Visiting Turkey Creek Free Will Baptist Church


The history of a church we attended one Sunday was longer than my arm. I knew it was the church of several long-time friends, one being Mike Sissel, who taught me a lot about timber, and who placed in my head one of my favorite phrases, “I guarantee it.” Then we had a special invitation by singer/songwriter Steve Free and his wife Susan, this being their church.

I certainly thought this an appropriate church for a couple who sing ballads about nature and such, have a Native American background and live in close proximity to the largest state forest and Shawnee Lodge.

A friend of mine, Ken Rase, once said “a lot of people live in these hollers,” and the case was proven with the amazing turnout in this beautiful country church.

It is not new to the area, the original church took up in a one-room log cabin schoolhouse located around the corner from this present church at the junction of Worleys Run and Odle Creek. That was many a year ago, as they say, 1882, to be exact.

When a new frame schoolhouse was built by Abraham and Alfred Nease across the road in 1890, the Odle Creek Baptist Church formed in the old school. A path leading over the hill from West Run Hollow to Odle Creek was known as “Glory Road.” As the Nease family made their way to church they would sing praises to the Lord.

In 1951, the congregation had grown to more than 50, and the group decided to build at its new location along state Route 125, Friendship. The ceiling lights came from the Scioto County Courthouse, and the wall lights came from the Wesley United Methodist. During the Portsmouth tour of churches, we learned the windows were given by the Central Church of Christ. So, I guess you could say that this is a church that a community helped build.

Today was to be a special Christmas service by Steve and Susan Free and their band member/friend John Starkey. Heidi Horner, a fifth generation church member, played the piano.

It was a full house at the Turkey Creek Free Will Baptist Church, but I noticed there would be room for you, should you decide to drop in.

Today we got to meet my friend Mike Sissel’s dad, Andy (90 years old), a World War II veteran who served in the Philippines immediately after Pearl Harbor. A big surprise for the day was that my Kiwanian friend Laura Fuller is actually Mike Sissel’s daughter, a pleasant surprise for sure.

Pastor opened the service with information on the upcoming Christmas play on Dec. 20, a manger scene reinactment and upcoming pizza party. Opening songs included “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow” and “A hill called Calvary.”

The pastor is Dave Sibole, and he travels weekly from Wilmington, and has for many years.

Steve Free opened the concert service, asking everyone to clap their hands, saying this is a church, not a library. His first selection was “Count your blessings.” Then was “ Just a poor wayfaring stranger” and “Christmas in the valley.” He said he was adding a little Irish sound with “Are you ready for Christmas?”

“It’s that special time of the year, goodwill everywhere, it’s Christmas Day. So lift your voice to the air, all the bells of church will ring, it’s Christmas Day. Let all the world proclaim him on Christmas day.”

Steve said we would let our Appalachian roots show a little bit here: “Go tell it on the mountain.” It goes something like this: “God sent his salvation on that blessed morning. Go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born.”

He said that his next song is played all over the world by churches and choirs in Christmas plays and such. Churches call to get permission, saying did you mean to do with this chord or that one in this song, and he has offered, sure, exactly. He can joke as well as sing. “Just a baby boy. Then they came to rest in this little town, When the shepherds came, this is what they found, they were so surprised to find just a baby boy. They had no way of knowing he would be the Savior of them all. Then they came to rest in this little town. When the shepherds came, they were so surprised to find just a baby boy. They had no way of knowing he would be the Savior of us all.”

Steve said Turkey Creek Baptist Church was a very tight church family. He dedicated a song to church member Julia, who had been looking forward to this day, but had recently passed away. His song selection to her was “Wait til the storm passes you by. If you wait til the storm passes by, rainbows will light up the sky. Wait til the storm passes by. Good gifts given are something that time can take away, but best is a sign from above of trusting God’s love. Wait til the storm passes by.”

Steve said Native Americans believe all of our past family member spirits walk with us, and that no matter where we go, they will be a part of you. Which was the lead-in to his last song: “In the darkness of night, you are in the sunlight and the sunset, and I know that no matter where I go, you will be a part of me.”

For a pictorial view of our visit check out Rucker.

As believers, let us share the Good News: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World. Each one, reach one. See ya in church.

Reach Randy Rucker at