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Originator Gains Customers' Faith With Prayer

Minnesota institution known as the Christian bank

November 10, 2004

By PATRICK CROWLEY


There are certainly people who pray when considering taking out a mortgage loan.

But at Riverview Community Bank in Otsego, Minn., borrowers can pray with a mortgage loan officer while applying for the loan.

Riverview, known as "The Christian bank," may be the only faith-based mortgage lender in the country. It is not uncommon for customers to pray with vice president Chuck Ripka, 45, who has more than 20 years in mortgage lending, when they come in for a loan.

"It happens several times a day," Ripka said in an interview.

And with mortgage rates near historic lows, customers can save while being saved.

"We've had 77 salvations," Ripka said. "Lives have been transformed by coming to a bank or working at the bank."

Riverview, which is about 40 minutes outside Minneapolis, opened less than two years ago. It has grown from $5 million in deposits to more than $75 million making it, as a promotional video on the bank's Web site claims, "the fastest growing start-up bank in Minnesota."

"The growth has been supernatural," Ripka said.

"The very first year the bank opened, I remember sitting in my office, the lord spoke to me very clearly," Ripka says in the video. "He said 'Chuck, if you do all the things I told you to do here I promise you, I'll take care of the bottom line.'"

Ripka regularly prays with customers and employees, who, according to the video, "are encouraged to share their faith and to pray with each other and with customers -- even at the drive-thru window."

The video claims several "healings" have taken place at the bank. A female customer featured in the video talks of having back pain relieved after praying there.

Ripka said the bank is not trying to profit from faith.

"We did not set out to create a niche," he told MortgageDaily.com. "This is just who we are. We have a spiritual backbone. We are Christians who make bank and mortgage loans. It's just evolved this way...with spiritual guidance from the lord.

"The lord has allowed me to be who I am," he said. "It's like when you have a new child, you want to share that news with everybody. It's the same thing with my faith. What (the lord) he does daily is so exciting, people are attracted to that. What is different for us, is we can do it in the workplace."

Ripka realizes there are critics of his brand of faith-based mortgage lending.

"I know there people who say 'keep that to yourself'. But the lord has opened my eyes to them...and the lord has given me signs and showed me that I am doing the right thing," he said.

Ripka gained national exposure a few weeks ago when the bank was featured in a New York Times Magazine story about religion in the workplace.

Since then, Ripka has been contacted by media all over the country. A French newspaper has requested an interview. HBO wants to do a documentary. And he's heading to Hawaii shortly after the first of year to give a speech on how he operates a Christian lending institution.

"I'm not a preacher, and I'm not a teacher," he said. "I just share the stories of what has happened to me, and people want to listen.

"It's how the lord spreads his word, through people like me and businesses like this."


Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at: [email protected]

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