By John Armistead

Daily Journal

For the last 22 years, T.C. Dunlap never missed a day of work as operator of a front-end loader at American Colloid in Aberdeen. A quiet man, he did his job, took care of his family and saved his money.

Life had been good to T.C. Dunlap. Yet something gnawed at his mind. Like King Josiah of old, Dunlap was bothered by the fact that the house of God had fallen into disrepair.

Specifically, the resident of the Parham community in Monroe County thought about the Wallace Chapel Church of Christ. The church was one in which his wife Alene had grown up, as had her people before her. In fact Dunlap and his wife Alene had raised their own children in the church. For over two decades it had been abandoned.

“It just went down,” he said of the old church. “People died and moved away. There just wasn’t enough to keep it going.” So, it was abandoned. Dunlap and his family began attending church services in Amory. Deserted, the old facility went to ruin.

One man’s dream

But, a dream began to form in Dunlap’s heart as he drove his family the 12 miles back and forth to Amory. The dream was to build a church himself for the folks in his own community. He would build it with his own hands and with his own money. He would build it for his grandchildren and the grandchildren of his neighbors. The only thing stopping him was lack of time.

Dunlap, 64, retired recently. He set about at once making his dream a reality. “I drew it out first,” he said, referring to the small wood-framed structure. “Then we cleared the land and started building.” The site for the church was located on Dunlap’s own 34-acre stand of timberland.

“Then we got the materials and me and my wife started making the forms for the foundation,” he said.

A will and a way

The Dunlaps began work in October. They worked through the bitter cold of November and early December, determined to hold the first worship service by Christmas. Family members pitched in with some of the labor. The Dunlaps’ three daughters and two sons-in-law helped when they could.

The Dunlaps paid cash for the materials, using part of their retirement savings. “It was the best thing I could have done with my money,” Dunlap said. “You can spend your money on yourself, but then it’s gone.”

Currently, 16 individuals gather at the church to worship on Sundays. The congregation hopes soon to secure a pastor. It is the only black Church of Christ in the community.

“We named it Wallace Chapel Church of Christ,” Dunlap said, “after the old church.”

“We just thank God that he blessed us to do this,” added Mrs. Dunlap.

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