was no other number listed on the website. Maybe he could help me?
No such luck. "The only thing is that I don't have another number." He started to give me an email address but then stopped. That address is also for prayer.
I realized I was getting nowhere on the what's-happening-on-Stemmons front, I asked him about the organization. What exactly does the group do? It looks like it's headquartered in India, right?
There was a long pause. I could hear him typing.
"Um. 'Dr. Paul Don-ee..., Don-ee-kah..., Don-ee-kay-ran...,'" he said, clearly reading from the website. "Actually, I don't have information on where it's located."
Hmmm. But what about you? I asked. Where are you based?
There was another long pause. "We're in the Midwest of the United States." A volunteer thing? "No. They pay us."
I sighed. Never mind, I told him, I'd just find a number elsewhere.
He asked if he could take down my information for a record of the call, and I gamely agreed, having taken up so much of his prayer time. He said he would make a note for someone to call me. "Were you wanting to..." he almost said "pray" but stopped himself. I wished him well and hung up.
I had already spent way too much time on what was ultimately an insignificant zoning request, but I decided to give it one last shot. I tracked down Jesus Calls' most recent filing with the IRS. From that, I learned that it had received $133,886 and it is tax exempt because it is "part of the worldwide organization of Jesus Calls" and "will be enhancing the spiritual growth of people in the USA."
The form also included a phone number with a Dallas area code. A man with a thick South Asian accent answered. He didn't really have anything to do with Jesus Calls, he told me, but they do have a local office.
"There is someone there by the name of John," he said. "They could talk to you."
He didn't have the number but promised to pass mine along. I haven't heard back. Still have no idea what's happening on Stemmons, but maybe my approach has been all wrong. Maybe if I had phrased my question as a prayer. Like "Please God, inform me through your humble servant Paul Dhinakaran, what is happening at the corner of Stemmons and Round Table." Haven't heard back on that one yet either.