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Construction project continues at Sharon Baptist

A classic Journey song declares, “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Many years earlier, the one whose life founded the Christian church spoke those same words.

In Matthew 18:20 of the King James Bible, Jesus is quoted as saying, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

This two millennia old promise is the backbone of Sharon Baptist Church, which began in October, 1968, at the Ironton home of Danny Tackett.

And that promise keeps building and building.

What began as a group of five souls coming together privately to worship their savior has evolved into a congregation of approximately 800 members focused on spreading the gospel to the masses.

In 1972, thanks in considerable part to construction wizard Lamar O’Bryant, the church was able to build its own house of worship, which is where it stands today at 2010 S. 5th St.

Now, the church, led by the Rev. Steve Harvey, is being expanded by another Biblical staple: Faith. That faith is adding another 11,000 square feet to the building.

Builders for Christ, a national organization of men, women and children who volunteer to build the Body of Christ through construction, along with volunteers from the SBC congregation, have worked feverishly the past several months to have the additional facility open for its 2010 Easter services.

Deacon Jack Lewis, who is also chairman of the SBC building committee, is in awe of the entire process unfolding before his eyes.

“This is just an enormous blessing,” Lewis said of the addition to the church. “I’m 73-years-old and never in my lifetime did I ever think I would be involved in something this big.”

Lewis isn’t talking about the size of the project. He’s talking about the size of the blessing.

From financial hurdles to manpower issues, it seemed a mountain stood before his committee at every turn. But, the blessings always took them to the peak.

Donations from the congregation, one made anonymously for the whopping sum of $100,000, began to erode any doubts in Lewis’ mind that God was working His magic in this house of worship. Other mountains, however, like securing a loan to fund the project and affording the steep cost of construction, kept planting themselves firmly in the path of progress.

But, as Lewis alluded, God is in the mountain moving business.

The appearance of Builders for Christ proved to Lewis and the SBC congregation something they already knew; that anything can be accomplished by faith.

“All they ask to do is work for the local people,” Lewis said of the Builders for Christ, incredulous of their kindness. “That’s their mission.”

Separate groups within the organization have found their way to Ironton to assist in building the addition to the church. “We had 15 people from Talahassee, Fla., who installed the duct work for our heating and air conditioning,” Lewis said, pointing around at the various gratis work performed in the new cathedral. “Then, we had a group from Birmingham, Ala., who framed and built the walls. Now we have seven people from Powder Springs, Georgia, installing the insulation.”

Mickey O’Kelley, a member of Burnt Hickory Baptist Church in Powder Springs, took a break from insulating to describe his simple reason for helping strangers in need.

“It’s a blessing for us to do this,” he said, noting that his crew has also spent time working on areas of New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. “This is my calling,” he continued. “We go where the Lord leads us and, this year, it’s Ironton, Ohio.”

The blessings appear to go both ways in this scenario.

“It seemed like every time a door shut, a bigger door opened,” Lewis said with a laugh, recalling the many setbacks his church was able to overcome. “Like our saying goes here, ‘God is up to something good at Sharon Baptist Church.’”

Perhaps no one knows that as much as Danny Tackett.

The retired electrician and project volunteer couldn’t hold his emotions when describing the magnitude of the blessings bestowed upon what is quite literally his “home” church.

“God works miracles,” he said just before getting choked up. “It’s just been….”

“I think we all feel like that,” Lewis said, picking up where his friend left off.

“We pray a lot and we believe those prayers are being answered.”

Lewis and Tackett may not be Journey fans, but it is very clear that they and their fellow parishioners are Jesus fans.

They’ve never stopped believing.