Welcome Detweiler (1908 - 1992)
Reflections Upon a Ministry
In the year 1908, in Bucks County Pennsylvania, two events were recorded. The birth of Helen Lear on March 15th and that of Welcome Detweiler on March 20th. Welcome, son of John and Ella Detweiler, accepted Christ as his Savior at the age of 14 while listening to the preaching of an evangelist in a one room country chapel. The Detweiler family was active in the Mennonite church in Bucks County. From the time of graduation from high school to 1935, Welcome Detweiler operated a produce business in Philadelphia. Roots however were established throughout those early years, and he decided to return to farming. Having married Helen Lear on May 26 1931, Welcome purchased the original Detweiler homestead from his parents and began farming the 97 acres. The new Detweiler family increased in size with the births of Jerry on Dec. 11,1935, Gladys on July 28 1937, and Cliff on May 28 1941. Professionally raising registered Holstein cattle and Percheron draft horses became Welcome's secular focus. In addition to his farming responsibilities, Welcome attended weekly Bible study classes to further his intense desire for knowledge of the Bible. At age 18, Welcome was encouraged by a preacher in an open-air meeting to "go out an preach the Word of God; if nothing else, share the wonder of salvation." It wasn't long before he began to preach in churches of various faiths.
By 1940 this farmer from Pennsylvania entered fulltime service as a song leader, personal worker and preacher .Prior to 1944, Lester Wilson an evangelist, aired a Bible focused radio program from Burlington, N.C. Many people living in the Durham area heard him present the gospel with unusual clarity. Ultimately, Mr. Wilson was invited to speak in Durham over a four night period. Responding to these needs in Durham, Lester Wilson rented an empty store building in North Durham Five Points in February 1944. A series of evangelistic services were held over a 4-6 week period. He utilized a large chart on the book of Revelation. A young man man from Pennsylvania was called to lead the singing.........Welcome Detweiler. Many people were saved, and upon completion of these meetings, Sunday and Thursday night services were instituted to instruct the young believers. Ultimately in October 1944, a young peoples group was formed under the leadership of Welcome Detweiler ("Mr.D"), Wallace Jackson, and Woody Murphy. Welcome Detweiler traveled between meetings in N.C., elsewhere and his home in Pennsylvania. From these meetings and in follow-up to months of prayer of seeking the Lord's guidance for service, came the decision by "Mr.D" to establish a community church in the fertile ground of North Carolina. In November 1944, a lot was purchased on Driver Avenue in East Durham, and a dream was born. Plans for construction of a church were based upon the size and shape of a limited amount of lumber purchased at a nominal fee from a small church on Baptist Road. Desiring to become active in the ministry in North Carolina, the Detweiler family moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina in January of 1945.
Reflections shared by Helen Detweiler
"Those were sometimes lonely,but more often exciting times. When work was slack on the farm, Dad would head off to a Gospel meeting. By this time he was actively following the Lord's leading in Durham. He would return home until the crops were in, etc., and then head back to North Carolina." When Welcome told Helen he felt called by the Lord into full-time permanent service in North Carolina, Helen responded with agreement and support." My only stipulation was that we have a house; the children were ages 10, 7 and 3 and needed a home." In Durham, Welcome searched for a home for his family, and the Lord led him to a 5 bedroom house which he purchased for $8,000.00. Following his next visit home, "Mr.D" returned to Durham with his farm truck loaded with furniture.
"The day to day farm operations fell to me, but again we could feel the hand of God upon us. Dad left notations for the price of livestock, and Jerry knew all the stock by name, but I knew very little of all that", said Helen. "At one point our most expensive cow was taken sick and I called the vet. The cow died, but meanwhile the vet had spoken with a man from New York who was looking around our area for registered livestock. I sold all the cows, and even the pigs! When the man from New York said he had to arrange for transportation of the stock, I sold him the truck. I told him the truck was currently in North Carolina, but Welcome would have it home soon and he could buy it as well." When Welcome arrived home, Helen informed him, "...everything is sold, and for the amount of $8,000.00. We left our home in Pennsylvania on January 11, 1945. The temperature was 10 degrees below zero, and we had car trouble on the way. The devil was active but we were sure we were in the Lord's will." It took the Detweiler family about 18 hours to reach Durham to begin a new life.
Church construction began with plans for a chapel seating 300 with a full basement for Sunday School rooms. The new Gospel Center was officially opened for Christian worship and Bible study on June 3,1945. The first Thanksgiving Bible Conference was held in November, 1945, and has continued to be an annual event throughout the church's history.
Interest in the church and attendance progressed steadily, and an expansion to the auditorium was completed in 1948. As this was wartime and lumber was scarce, Welcome negotiated with Camp Butner for the purchase of lumber from an old mess hall, for the amount of $400.00. The lumber was used for church expansion which raised the seating capacity to 650. God's grace and presence were visible, and expansion was again required in the spring of 1950 raising the seating capacity to 967 and adding a Sunday School department of 25 classrooms, plus a basement for a children's auditorium. As additional space was needed, four adjoining houses were purchased. Two houses were dismantled to provide for a parking area, one house was used for classrooms, and one house was utilized as an apartment for out-of-town speakers. Up to this point, the Detweiler family had the speakers and sometimes their families in their own home.
The year 1964 became a hallmark as a number of Christians in the Northgate area became more fervent in their desire to reach their own neighborhood with the Gospel. More than one-fourth of those attending the Gospel Center were led to leave and start a new Assembly, known now as Northgate Chapel. Meanwhile the original Gospel Center expanded once again in 1965. A gymnasium was constructed to accommodate the growing Awana program for youth. The building was also used for fellowship meetings and special events.
Larry Batts became "Mr.D's" associate in 1973 and provided a much needed helping hand in the ministries of the Center. Larry later went into full-time service, beginning in Burlington and later in Greensboro, North Carolina. Many Gospel Center brethren began moving away from the then deteriorating East Durham neighborhood,prompting church leaders to consider a move to a new location. In 1976, the Gospel Center brethren purchased an 8 acre site on Sherron Road. Procedure was implemented to make payments on the property over the next few years.
Mr. Rod Sharp of Scotland, a visiting speaker on several occasions, joined the Lord's work at the Center in January 1979. Although initially the plans were for a 9 month period, Rod remained at the Center for the next 10 years.
A number of Brethren were commended by the Gospel Center/Grove Park Chapel into full-time Christian ministry including: Woody Murphy, Preston Keith, Bill King, Larry Batts, Charlie Baker, Rod Sharp, Don Mitchell, Julian Stephenson and Worth Ellis. Roni Myers responded to the Lord's call for missionary service and worked on the mission field in Zambia.
Some brethren were undecided and reluctant concerning leaving the Center's original location. However a tragedy caused resistance to fade, prompting the unified decision to move to the new location. Following an evening service at the Center on August 19,1987, a pillar of the Brethren, Doris Gillie, age 51, was shot to death in the Assembly parking lot, the victim of an attempted robbery. Galvanized into action as a result of this tragedy, the decision was made to begin construction of a new sanctuary on the Sherron Road property. More than 200 brethren gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The new plans featured 18,894 square feet in building space with a sanctuary designed to hold 400 people, facilities for Sunday School classes, offices, a full size gym and a fellowship hall. The Assembly received a new name in keeping with it's new location...Grove Park Chapel. Construction was expected to take between 7 and 9 months, but lasted a year. During this transition period services were held in the Neal Middle School. The first worship service at Grove Park Chapel was held in July 1990.
The spiritual leadership of the Assembly was enhanced by the coming of Dale Brooks. Having been in the pastorate since 1977, then serving at Grace Bible Church in Raleigh N.C., Dale and Karen Brooks met Eric and Terre Hester in the autumn of 1989 through school activities for their eldest daughters. By this time the Assembly was in the transition period, and Rod Sharp had informed the elders of his move to Winston Salem. In December of 1990 the elders invited Dale Brooks to join Welcome Detweiler in full-time service at the Chapel. Dale and Karen felt assured of the Lord's calling, and joined the ministry at the Chapel on the first Sunday in February 1991.
Welcome Detweiler preached his final sermon at Grove Park Chapel on Sunday morning, March 29,1992. Drawing from the First Epistle of John, he taught the evidences of genuine conversion. It was to be the first of a two part message, but we must wait until we arrive in glory, to hear the second part. On Tuesday, March 31 1992, "Mr.D" was hospitalized, but even then was both seen and heard witnessing to the nursing and medical staff. The love he had for his Savior was real, and he was always eager to share the Good News of Salvation. On Thursday, April 2,1992 at about 7:00 P.M., "Mr.D" went home to be with his Lord. The addition of Dale Brooks to Grove Park Chapel was a visible blessing, and Helen Detweiler has shared that "Dad was pleased; the Chapel had a good man in place."
Welcome Detweiler, lovingly called "Mr.D" by many fellow saints, may be remembered as both a true pioneer and true evangelist. In addition to many messages in the Voices for Christ library, there are also musical recordings from the "old days" at the original Gospel Center here in Durham, N.C. These are wonderful renditions by the Gospel Center Choir, and were used in many radio broadcasts by "Mr.D."
From the glorious wonderful days of the Blue Ridge and Bristol Conferences, and then progressing forward through the ensuing years, Welcome Detweiler will be well remembered as a great evangelist and man of God.
Article donated in part by The Detweiler Family, February,1997
All messages by Welcome Detweiler, All messages in English
|Speaker||Title and Tags||Date||Place||Lang|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Worry ~ Romans 5;1 Romans||1986-05-28||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Do You Enjoy The Lord's Supper ~ Luke 22;14 Luke||1986-08-24||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Two Roads ~ Revelation 21: Revelation||1986-11-02||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Russia ~ Ezekiel 38; Ezekiel||1987-02-15||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||2 Timothy 3:12 ~ 2 Timothy 3;12 2Timothy||1987-07-22||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Joshua 1-7 ~ Joshua 1-7 Joshua||1987-11-18||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||Acts 1:1-11 ~ Acts 1;1-11 Acts||1988-02-07||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||The Coming Of Our Lord ~ 1 Thessalonians 4;1 1Thessalonians||1988-09-25||unavailable|
|Detweiler, Welcome||SE Workers Conference 1989-09 ~ Biblical Expectation Of An Assembly||-- 1989 --||unavailable|