Saints in Sturgis, Mississippi Suffer for Christ: An Update
West Columbia, Texas
As we pointed out earlier, the church of Christ at Sturgis, Mississippi began in 1974 with the conversion of Lela McCarter. This was the result of evangelism by the Lee Blvd. church in nearby Starkville. When the Sturgis church building was constructed about 1984, these brethren were put under the oversight of the Lee Blvd. church. Sturgis was told to send their Lord's day contribution to Lee Blvd. and the deed to Sturgis' property was put in Lee Blvd.'s name. The Sturgis brethren learned the truth about the autonomy of the church and requested in early 1988 that their treasury and deed be turned over to them, in keeping with the Scriptures.
The Lee Blvd. church relinquished Sturgis' treasury but retained the deed to Sturgis' property, though they offered to sell Sturgis the property for $35,000. When additional efforts were made in late 1990 to persuade Lee Blvd. to give the Sturgis deed to the Sturgis brethren, the deed was transferred instead to a third church: the Hwy. 82 church in Starkville. The Hwy. 82 church planned to sell the property and evict the Sturgis' brethren. When the Sturgis church asked for help in resolving this injustice, brother Thomas D. Keenum, Sr. of Booneville, Mississippi recommended that Sturgis offer $17,000 to Hwy. 82 to settle for the property. Brother Keenum, an elder in the church at Booneville and an attorney, is working at his own expense to help the Sturgis brethren.
The Hwy. 82 church agreed to sell the Sturgis church building to the Sturgis church for $17,000 but set a deadline of May 1991 to receive the money. Brother Keenum told Hwy. 82 that more time would be needed to raise the money, and understood that Hwy. 82 accepted this arrangement. Appeals for individual help in raising the money began appearing during June and July 1991 in gospel papers published by faithful brethren. The response has been good. As this "Update" is being prepared in mid-July, well over $3,000 has been received by the Sturgis brethren!
Right when the brethren at Sturgis could see light at the end of the tunnel, they received a shocking notification. The Hwy. 82 church notified the Sturgis brethren to vacate the Sturgis church building because it has been sold to a denominational group for S19, 000! Furthermore, Hwy. 82 says they have already spent the money on a building program for themselves!
Rather than take the Lee Blvd. and Hwy. 82 churches to court, brother Keenum urged the Sturgis brethren to suffer the wrong and let the final accounting be made at the Judgment Bar of God. He has urged them to find another piece of land to purchase, offered to provide free any needed legal services to secure a clear deed, and promised to locate brethren who will donate their labor to construct a new meeting place. He estimates that a modest building could be put up for about $20,000, including the land and materials.
The church at Sturgis has suffered the loss of its property but not of its faith in God's Word, its love of truth, and its hope in the Lord. Like Paul, they can say,
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
These good brethren are already searching for a new piece of property. In the meantime, they are continuing to faithfully worship and serve the Lord.
Our hearts are touched to the point of tears when we think of how this band of saints has been abused, robbed, and defrauded by people professing to be brethren. Error and liberalism have no ethics. Error and liberalism make great professions of love, but John had such apostate brethren in mind when he warned of their hatred and their abusive conduct:
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:14-15,18).
Those who love the Lord, the truth, and the brethren have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that love "in deed and in truth" toward the saints in Sturgis. Let us unite our hearts in prayer on their behalf. Let those who have the ability send $5, $25, $50, $ 100, or whatever we can to the Sturgis Church of Christ Building Fund, P.O. Box 418, Booneville, MS 38829. The need is real and urgent! Act without delay!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 17, p. 517