Scott Farwell, Dallas Morning News, July 20
FLOYD, Texas — God may work in mysterious ways, but that is little comfort to Luanne Moody.
She’s lived in the same mobile home for 27 years, and she knows all her neighbors, the names of their dogs and the throaty signature of each pickup that eases past her place.
But not for long.
Moody and most of her neighbors are white, though soon they may be in the minority.
The Redeemed Christian Church of God — Africa’s largest and most ambitious evangelical church — plans to build a 10,000-seat sanctuary, two elementary school-size lecture centers, a dormitory, several cottages, a lake and a Christian-themed water park across a creek bottom from Moody’s homestead.
The project that one senior pastor described as a “Christian Disneyland” is still in the early stages. So far, the Nigeria-based church has spent between $1 million and $3 million on about 500 acres of pasture — more land than the proposed Dallas Cowboys stadium complex in Arlington, Texas.
Moody and her neighbors say they expect heavy machinery to roll in any day. The Caddo Basin Special Utility District punched through an 8-inch water line in June, and a local company has been hired to put in a high-capacity sewer system.
“I don’t like to be called a racist, but I don’t like to be overrun, either,” Moody said recently, sitting under her carport in Mockingbird Estates, a patchwork of modest homes, tree-studded land and rock roads.
“They live different, they think different, they have different cultures,” she said. “I don’t have any problem with black people. . . I just feel uncomfortable in large numbers of them.”
Call it redneck, race-baiting, irrational or ignorant, but for many people who live in Floyd, a fading railroad stop on the rural fringes of Hunt County, Texas, Moody’s comments reflect their reality.
Danota Meeks said she’s worried that real estate values will dip, crime will spike, and her country way of life will vanish.
“I’d hate to have one of those Jasper, Texas, kind of things,” she said, referring to the gruesome dragging death of a black man by three white racists in 1998. “I’d hate for those people to come out here for salvation and redemption and not feel welcome.”
In Dallas, at the church’s regional headquarters, Pastor Ajibike Akinkoye (pronounced A-kin-coy-eh), a former language and literature professor who has taught in Nigeria and at the University of Texas at Dallas, tried but failed to suppress a smile when asked about the talk.
He said church leaders knew there would be some hype and hysteria about the project. He said he’s been told the Ku Klux Klan is still active in the area.
“They may not welcome us, but we are not afraid of them,” Akinkoye said. “In fact, maybe God sent us there so we can bring them to the Lord . . . to chase them out of the darkness and to bring them into the marvelous light of God.”
Ultimately, he said, only one color will matter in Floyd and the surrounding community.
“Whether you’re black or white, money has only one color, green,” he said. “Whether you’re Ku Klux or evangelical (Christian), a dollar is a dollar. They’re going to like that, they can’t say no to that . . . and we are going to bring a lot of money to that place.”
African missionaries see the United States as their mission field.
“The material world is not as important as the spiritual world,” explained Pastor A.A. Olorunnimbe (pronounced Oh-low-roon-im-bay), speaking from Nigeria. “The fact that you have two cars and live in a beautiful house and have all the best insurance programs . . . why would you need God? But all these things are temporary. Remember that.”
In Nigeria, the church’s slain-in-the-spirit, dancing-in-the-aisles, shouting-halleluiah-at-the-top-of-your-lungs style of worship is wedded to a message of self-affirmation. Africans may be poor, the thinking goes, but at least they’re not lost.
Pastors say the church’s Holy Ghost Congress each December attracts more than 6 million followers, which, if true, would make it the largest Christian gathering in the history of man.
REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD
The Redeemed Christian Church of God was founded in Nigeria in 1952 by Pa Josiah Akindayomi, who grew up illiterate in the West African country’s southwestern tribal region. Nine people attended the church’s first prayer meeting. Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a former mathematics professor, assumed leadership of the church in 1981 after Akindayomi’s death. Under Adeboye’s guidance, the church has established parishes in more than 90 countries, including China and Pakistan, and throughout Europe. There are 292 churches in North America.
Denomination/doctrine: Christian (Pentecostal)
Estimated membership: World: 2 million to 5 million; United States: 25,000; North Texas: 2,500
Mission statement: To make heaven. To take as many people as possible with us.
Web site: http://www.rccgna.org