CRAFT —Volunteers from the Baptist Missionary Association of America are helping Craft Baptist Church achieve its first major overhaul since the 1950s — and having fun in the process.
They are The Master's Builders, a group of men who come together to work on building projects. The men, along with their wives, have set up trailers around the church, and are staying in them while remodel work is completed.
Nearly 20 couples are involved with the Craft Baptist Church project, and each morning, The Master's Builders pray together before starting their day of work.
As of Wednesday, they had already torn the ceiling out, ripped up carpet and were in the process of putting in a new baptistry, said David Smith, the church's associate pastor.
He said the church has known it would have to do a remodel or retrofit and decided that now was the time to put a new roof on.
"The ceiling was sagging; we had a leaky roof (and) termites," he said.
Now, The Master's Builders are bringing that remodel to fruition. During the project, church members provide equipment as well as one meal a day for the workers.
Smith said The Master's Builders are not all master carpenters, but are "God-called to do this."
That includes Bob McDonald, of Diana, who was putting up steel beams Wednesday morning.
The 75-year-old said working on a project is "always a blessing." "We're blessed more than they are," he added.
He said The Master's Builders also enjoy coming together and will joke around with each other.
Another worker, J.W. Payne, of Walker, La., said The Master's Builders have become like family, and he's enjoying his time in East Texas.
And Mount Pleasant resident Bettye Wilson, whose husband works with The Master's Builders, said it is "a blessing to be able to help people to get buildings to serve the Lord."
Those with the church returned the sentiment.
"With all the turmoil in America, to watch people come together in harmony for the Lord is a joy," Smith said. "God's richly blessed us."
Church member Judy Warren echoed Smith, saying it's been wonderful having The Master's Builders there. She said it's also a blessing for the church to get a remodel that's "long overdue."
Craft Baptist Church, a church with about 100 members, has roots dating back to 1891.
According to a state historical marker, Craft Baptist Church was organized at the Shiloh schoolhouse, and was established under the name Baptist Church of Christ at Shiloh.
E.M. Carter served as the first pastor, the marker states, and the church later became known as the Baptist Church of Christ at New Independence, "reflecting its location west of the schoolhouse."
It was renamed Craft Baptist Church of Christ in 1899, and a new building was constructed more than a decade later, "which members replaced in 1953, a year after expanding to weekly worship services," according to a historical marker.
Before that, until 1944, members met for worship on a monthly basis, and then semimonthly from 1944 to 1953, "reflecting the difficulties in attaining full-time pastors in rural communities," the marker reads.
The historical marker also mentions notable involvement by the church and its members.
"The church has been active in providing for the physical, spiritual and educational needs of Cherokee County residents since its early years," the marker states.
"Members and pastors have a long record of involvement in education, allowing ministerial students from Jacksonville College to preach here. Several pastors have also served in colleges, seminaries and other educational institutions. A number of Craft Baptist Church pastors have served as presidents of state and national associations; others have become foreign missionaries. Additionally, members have aided needy residents in the community through food pantries, holiday food baskets and a benevolent fund for utility, medical and other expenses."
Throughout the years, member Shelley Cleaver said, "It's been a light to this community."