Church endures hardships to rebuild

Published 10:30 pm Saturday, July 22, 2017

Little Zion Baptist Church has seen a lot of hardships in the last year, but with community support and lots of prayers, members hope their tiny rural church can eventually stand tall once again.

Little Zion was built on Sleepy Hole Road in 1888. But the church deteriorated over the years, prompting the congregation to stop holding services at the site and beginning to raise money for repairs. A “Help SAVE Little Zion Baptist Church” Facebook page was set up in August 2016.

The page was made by Troy Massey, a close friend of Pastor Keith Mayfield Sr. Massey, 59, made the page on the same day he died in a car accident on the James River Bridge, one year ago this August.

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“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” said Tiffany Massey Timms, Massey’s daughter.

Massey met Mayfield eight years ago when Massey was working to open a recovery ministry for individuals battling alcoholism and drug abuse.

A recovering alcoholic with more than a decade of sobriety and a determination to help others, Massey was known as the “Hope Dealer” and helped found the Emma Stantliff Foundation in 2012 to provide support for those struggling with addiction, named after his grandmother.

“I have a total understanding of the calling in my life, but if another person can be this passionate, then I can always find passion.” Mayfield said. “That’s what he left me.”

Massey’s passing brought together Timms and Mayfield to save the church. Mayfield said the dream is to rebuild the former church and use it as an annex for a new church right next door.

Blueprints have been drafted for the new church building, which is estimated to cost about $250,000, Mayfield said. Volunteer labor is expected to be provided by local supporters.

The old church building, with a large tarp with “Help Save Little Zion Baptist Church” painted on it and covering a fallen wall, was condemned in February. A structural engineer determined that repairs were possible, and the specifics for those repairs are pending, Timms said.

The church has received more than $10,000 in financial support from community donors, and more than $25,000 has been committed by contractors via volunteer labor, Mayfield said. In June, Timms raised $425 with a yard sale at her Norfolk residence.

All donations go to the “Troy Massey Building Fund.”

“I’m just grateful for her diligence,” Mayfield said about Timms. “I don’t have words to express her efforts and her continued faith on this.”

Timms and Mayfield have faced difficulties working with the city to meet the necessary requirements. Other setbacks have arisen from Mayfield’s sickle cell anemia complications, which causes the body to make abnormally shaped red blood cells that can block blood flow in limbs and organs.

“It’s very painful,” Mayfield said. “It’s a constant, daily issue, dealing with the pain in different parts of my body.”

Mayfield has had surgery on both shoulders because of sickle cell complications over the years, and last week he had a stroke that weakened the right side of his body.

“The right side of my face just drooped,” he said. “That’s come back, but the weakness on my right side is still there.”

Despite doctors’ recommendations, the 59-year-old Mayfield was mowing the lawn at the Little Zion Baptist Church property on Friday.

“This is who I’ve come to know,” Timms said. “This is him. It’s an amazing effort that he gives, and he doesn’t let up.”

Mayfield said his desire is to be productive and helpful, as he’s guided by his spiritual convictions and Massey’s memory. His memory convinces him that no goal is too difficult.

“Our purpose is to worship and continue to make a difference in this community,” he said. “We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.”

Donations can be made to the Little Zion Baptist Church Rebuild GoFundMe page, and upcoming fundraisers are detailed on the Facebook page. Call 252-996-0458 for more information.