After Eric Bahme and his Kingdom Point International ministry took over a Travelodge in Portland in 2004, the dilapidated hotel was transformed from a hot spot for the methamphetamine trade and prostitution into a Quality Inn & Suites that became the third-best performing franchise location worldwide.
The former Best Western White Oak Lodge, located on U.S. 93 north of Somers, did not present that magnitude of a challenge, but it has undergone a genuine conversion all the same.
Soon to be called the Best Western Plus Flathead Lake Inn and Suites, the 59-room hotel was co-purchased by Bahme’s organization and Spiritfire Global Ministries in August and is being run as a nonprofit.
It also houses a prayer and ministry center and Bahme, pastor of the Eastside Foursquare Church in Portland, said it may eventually hold a new church as well.
Visitors will find their experiences similar to what they would have at any hotel in the Best Western chain. But a Christian spirit of hospitality should be evident in every transaction at the Flathead Lake Inn, Bahme said.
“The experience will be distinctively Christian,” Bahme said in a phone interview from Portland. “There will be Christian music playing and Christian values with the very friendly staff. We expect the staff to treat everyone as if Christ is coming into the hotel.”
At this time, Bahme is not planning to move from Portland, though he will be in Kalispell often in his role as managing member. Scott Rieke is the on-site general manager. Rieke is the son-in-law of Val and Linda Munson, the leaders of Spiritfire Global Ministries.
The Munsons recently moved to the Flathead Valley from Omaha, Neb., where they were last pastoring at Omaha Covenant Life Church. They will be in charge of the ministry side of the operation, with their Spiritfire House of Prayer and Ministry Center housed in former hotel office space.
They were recruited to the operation by Georgia Penniman with Mountain Intercessors of Ronan. Val Munson said she “had a vision to have a 24-hour prayer center 20 years ago.”
According to Spiritfire literature, the center will be a place for “fellowship, seminars, conferences, retreats, weddings and Friday night gatherings.” Val Munson said they expect to have Christian-themed events throughout the year to take advantage of the site’s spacious ballroom and conference facilities and draw business in the winter.
“My husband had a mandate from the Lord to come into Montana and into this valley and open up a prayer center,” Linda Munson said. “There have been intercessors around Montana praying for this for years. And we’ll have local intercessors who love to pray who will pray for our nation, the valley, Montana and the world on a weekly basis there.”
Val Munson has been the pastor of three churches of up to 2,000 people in Texas, California and Nebraska, and Linda Munson has ministered in drug and alcohol recovery programs.
As a couple, the Munsons have worked in Christian ministry throughout the United States and in countries worldwide, and Val Munson plans to travel to India to help with the establishment of a program to provide a home for lepers, as well as to Kenya to shelter AIDS victims.
After a $1.1 million donation from a family in Nevada helped provide the money for the purchase of the White Oak, the new team took over management duties on July 1, closing on the property in August. Under its new management, the hotel has jumped to No. 6 from its previous position at No. 19 in Trip Advisor’s customer satisfaction ratings of Flathead Valley hotels.
Bahme said what will continue to set the establishment apart is the new philosophy of rate management and customer service.
“We operate under a different set of values,” Bahme said. “If your bottom line is not about the dollar, but about helping others, generally the dollar follows.”
Bahme came into the project with heavyweight hotel management credentials as well as extensive experience in the Christian ministry.
He is the author of the book, “The Mission Based Entrepreneur Revolution: Developing Economic Engines that Drive Mission-Based Movements.”
He is a managing partner in the Portland-based Lincoln Asset Management, one of the top 100 hospitality management agencies in the United States. With the exception of the Portland project, and now the Flathead Lake Inn and Suites, his management work with hotels has been in the for-profit sphere; profits from the Flathead Lake Inn will be funneled back into its managing ministries.
“This is a hotel with a heart,” Bahme said. “People who have the same [Christian] value system will want to support our value system, but we’ve found that even those who don’t still like to support a philanthropic system.
“We need more people doing good today in society. We have enough problems. Though we might all believe differently, we should work together to curb things like addictions and homelessness. People want to support good causes.”
Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or by email at email@example.com.