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Community restores historic prayer house
Zion Church
Richmond Hill residents came together June 12 to celebrate the grand reopening of Zion Baptist Church Prayer House, which had sat vacant for more than 40 years before Eugene Harris, with the help of many volunteers, restored the historic building off 144

On June 12, residents of Richmond Hill came together to celebrate the grand re-opening of Zion Baptist Church Prayer House, located at the intersection of Brisbon Road and Highway 144.

Established in 1899, the church has been vacant for over 40 years. Naturally the church became dilapidated. It took a community wide effort to restore the church. Now it looks better than it did before, thanks to Eugene Harris.

Two years ago, Harris decided to take on a personal project to restore the old prayer house.

“You couldn’t walk around here. This was all growed up. You couldn’t even walk to the nearby canal,” Harris said. He came to the piece of property everyday, doing a little bit at a time on the field.

It wasn’t until Harris started working on the prayer house itself when help arrived.

“I started cleaning off the place. I thought I was doing a good job. Then I got to the building, I did that last. I thought to myself ‘maybe if I can put a coat of paint on here maybe I can get some help and it worked. I painted with a roller, I put the first coat of paint on there. The windows were gone. I started praying, I said: “Father I need some help”. He sent Lila and Jeff. That’s who he sent. When they came in and started helping me. Man! It started growing.”

Lila and Jeff Scott were looking for a community project to work on with their small church group.

One day Lila Scott ran across an article featuring Harris and his restoration efforts in the Reflections Magazine. “I said to Jeff ‘wouldn’t this be perfect’? It’s a church and I just love that! I never heard of a prayer house and I asked him (Jeff) ‘do you think our group would want to do this’? It touched their (other members of the small group) hearts and we felt like God wanted it to be done too.”

The Scotts found someone to help them set up a Go Fund Me page. $4,980 was raised for the community project. Mr. Scott started calling contractors and explained to them what their goal was. Through word of mouth volunteers came to pitch in.

Whenever there was a specific need to be met someone always showed up in the nick of time. One day Harris was at the prayer house trying to figure out how to get new wood floors when a tiler showed up unexpectedly.

“A young man was riding his bike one day and he stopped by to see what we were doing. He asked us ‘Do you want a floor?.

‘Yeah a wood floor’.

‘I can do tile’.

‘ I said ok’.

So he supplied the tile, the labor, everything. He did a great job.”

Covid 19 slowed the process a little, but not much. Volunteers wore masks and continued working. New windows, a fire pit and electricity was installed. New steps and a fresh coat of paint were added to the prayer house.

All of the underbrush was cleared by the prayer house so visitors can walk the path to the nearby creek.

Now that the prayer house is restored Harris expects members of the community to stop by and use the prayer house as a place to sit still or to pray.

Prayer house restoration
Jeff and Lila Scott with Eugene Harris, right, at Saturday’s celebration of the restoration of the Prayer House. Photos by Ashley Watson.
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