Monday, May 7, 2007

Photographic history of Cataboo Baptist Church

From my dad's memoirs:
The Cataboo Baptist Church was a large shack with a thatch roof, down on the sea level in a swamp area. On one occasion during a service the floor suddenly dropped about six inches while I was preaching. We had some precious times in that old building, with many salvation decisions and baptisms. The church had bought a new piece of land and Jim (Green) was eager to begin construction on a building.

after a Baptism
those dressed in white were the believers who were baptized

We baptized in the YS River a couple miles down the road from the church. I recall the first baptism, how I was a bit apprehensive. Alligators frequented the spot, and would come up onto the road in the evenings searching for stray goats, chickens, and small farm animals. However, the church folk said they would seldom see them early in the day.

We baptized at seven o'clock in the morning. One of our deacons would help me into the river near the bridge, and stay with me till the baptism was over. As I entered the water I stared into the tall morass for any sight of alligators. The water was clear at first, then muddied as the candidates came and went. the people had built a small "changing room" near the river bank, out of thatch for the candidates and myself, and these were precious times with the people. A great service followed in the thatch roof church, and no one seemed concerned about time.

The new building would be made from cut limestone, which was easy for a stone mason to work with. A Christian mason was located and before Jim left to join Edna in Oshawa, a 20X40 foundation was built. Jim had introduced me as a builder simply because I had a truck that could transport materials.

One of the problems we faced in the building project was mosquitoes. It was a 17-mile drive from our home at Rock Cliffe, and when I arrived at 4am each day I could hear the steady low roar from the pests. We would build a smudge fire upwind and the smoke would help to drive them away. The men from the Cataboo community went to work early in the morning planting rice along the river. I would prepare the materials, and they would come to church to work on the building after they finished planting, arriving between 8 and 9.

We continued to build until the church ran out of funds, and then began a building project at Forest Mountain Baptist Church. I found the same enthusiasm there, and we worked many long hours, even spending an entire week near the end of the project on the site without going home. I slept in the church, cooked breakfast on a small kerosene burner, and the women of the church cooked lunch and dinner for the men and myself. There were many nights that I told the men that I would work as late as they were able to, and quite often we never quit until 11:30pm.

The new building at Cataboo was finally finished and dedicated in 1955.

the crowd at the dedication service

front row, L to R
Jack McKillop (my dad)
Leander Robbin (Benton Street Baptist Church - Kitchener, ON)
Jim Green (missionary)
G. W. Smith (pioneer missionary with the work in Jamaica)

another view from a few years later

Currently they are in the process of constructing a new building around the old.

As I reflect on those early days, it seems that I may have been thinking too small, not anticipating the potential for growth.

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