I was asked to go to Oak Grove and fill in for a Sunday morning service, so my fiancée Cheryll and I went on the last Sunday in March of 1977. After the service we were about to leave and Frances Morris told me “no you can’t leave yet” we need to have a meeting. I didn’t know what she was talking about but said we would wait until they got thru. In just a couple of minutes she came back and said, “You have just been voted in to be our Pastor” and that is where this story starts.
I accepted the position even though I hadn’t applied for it. We started out with a small congregation of mostly older folks. I believe Junior and Rose Mary Kirby was the youngest couple in the church at that time. Frances Morris brought her grandsons Greg and David to church with her almost every Sunday and along with Robert Kirby we had three kids in the church.
Within the first years we started losing some of our older church members. They were taking that journey to Heaven. I don’t remember which ones we lost first but over the next few years we lost Tavy Maynard, Sister Russell, Vena Casey’s husband Ray, Then Vena, as she moved to California. We lost Jack Dunn, Earl White, and several that I can’t remember their names right now (Memory is no good any more).
Oak Grove then started to grow with Mary Ruston coming and bringing her two boys John and Cody, Barbara White started coming and brought her children, Wesley and Michael. Then Larry and Pauline Brown started coming and brought their two girls, Lora and Lana. We were so blessed to have all these children and their parents coming to Oak Grove. God was blessing us with all these families and we only had the old one room church building.
Frank (Frances Casey) came to me and said we need to build on to this church so our kids have a class room. So we started talking about where to build and how big. The ladies got busy and started quilting, making pot holders, aprons and anything else they could make and sell to raise money for the building project.
We had $110 dollars in the bank and it looked pretty hopeless that we could raise enough money to get this job done. Frank asked me if we was going to put a concrete floor in the addition and I said that would be best since we were pretty low to the ground. Well that set the wheels into motion.
The next week Frank came to me and said she had a friend that did concrete work and they owed her a favor and said they would do all the work for free if we could pay for the concrete. We did and the floor for the first add on was poured, plumbing was put in for a bathroom and kitchen sink at the back of the room, (Frank also had a friend that did plumbing who owed her a favor). Up to this time we had just had the outside Johnnie and for those that don’t know what an outside Johnnie is it is an outside bathroom that smells just like it sounds.
Well we got the floor poured and raised a little more money so with a list of the lumber we needed to put up the walls I took a trip to town. I went into Sutherlands because they always had economy studs (2x4’s that weren’t up to par) I went in talked to the clerk and told him what I was there for and asked him if I could pick through the stack and get the better lumber since it was going into building onto God’s house. He told me to hang on and called for a boy to help me. However he instructed the young man to go load me up with #2- 2x4’s even though the invoice called for economy. Well God just kept on blessing Oak Grove.
I was working a split shift so I had time to do the framing for the walls. The walls were framed and ready to be stood up. I remember the crew that showed up for the raising of the walls. It was Maxine Dunn, Altie White, Frances Morris, myself and David and Greg Morris (still just little boys not yet in school).
The walls were lifted up and nailed together by this mottle crew. After this task was completed we raised a little more money and I was able to get lumber for the rafters and decking. I was there working one day and a couple of ladies drove in and got out of their car. They walked around the building and asked if they could get in to look at the old building, I told them they were welcome to go in and the back door was open. They went in and stayed for quite a while finally coming out and called to me and asked if it would be ok if they made a donation to our building project. They said they had gone to school right there at Oak Grove many years ago and had grown up in the area. Sorry I don’t remember their names but know they were related to the Cotton family. They donated $100 to the building fund and praise the Lord we had money to buy shingles for the roof.
About the time I got the decking on I got another visitor, Harma Gene Newton. He told me that he didn’t have any money that he could give but if we could make arrangements with Roy Girard Lumber Company in Lavaca for the shingles he and his boys would pick them up and put the shingles on for us as his donation to the church. Praise the Lord, in a few days we had a roof and it was paid for by the ladies donation which covered the cost of the shingles and tar paper, and Mr. Newton and his boys put them on for us.
We were able to finish the building project with God blessing every step of the process, and when it was finished we had more money in the church fund than we had when we started the building project. God is so good and provides for His own.
The church at Oak Grove went on doing well and we gained a few more in attendance. We put a pump in the well and had running water and an inside bathroom for the first time in the history of Oak Grove Church. (My wife was elated, she didn’t have to go out and share the outhouse with lizards, wasp and other creatures that took up residence in the outside John).
As time went on we lost more of the old timers to death, Evelyn Langston, Sister Russell’s daughter. Altai White had to go live with family because of health issues.
Somehow I found out that we had free gas available to the church but it had to be piped across the road. City Water was coming through the area and Lain Morris had given the right of way for the water line to go across his property. We wanted to get on the city water so Junior Kirby and Lain Morris came up with a plan to get both water and gas across the highway without it costing the church a lot of money. It just so happened, that Lain had made a deal with the Forman of the crew laying the water line to let him run our gas line under the road through the large pipe they put through as a casing for the water line.
Everything was going great, Junior and Lain got the gas pipe pushed through under the road, and was in the process of hooking things up when the inspector came by and threw a fit. He told them they could not run the gas line through their casing and to get it pulled out. Lain said ok that’s fine we will pull our line out but you get started doing the same thing….pull all of that water line you have laid on my property and get it done right now. Needless to say the inspector caved in and we had free natural gas to Oak Grove Church building for the first time in its history.
God continued to bless Oak Grove and we added a new addition to the front of the church building. A Fourier to help keep out the cold air in the winter time. Later we were able to build across the back of the old building and add a fellowship hall onto the building. This was constructed by Curtis Stockton and we even did some remodeling to the main auditorium. Old paneling was taken down and sheet rock was put up with some insulation in the walls. A new backdrop was added out of beautiful wood to the back wall of the stage. Carpet and Central Heat and Air was added to the entire building which was so nice because Frances Morris didn’t have to get up early and go light the fire before church any more. Our God is such an Awesome God. He provided for all of this to be paid for as it was done. What great things come when God’s people open up their hearts and allow God to bless?
Later we decided it was time for new pews. I called a salesman to come and show us what they had and give us the pricing. It was something like $750 per pew. I knew we didn’t have that much money to purchase new pews for the church. Frank told me after the meeting that she thought we could do this if we could get family members to purchase a pew and put a plate on it stating who it was donated in memory or honor of. Of course Frank called all her family members and maybe even some that were not kin folks and told them to send her a check, they was going to purchase a pew for the church. Well it happened and new pews were purchased and put into Oak Grove Church.
Later on Lain Morris started having health issues and eventually passed away. One by one the old members have made their journey across that chilly river we call death. I have had the privilege to say words over many of these fine folks as a way of showing respect for the lives they lived and the many ways they contributed to Oak Grove Community Church. It has been a pleasure to pastor at Oak Grove Community Church from March 1977 through December 2002.
We left Oak Grove in December of 2002 to go pastor at another church. Our heart was broken because we loved all these folks at Oak Grove but God knew what he was doing and now Oak Grove has a new pastor, Joe Hobbs. Joe and Mary pastor the church and as when I was there the church has several children attending as well as some younger families. (Some of these were the children that grew up under our time as pastor there).
Oak Grove Community Church continues to be a light in the community and a blessing to all that pass by and see her standing there proud to be a House for the worship of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
I have been blessed and my life enriched by all of these fine individuals who graced me with the opportunity to be their pastor. To be my friend and though many were not blood related they became my family. May God continue to bless Oak Grove Community Church and help it to thrive and grow with His continued blessings!