The Delhi Church of Christ in Cincinnati is the place where, at 10 years old, Wayne Smith got up from his pew during a revival and accepted salvation through Jesus Christ.
Years later, as a seminary student, it's where he went every Friday night. He'd turn on the lights, lock the doors and preach to the empty pews.
Smith, now 85, went on to enjoy a long career in the ministry. He has since retired from 40 years as minister at Lexington's largest congregation, Southland Christian Church, and now Smith wants to do something to give back to the church that gave him his start.
"They looked after my needs from the time I was 10 years old," he said. "Appreciation is only as sincere as the effort I make to express it."
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Smith wants to raise nearly $90,000 for a renovation of the Delhi Church of Christ, which is about 100 years old and in poor condition.
On Aug. 26, a letter went up on Smith's Facebook page, asking friends to help.
"My home church was the love of my life," he wrote. "Located in the extreme west end of Cincinnati, my home church means more to me than I can put on paper."
He urged recipients to give whatever they could.
"The Bible says we are to be fishers of men," he wrote. "Also, keepers of the aquarium."
A few days later, he mailed the letter out to 240 friends, most of whom attended Southland during his years there.
As of Saturday, Smith had raised $49,555 for the cause, said Chuck Lees, a friend who helps him with administrative tasks, including this project.
"People love Wayne," Lees said. "They understand the importance of what Wayne is doing."
Jim Lloyd has served as the minister at Delhi Church of Christ — an independent Christian church — for 18 years.
He said attendance sometimes hits 60 or 80, but is more often somewhere around 30 or 40 people.
Lloyd said it is a caring group that welcomes visitors, including people who might shy away from going to a bigger church, and strives to serve the community around it.
"I feel like God has really worked through our congregation, as small as it might be, to do some great things," he said.
But Lloyd said keeping the aging building in good repair has been a problem for such a small group.
"It needs a lot of maintenance," he said, adding, "We don't have the money to go off and do a new building."
There is water damage in the basement and in the walls of the sanctuary, and mold and asbestos will have to be removed. Work must be done to prevent future water damage. The building also needs a new HVAC system, new paint and new carpet.
"Without God's help, it's going to be at a point where it (the church) can't move forward with this building," Lloyd said.
He said Smith sent the church a gift at Christmas, and Lloyd wrote a letter back thanking him and asking him to pray for the congregation, given their struggles.
Lloyd said he expected that to be the end of it.
But before long, a Lexington contractor sent by Smith was looking the building over.
JHawk Construction estimated the total price tag for the work at $89,480, and that is what Smith is trying to raise by Sept. 14.
"Wayne is just a godsend for us," said Lloyd, who also works full-time as director of the library at Cincinnati Christian University, Smith's alma mater.
Smith said some of the most pivotal moments in his life happened at that church.
Before Smith went to seminary, he was working as a carpet salesman in downtown Cincinnati.
"I was making $35 a week plus commission," he recalled. "I could really sell that stuff."
And then he got offered a promotion to assistant manager.
Smith said he went down to visit the preacher at Delhi, a youthful minister named Jim Walters.
Walters, now 93 and living in Lexington, remembers the day Smith came to talk to him about his promotion.
"He was on cloud nine telling me about his good fortune," Walters said.
And then he asked a question that Smith says changed the course of his life.
"Do you think selling carpet is the best way you can serve the Lord?"
Soon after, Smith found himself attending seminary.
Walters said he hasn't been back to the Delhi church in years, but he was happy to give when Smith told him about his effort.
Smith said the project is something he feels he needs to accomplish.
Last January, he was hospitalized and in grave condition. He said he believes God allowed him to live so he could help the church of his childhood.
"I really feel as though I'm going to be leaving here soon," he said. "This is my last hurrah."