By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT    The New Testament Church of Jesus Christ has stood on a quiet part of Austin Street in Crockett for almost 70 years. Most churchgoers would walk each Sunday to the small community church. New Testament Church Pastor Detroit McCullough remembers those days well.

“I grew up in the church. I started over there when I was a little kid and grew up there. When the pastor at that time passed, I bought it, about 14 years ago,” McCullough remembers.

But like many of our older homes and churches, time had taken its toll. The air conditioning had gone out. The foundation had gone bad, and some of the pews were unusable, sagging through the floor.

Detroit and his wife Annie McCullough had done some of the work needed to restore the church, but a lot still remained to be done. Annie prayed for help to get the church back to its glory days in order to be able to use the whole space without fear of someone being injured due to the needed repairs.

One Sunday, one of the parishioners told Annie she should go and see Pastor Leon Wallace of the Good Shepherd Fellowship Church. Most locals know Wallace well; he spends a lot of time in a booth outside the church near the street – waving at passersby and inviting all to come pray and speak. Annie, for some reason, felt this would be the answer to her prayers and went to see Pastor Wallace first thing the next morning.

“I saw him sitting in his booth, he said ‘Come on in!’, and I think he thought I wanted prayer,” Mrs. McCullough said.

She told Pastor Wallace she did want prayer, but had another problem she needed help with. Annie told Wallace about the state of their church. Wallace grabbed a pad of paper and began making notes.

“When I saw Wallace come out and start checking things, and measuring things and writing things down, I couldn’t believe it. He said we are going to do this and do that. I couldn’t believe it, and it’s all from the power of prayer,” McCullough exclaimed.

About a month ago, Wallace got to work on what started out to be a small project – fixing a bathroom and maybe the floor. Wallace didn’t stop there however, as he began collecting donations of material, time, and expertise. Locals donated money, people came and worked for free, companies donated decorations, manpower, and expertise, as the old building started to become a church home again.

When Vulcraft (a division of Nucor) from Grapeland stepped in, the work went into high gear. The first day, a team of 12 was at the site, the second day it was 17 people including the Vulcraft Production Manager Justin Wells, electricians, human resources, and even the IT department.

Special Projects Supervisor Jerome Simpson thanked Vulcraft General Manager Chris Rice for allowing the employees to help with the church while on the Vulcraft payroll.

“Our general manager Chris Rice was very supportive, with no hesitation letting us do what we needed to do to support the community,” Simpson said. “Helping the community is what attracted a lot of the guys to come help.”

The Vulcraft team grilled hamburgers Friday for everyone who was helping out.

Hargrove-Neel donated a five-ton air conditioning unit to the restoration, which owner Calvin Neel says he was happy to do.

“I have been here for 47 years, and the community has supported us and using us for their air conditioning and heating needs. We feel like we want to give back to the community that has been so good to us,” Neel commented.

If you walk into the church today, there is a new floor, windows have been redone, and a new double front door is ready to be installed. There are now men’s and women’s restrooms, the walls are painted and trimmed with new light fixtures. The people working inside don’t seem to mind the hard work or the high temperatures; Wallace is a man inspired not to lose another local church.

“So now when you walk from the front door to the back door it’s going to be totally new. We wanted to make it so that the next 20 or 30 years it will be in great shape. Not only for them, but for whoever follows them,” Wallace said. “We don’t need to lose our neighborhood churches, so we have been really blessed.”

Wallace estimates the project cost about forty thousand dollars, with about 2,500 man-hours involved. The project should be completed by the end of the week, with an open house to be scheduled to show off all the hard work and thank all those who donated and helped with the project.

Annie McCullough tears up as she talks about all the people who gave so much to help the church. After the open house, Pastor Detroit and Annie plan to resume a lot of activities they were not able to do because of the state of the building. She still can’t believe it’s all real.

“Sometimes I want to pinch myself, but I have to trust God, because I know it’s Him doing it,” Annie concluded.

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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