The membership of Oak Grove Baptist Church in North Little Rock had dwindled down to only four active members, all over the age of 50. They knew it was time to do something different, but there was a passion in the heart of the church to leave a legacy in the community. For about a year and a half, they were searching and praying for a way to continue the legacy and ministry of the church. Pastor Richard Ramsey began to have conversations with other pastors who were already invested in the community.
Through those conversations, and with the desire to leave a lasting legacy, the church made the difficult decision to close their doors after over 55 years. Oak Grove Baptist Church has a great legacy in the community and has been pastored over the years by some well-known men, including: former Trumpet Editor C.C. Bishop, who helped organize the church; the late Richard Walters, Jurl Mitchell, Jesse Thomas and Ron Mitchell; current Central Baptist College professors Dr. Joel Slayton and Dr. Virgil Porter; and other pastors, Burton Herring, Johnnie Hoffmann, Rodger Cole, Eugene Johnson, Lee Brown, Jimmy Brown, Richard Rodgers, Coyce Couch, Chris Maynard, Paul Boliou and Gene Craig.
Bro. Ramsey and the church have a great love for the community and as a result, they voted to “pay it forward” and continue their legacy in their community by donating the church property to the non-profit arm of a sister church. This will allow the ministry to be expanded and continue the legacy of Oak Grove Baptist Church in the community.
Graves Memorial Baptist Church (GMBC) is located less than two miles away from the Oak Grove property. A few years ago, GMBC started a non-profit organization that is focused on working to improve the overall quality of life for people living and working along the State Highway 365 corridor from North Little Rock to the Faulkner County line. This stretch of highway connects Little Rock to Conway and points northward. More than connecting cities, this winding path of asphalt is the artery that ties together small communities from Crystal Hill all the way to Palarm. The people who use this highway as a path to work and home reflect a rich and diverse community. Community Thrive 365 (CT365) works to give this unincorporated part of Pulaski County a voice, common goals and organization to strategically work to bring positive change to this area. Their goal is simple — to make the communities of Crystal Hill, Oak Grove, Marche, Morgan, Palarm and the various other neighborhoods along the Highway 365 corridor a better place to work and live.
Bro. Ramsey said, “It was time to let the church have new wings and we were convinced that God was leading them to donate the land and property to GMBC. While the closing of the church was the Lord’s will and the church knew it, I am glad that Graves was available and willing to continue the legacy of investing in the community. God blessed throughout the years of ministry and many people came to know the Lord. I thank Him for each changed life, and I pray that He will continue to use the facilities, along with the efforts of GMBC, to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus and that the legacy of Oak Grove Baptist Church will live on as lives are changed.”
CT365 will be taking over the church property located at 12118 MacArthur Drive. They are transitioning this property into “The Grove: A Center For Caring And Community.” Their hope is that, in the coming years, this center will become the home of countless community activities and programs. As part of their CT365 Community Cares initiative, they plan to use the building to offer a choice-based food pantry and, in the future, a store that will offer gently-used clothing, household items and furniture. CT365 will also use the property to begin hosting local farmers and craft markets, community events, an after school tutoring program and adult GED classes.
GMBC Pastor Travis Matthews said, “I find it amazing to see and experience Pastor Ramsey’s (and the church’s) kingdom focused heart. It is our prayer to see this building be a place where people see the hands and feet of Jesus through the volunteers. We believe as we reach out in this unique way, lives will be transformed through the power of the gospel.”
They have set Saturday, May 1 as the Grand Opening for The Grove. The building will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the outdoor market for people to walk through and see everything. They plan to be open each Saturday in May for the local farmers and craft market. You can find out more about the CT365 community initiative, including how to get involved yourself, by visiting their website at communitythrive365.com.