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Minister’s visit to help connect Johnson City, Liberian churches

Jennifer Sprouse • Jul 4, 2013 at 2:21 PM

In celebration of the accomplishments of two former slaves, both of whom were founding fathers of Baptist congregations, a local church has plans to follow in the footsteps of one of the founders while creating permanent connections to a church in Liberia.

Thankful Baptist Church, 1501 E. Watauga Ave., will host the visit of the Rev. Dr. Samuel B. Reeves, current pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Monrovia, Liberia, in West Africa, on Saturday and Sunday.

Deacon Handerson Bennah of Thankful Baptist, said a reception in honor of Reeves will be held Saturday at 4 p.m. at Emmanuel Christian Seminary, 1 Walker Drive, and on Sunday Reeves will be the guest speaker at the church’s 10 a.m. service.

“In addition to that, we are planning to establish a sister church relationship with Providence Baptist Church and Thankful Baptist Church,” Bennah said.

He said both churches reflect similar roots, including the connection of being founded by former slaves, which has inspired the churches’ collaboration.

Providence Baptist Church was founded in 1821 by the Rev. Lott Carey, who was born in Charles City County, Va., approximately 30 miles east of Richmond, according to Bennah. He said Carey was ordained a minister in First Baptist Church in Richmond and then traveled by ship from Norfolk, Va., to Liberia.

Thankful Baptist Church’s founder was former slave the Rev. Horace Leftwich, who founded the church in 1872, as well as other congregations across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, according to Bennah.

He said Thankful Baptist’s hosting Reeves also lays the foundation for a journey the congregation plans to make, called “In the ‘footsteps’ of Rev. Lott Carey.”

“We’re going to be tracing the roots of Lott Carey,” he said.

Bennah said some of Thankful’s members will first travel to Richmond, where they will visit Carey’s birthplace and then attend a service at First Baptist Church, where Carey was ordained. He said church members will then visit Norfolk, where they will board a plane to Liberia.

“Once in Liberia, we will have service with Providence Baptist Church. There is a school that Lott Carey built and that school is called Lott Carey Mission School,” Bennah said. “There is also a community there named after Lott Carey, it’s called Careysburg.”

He said the “In the ‘footsteps’ of Rev. Lott Carey” program does not have a definitive starting date, but said he hopes the church members will be able to make the trip sometime next year.

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