MISSOURI CITY, Texas (FOX 26) - When Assistant Pastor Gerald Rivers walked into St. John MBC for the first time three years ago he knew he'd stepped into history, and into a fight. He sums it up with this biblical verse: "When Jesus told Paul, 'I will build on this rock my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,' I'm telling you hell has been trying to tear this place down for some time."
After all, freed slaves started this church back in 1869. It sits on Oilfield Road. Once out in the middle of nowhere, now it's dwarfed by the new large homes that surround it. A small church, true, but significant enough that it has just been designated an historic site by the State of Texas.
"I don't know if they expected this church to be here in 2016," says Rivers.
This church has been under fire before, quite literally. It's been targeted by arsonists not once but ttwice. It's been shot up several times. One time, vandals broke in and poured motor oil on the pews, but it's still here. Barely.
Propane heaters keep the building warm. The place has electricity now but no plumbing, thanks to that 2006 fire destroyed the back half of the building. A ceiling tarp keeps out the rain. but the rain can't dampen dreams. They want to completely renovate restore the whole place. Plus they want to build a fellowship hall out back. Membership has dwindled to under a dozen, but they're raising money through the church's website, hoping the historic significance will touch a chord. It appears to be working. A local civil engineers helped them set up a drainage system and Missouri City Council Member Jerry White says state and local politicians are supporting it. In the works? Getting the two-acre property zoned as "Church."
"I think it's a matter of how we pool ourselves together and follow the church leadership," says the pastor. "We can't forget it's their church and we're just helping."
Pastor Rivers says the future is looking brighter.
"They struggled, but they have now seen the benefits of their prayers."
They could just use the benefit a few more dollars.