Founding Pastor Donald Grizzle
and his wife, Merle
Gethsemane Baptist Church: IT’S BEGINNING
Narrated by Founding Pastor Donald Grizzle
In November of 1979 while riding on Level Grove Road, God impressed me to pull over and pray on a piece of property. The reason for my prayer was to claim ground for an Independent Baptist Church in the Cornelia city area. The work was to be new and not a break-off of any other church. Six and one-half years later the church was birthed. The first meeting was held in the living room of our home on rural route four of Clarkesville.
Arriving at a church name was not easy. Prayer was made that an answer would come clearly, between the two names that seemed most significant (Heritage or Gethsemane Baptist Church). While talking to God, a request was made for a certain amount of money to be given on a definite Sunday while visiting another church service. If the money came in it would be Gethsemane. If not it would be Heritage. Leaving the church service and having lunch with one of the members without the item being mentioned in any way, a gift in the amount prayed for was given as I was leaving for home. Gethsemane it was!
The date was May 11, 1986. The first service was opened by voting to support the home office of the International Board of Jewish Missions of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The five of us meeting agreed on $25 a month. We were living the admonition to the Jew first. Return Baptist Church had given an offering in light of our new work of $133.00 prior to our first meeting, so we gave from those proceeds.
Our home became the meeting place until November 1986. We moved to the Old Whitfield/Perkins Funeral Home of Baldwin, GA. Only a few weeks into this rental property, we were caught in the middle of a disagreement between city officials and our landlord for renting to a church whose minimum feet from a beer joint was not met. We moved to 23 Clarkesville Street, Cornelia, into a store-front building. This would be our home for one and one-half years. Plans were made to duly organize the church. The date was April 12, 1987.
There were 13 names of chartered members added that day and a high of 57 in Sunday School later in the year. We moved two doors down into 25 Clarkesville Street that was previously an Assembly of God Church. They would leave us their pews and pulpit furniture. What a blessing! This was our meeting place for seven years. Missions have always been a priority and yearly focus. By our 30th month we were giving $300 dollars a month to World Missions.
In 1992 we purchased 5.09 acres of land at the corner of Chase Road and Old Hwy. U.S. 441, now called Furniture Drive. Clearing the property was a challenge, but rewarding, as work days were scheduled often. Our first meeting on this property came in the way of Easter Sunset Services. Easter Sundays we would place bales of hay for seats to sit on, praying, singing and testifying. Bible reading and some preaching would highlight these times. One and one-half years later we were debt-free of the $50,000 dollars it took to purchase the land.
Our first building was completed and moved in by December 15th of 1995. An addition of a Rondette Building (13-sided octagonal structure) was a gift from two school teachers of the Atlanta area. The Rondette was dismantled from Lake Burton and finally re-erected in April of 1996. The present addition came in 2006 and was dedicated in September of 2007 debt-free. We are truly blessed!
The same beliefs, principles, visions, and love for God that began the church in 1979 continue in the church today. More than anything, our mission is to share the Word of God and lead the lost to Jesus.