WAXAHACHIE — A "purpose driven church" is the motto that has guided the members of Samaria Missionary Baptist Church in Waxahachie for many years. On Friday and Saturday, volunteers will put that motto into action as they help make repairs to the building that has served the community since 1864.

“Some of our friends have pitched in trying to help us restore this church back to somewhat of its original form. Right now we are involved foundation work. In which we are replacing a lot of beams and a lot of rotten lumber. So they are putting in an inter-floor under this floor to try and stabilize it before we get into doing the walls, the inside and the roof,” Samaria Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Henry Wyatt said. “The church over the years had deteriorated a lot due to water coming in from the creek at the back of the church. Underground it seeps and is standing under the church and creates a lot of damage to the building. We have water coming in through roof down through the ceiling over a number of years.”

Wyatt said the building was damaged during serve weather conditions two years ago, which caused the building to shift. The winds caused ceiling tiles to fall landing near the pulpit in the sanctuary.

“That is what got us looking at what was going on. That is when we discovered the major damage that was done and what we would have to try and do to repair all of this,” Wyatt said. “We were then and still not financially able to do it on our own.”

Samaria Missionary Baptist Church has a unique connection to history and has been home to generations of Waxahachie residents.

“A group of slaves got together, and they were having service under an Oak tree and they made a decision to build a building. That is how this building originally got started,” Wyatt said. “They would work all week long in the fields in different places and get together with whatever time that they had would construct this building,”

Church Deacon Robert Pitts said the church was also a stop on the Underground Railroad for slaves who were trying to reach the north for freedom. The bell at the church would signal it was safe to move around.

“There was a place that they would go underneath this building and wait to be moved at night,” Pitts said.

Pitts said he has been a lifelong member of the church and has many special moments here.

“Ever since I was born this has been my church. It is like home. This is where I was raised up in. This is where I was taught to learn about the Lord,” Pitts said. “There used to be special moments where we had the choir loaded down. This was once one of the biggest churches in Waxahachie. We are trying to get back to that. Once we get everything organized people will start coming back home. I am hoping that everything will work out to where we will become one successful community.”

Working alongside Samaria Missionary Baptist Church members are members of the Waxahachie Project. According to the group's Facebook page, the Waxahachie Project exists to unite community leaders, business leaders, non-profits, churches, and educational institutions to work for the good of our city. This goal achieved by embracing a shared understanding of Waxahachie's greatest needs & strengths and measures for continual health and growth.

“The pastor of that church, Pastor Henry Wyatt had reached out for help. Their building is in need of some serious repair. The foundation in a lot of ways is crumbling. You walk up and down a hill basically in the main sanctuary. So it is in great need. A local home builder said he would come in and assist but ultimately being that it is a church this is an opportunity for the churches to lead the way,” Waxahachie Project Member Andy Lehmann said. “Since that time there have been many conversations in churches throughout the community where the churches of Waxahachie are coming together and say they want to be a part and helping to serve our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and honor the history of a very significant historical site.”

Lehmann said construction work at the church is a small part of the project. Building community and lasting relationships are the goals of the two workdays. He added that this is the first of many opportunities that we can pursue as the churches to lead the way in addressing needs in our community.

People who wish to volunteer can sign up online at www.jhoustonhomes.com/site/sections/136. There are two work shifts from 8:30 a.m.—1 p.m. and noon—4:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Pre-registration is required to take part in the workdays. Samaria Baptist Church is located at 508 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Waxahachie.

— Follow Andrew on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AndrewBrancaWDL or Twitter at www.twitter.com/AndrewBrancaWNI. Contact him at abranca@waxahachietx.com or 469-517-1451.