Faith Church members are filled with anticipation, anxiously waiting on COVID-19 to go away.
While waiting for the go-ahead for churches to be able to reopen, volunteers and workers are putting the final touches on what is a phenomenal facility. And it almost didn’t happen.
The Rev. Daryl Hunt was pastoring Living Word Church on Barracada Road. Needing more space, Hunt was in the process of moving old Marine Corps barracks from Paris Island to the church site when he was approached by long-time friend Ron DuBoise, who suggested a building project to Hunt.
“God laid on my heart the vision of this church in this particular building,” said DuBoise, referring to the old Food Lion grocery store on the corner of Robertson Boulevard and Bells Highway in a small strip mall.
The building had been vacant for years and was available for lease. But the company was willing to sell. DuBoise then took Hunt to his home church in Orangeburg to see Cornerstone Church. Cornerstone’s architect David McAbee had turned an old Winn Dixie into a church. “I saw how beautiful a building like this could be,” said Hunt. “But we needed to pray and seek God’s will for us before we did anything.”
Amazingly, at the same time, Faith Assembly of God in Summerville on I-26 was looking for barracks to use as a temporary church in Ridgeville as a church for an expansion of its campus. Pastor Larry Burgbacher of Faith Assembly contacted Hunt to get one of the barracks. They met, and suddenly the idea of a new church building in Walterboro began to flourish. But Burgbacher told Hunt that there was already a Faith Assembly of God in Walterboro on Hampton Street. Steve Shinn was pastoring that church, but he became ill, was going to retire, and suggested that the church find a younger pastor. Hunt grew even more excited, approached Shinn, and the churches decided to merge to form Faith Church of Walterboro, a campus of Summerville’s Faith Assembly.
Faith in Summerville agreed to purchase the building for the Walterboro congregation. Contractor Stephen Cruz with the Aspen Group felt compelled by God to take on the task of renovating the old grocery store, which had fallen into disrepair. With a “pay as you go” strategy, the church was blessed financially, and construction proceeded.
Now the church has developed into a meeting center and auditorium in the county.
“We were just a little church on a back road,” said Hunt. “After meeting the pastors, board members and church leaders at Faith Assembly in Summerville and touring their facilities, my first thought was, ‘I wish we could have that in our hometown of Walterboro’,” said Hunt. “I knew that Summerville’s Faith Church was doing something right, because they kept adding campuses and growing by leaps and bounds. So many people were being led to the Lord and lives were being changed, and I wanted our church to be a part of that. But I knew we were asking a lot of our congregation here. We were asking them to give up their church name and property, become a campus of Faith in Summerville and build something great in order to minister to the entire county. It says a lot about our people that they wanted to do what God wanted and were willing to follow Him,” Hunt added.
Faith Assembly property on Hampton Street went up for sale, and In His Name Ministries of Walterboro has purchased the campus to be used as a homeless shelter, food bank, soup kitchen and hurricane/tornado shelter.
Living Word property on Barracada is also up for sale. “Before putting the property up for sale and merging our churches, I went to Daniel and Sharon Cooper, former pastor and planter of Living Word,” said Hunt. “I was concerned that he would be hurt that the church he started would undergo such a change. But he was all for it. He was thrilled for us.”
Construction finally began and the finished product is amazing.
“We had a mess on our hands when we started,” said contractor Stephen Cruz. “The roof had fallen in, water had leaked everywhere, and we had to dig a three-foot slope into the foundation down toward the stage,” added Cruz.
“We had much-needed steel on a truck headed for our site when the hurricane hit and the highway patrol turned the trucks around on I-95 when the interstate closed. Then Covid-19 came through and one of our subcontractor’s employees tested positive for the virus. That stopped some of the work. When the tornado hit, other workers had to leave to take care of their shop. So, we have been through a hurricane, atornado, and a pandemic so far. But God is still taking care of us,” said Hunt.
During construction, Hunt, Associate Pastor Tim Gruber, worship leader Brittany Gruber, Cruz, DuBoise, volunteers and church members made sure they would never forget being blessed with the new church. Bible verses line every surface and beams behind the dry wall, and a Bible was reverently laid under the foundation of the stage.
The entire church is designed for ministry to the community. Stacy See, a local caterer and member of the church, designed the industrial kitchen. With several steel refrigerator/freezers, two sinks, a garbage disposal, buffet table on rollers, steel food prep counters, a three-minute dish washer, ovens, grills, convection oven and serving space, it is a true dream kitchen. Nearby are large lift doors where the church hopes to have a patio and serve dinners.
There is a second kitchen as well. See plans on opening a café near the front entrance that will be open to the public for breakfast and lunch during the week. It will have espresso, coffee, smoothies and pastries available. He also hopes to have salads and sandwiches. There is seating on hand for diners, too. “This is a blessing for the community,” said See. “For some people, this might be the only time a person ever sets foot in a church, so we hope to show them God’s love by using the kitchen.”
Nearby is an indoor playground and kids’ slides where the church plans on opening “Mom’s Morning Out” events to the public.
Further inside is a video game room and tables for LEGO designs. The room has several wall-mounted plasma televisions and lounge chairs for elementary, middle school and preteen kids.
An elementary auditorium was also included in the plans. The kids have their own large auditorium, screen and stage.
Large meeting rooms for students, young adults and adults with big screen televisions are throughout the building. Each huge room is surrounded with smaller classrooms or breakout rooms for every age group.
“We plan on having a ‘grand opening’ one day soon and inviting town leaders,” said Hunt. “But anyone and everyone is welcome here. We want to give back to the community and we hope this will become a community center,” said Hunt. “We want the community to be proud of it and take ownership of this building. This is not a denomination property, it’s a community property.”
After two years of work and 10 months of actual construction, everything is almost finished.
On May 1, the building was approved by the county, and on May 2, all inspections were finalized and approved. “Today is truly a day of celebration for me,” said Cruz. “Now, we are just waiting for the governor. But I see this church as God’s gift to the community. He has brought so many people together to make this possible. No one person can take credit for this.”
In 1991, Cruz left a lucrative career in order to minister. But God’s idea of ministry was for Cruz to continue doing what he had been doing all along … building. “I was kind of let down but realized that God wanted me to do this for Him. This type of story of how everything occurred with this church is why I do what I do,” said Cruz.
“When you look back and reflect, you can see that this was all impossible. It never could have happened without God’s hand on it,” said See.
“This is bigger and much more than I ever imagined. This is more than just a building,” said Hunt. “This is three churches coming together to work and serve together, which is a beautiful thing. And building something like this? It’s a miracle.”
“This place is a place to come and have an encounter with God,” said Ron DuBoise. “And an encounter with God will change your life.”