Mukhtar Raja was hoping for a miracle.
For the past five months, the business at his Snack Shack Phillips 66 gas station in Shawnee, Kansas, had slowed to a crawl due to construction work in the area, causing the Pakistani-born owner to contemplate filing for bankruptcy. During the construction period, which blocked off the roads leading to the store, it's estimated that Raja lost close to $100,000 in revenue, reports Kansas City TV 5 News.
Pastor David Jones of Cross Points Church heard about Raja's plight after he was featured in the Shawnee Dispatch, and decided to step in. “I’m going to challenge the church and say, ‘Hey, let’s go help this guy who’s having difficulties, not because of what he’s done, but because of something out of his control,” Jones said to the Dispatch.
Raja said, "I was seriously, seriously considering filing Chapter 7," when his prayers were answered during an unexpected Sunday rush, the result of Jones' challenge to his congregation to buy at least one tank of gas from the Snack Shack. They did not disappoint.
Raja told KCTV, "I'm very thankful to them. They basically woke me up [to the fact] that good people exist out there. They don't care what religion you are, what race you are. They come and help you out, and that's unforgettable."
The helping hand to Raja's Phillips 66 gas station is just the first stage of a new program the church is calling "Connect, Commit, Create," which will encourage congregations to patronize businesses in need around the city. Church elder Steve Van Buskirk, a Shawnee resident of over 60 years, came up with the idea, explaining, "We’re just doing what we can to bless Shawnee because that’s where we live and that’s who we care about. Through our congregation, we’ll be looking for businesses that are struggling. We all live in Shawnee, we’re all buying stuff, so why not give it to the ones who need it?”
Raja immigrated from Pakistan and his wife is from Ukraine, but they say that they feel like they have family in the United States now because of the unbelievable support they have received from the Shawnee community.
Reflecting on the church members' actions, Raja said that he "had never seen this type of love before."