Merlene Davis: A flooded Mount Sterling church has a new home and will help others get one, too

Herald-Leader columnistOctober 6, 2011 

When Hinkston Creek flooded May 2, 2010, the small Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church on East Locust Street in Mount Sterling was invaded with water waist deep.

It wasn't the first time the church had been flooded. Plus, the congregation had overcome at least two fires in years past.

But the 2010 flood was the worst as far as the oldest members of the church could remember. Those members, who had been the first to begin cleaning out the mess in previous floods, had never seen the pews float before.

There was mold, water damage and little hope for renovation. The church would have to be demolished and rebuilt, or preferably, moved to a site on higher ground. Things didn't look good for the 135-year-old congregation.

As longtime Christians know, however, when things look bad, God works his best miracles.

Valerie Scott, assistant church clerk, learned of a Baptist organization in Florida whose mission builds churches for congregations of fewer than 100 members. With about two dozen active members, Evergreen fit that criterion to a tee.

The organization, Joshualand Ministries, agreed to build a new church.

Founded by Chris and Dorrine Wurzel in 1996, Joshualand has built a church in Kentucky every year since 2005. Evergreen became the organization's 15th church and about the sixth in Kentucky. The first Kentucky church built by the group was Horton Flats Community Baptist in Olive Hill.

Evergreen, the small-church-that-could, began a fund-raising campaign by asking every church in the United States to donate $1 to buy the higher land. That effort raised about $10,000, Scott said, and donations are still coming in.

The church had to borrow the additional money needed to purchase land and for building materials. The loan is less than $100,000, but for a small congregation, the monthly payments can be daunting. "Our goal is to burn that note," Scott said.

In April, volunteers from throughout the nation converged on Mount Sterling and began erecting the new Evergreen Baptist. Each week, volunteers had specific phases to work on, said Chris Wurzel of Joshualand. "Whatever week they come, they know exactly what they will be doing," he said.

Fifty-six churches from several states partner with Joshualand to provide the labor.

"The biggest week, there were 115 volunteers here," Scott said. "Joshualand provided all the food."

Volunteers appeared on their assigned week until the church was completed in mid-August. Many volunteers came from right here in Kentucky.

In coming years, members of Evergreen will return the favor by helping at other building sites.

The congregation walked the half-mile from its old home to its new one at 304 South Queen Street on Aug. 28. In their new home, the congregation recently celebrated the church's 135th anniversary.

With the new building came new members. Sunday attendance has doubled, averaging more than 50 each week. The next event the church would like to celebrate is being debt-free.

Joshualand is reviewing a possible church build in Flemingsburg, and Scott said her fellow members would be happy to go.

If you would like to help Evergreen burn its loan note, send donations to Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, 304 South Queen Street, Mount Sterling, Ky., 40353.

To help Joshualand Ministries build more churches, email christianwurzel@gmail.com.

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or mdavis1@herald-leader.com.

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