By JOEY REISTROFFER
CHESNEE Margaret Walker knows the empty, soulless feeling of faith lost. It happened to her, and she endured an excruciating period in life without the Lord.
Now she is back, having clawed her way out of the darkness. Her faith today is rock solid in Christ, and she does not want anyone else journeying down that path to nowhere.
When a church burns down, people ask why, get confused and lose faith, she said. Their beliefs become gutted in the ashen ruins. Those who torch these sanctuaries are filled with hate, and they in turn, create bitterness in those who have lost their church.
Walker’s mission is to stop this cycle of hate, so she has started the Bible Outreach Program. Her goal is simple: Send 50 Bibles to each church that has been victimized by hate crimes.
eaching that goal, however, is a bit more complex.
First, she called the State Law Enforcement Division to obtain a list of all the churches in South Carolina that have been burned down or hit by hate crimes in the past 10 years. There are more than 70 churches, Walker said, so she is trying to raise enough money to buy more than 3,500 Bibles.
And that is just in South Carolina. Eventually, she wants to go national with the Bible Outreach Program.
“You can’t sit by and watch the hate go on,” Walker said. “I’m trying to replenish a lot of faith. We’ve been taught to spread the word of God, and that’s what I’m doing.”
She called it her duty. “God wants me to do this,” Walker said. “It is now a personal mission.”
She has the drive and the skills to pursue this mission. Walker, who attends Sacred Heart in Gaffney, earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration.
She is very cost-conscious and learned that she could purchase a King James version of the Bible at the Dollar Tree for only $1. “You can’t send a Baptist Church a Catholic Bible,” she explained.
Next, she talked with businesses in Cherokee and Spartanburg counties who were interested in letting her put up donation jars in their stores, along with fliers explaining her mission.
Several pitched in, including the True Value Hardware Store, Turner’s Family Restaurant and Pic-a-Flick Videos in Chesnee as well as the Quick Mart in Gaffney, among others.
Then she added a business sponsorship program. For businesses who donate, she is sending their business cards along with the Bibles to these churches in need.
Walker also established a Post Office Box where folks can send in their donations. It is P.O. Box 504, Chesnee, SC 29323.
The program has been fruitful. She already has donated 250 Bibles to five churches. They are New Salem Zion in Pacolet, Macedonia Baptist in Manning, St. Paul AME in Sumter, Goodwill Presbyterian in Mayesville and Rocky Mount Baptist in Greenville.
Walker said Rocky Mount Baptist truly was touched by her Bibles. “They had lost everything in the fire, and they called back and said they were thrilled to get the Bibles.” The church is using the new Bibles for baptism gifts.
Walker knows how good it feels to regain faith, because she lost hers when a drunken driver hit her in the family van in 1991. “He crippled a lot more than just my back,” she said. The van accident created a financial crisis in her family. The troubles reached a fever pitch, and she said she couldn’t find anyone to lean on or seek comfort from. Not even the church was there for her, she said.
So she left. “I lost faith in my faith,” Walker said.
The ’90s was a difficult decade for Margaret Walker. She had a bad back, had trouble finding a job and was trying to raise three children with her husband, Jerry.
So she went to school and earned her degree in business administration.
Still, she could not find work. “I felt so useless,” Walker said.
Then about a year ago, one of her good friends died. “I gave him a hug the day he died,” Walker said.
She thought long and hard about life and death. “I didn’t know where I would end up if I passed away the next day,” she said. Then chose to come back to Christ.
She went back to Sacred Heart and met with then pastor Father James LeBlanc, where she made a promise.
“I told him, ‘If the church doesn’t cave in when I walk into it, then I’ll be back.'”
She walked into the church. It didn’t cave in, and she came back.
“He gave me a big hug, and that meant a lot,” Walker said. She has been faithful ever since. “I know how fragile life is,” she added.
Walker even went on the pulpit at Sacred Heart, asking the parishioners to donate to the Bible Outreach Program, and they pitched in $130.
The Bible Outreach Program started out like gangbusters the first couple of weeks, Walker said, with people proudly pitching in when they heard about the need. In the past few weeks, however, donations have tapered off, and Walker is trying to kick-start community efforts again.
It is not a one-day effort, Walker said. It is a mission. “This is a good program,” Jerry Walker said. “It helps put Bibles in the hands of those who, otherwise, wouldn’t get one.
“She’ll keep pursuing it,” he said. He should know. He knows her better than anybody else.
And Jerry Walker supports his wife in her journey of faith. “I can’t imagine anybody destroying a church,” he said. “I know sin is sin, but I can’t imagine how you explain why you burned a church down on Judgment Day.”
The Walker family can’t imagine people who perform hate crimes, and after straying from the Lord for so many years, they can’t imagine living without his guidance anymore. The Walker’s have rebuilt their faith.
In fact, they have a rock in their front yard that says, “Our faith is built on this rock.”
It’s a solid foundation, and with the Bible Outreach Program, they are continuing to build on it.