Descendants of Prairie Church Founders Take on the Job of Restoring the Bethel Church

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HINTON, OKLAHOMA -- It takes something for any structure to stand straight against a prairie wind for more than a hundred years, good bones, regular care, and maybe love.

"You walk into this place, and it is named Bethel," says Shelley Newton, "And you know, surely the spirit of the Lord is in this place."

Look down the rolls of the families that started the Bethel United Methodist Church in 1904 and you'll see the Thomason family.

Of the eleven children born east of here, the tenth was Shelley Newton's grandfather.

She grew up on Sunday services and Christmas Eve parties.

"I was a brand new piano player at five years old," recalls Newton. "I played Jolly Old St. Nicholas on the piano. That memory is burned forever in my brain."

Shelley recalls the sad day in 1989 when families came back to celebrate one last Christmas party before the church closed.

The Bethel Church on Bethel Road settled slowly, decaying without its former caretakers.

She would drive by all the time and worry about the old building until one day in 2012 she and a few others decided to do something.

"I tried to let it go," she says, "But it was always right there. So here I am."

They formed a non-profit and raised money to shore up the basement.

They restored the steeple and put on a new roof.

There is much still to do.

The inside still needs a lot of work but the next prairie wind storm won't blow it down.

Newton says, "We're at a point now where there's no need to stop. It's in good shape. It'll be here."

The word 'Bethel' in Hebrew means house of God.

The place is mentioned many times in the Bible.

Here on the western prairie between Hinton and Hydro its memory hangs on too as a treasured place worth restoring.

The Bethel Church Association is raising money to restored the interior of the church by selling memorial bricks to pave the walkway outside.

For more information or to donate go to http://www.bethelchurchonbethelroad.com or search Bethel Memorial Brick Project on Facebook.

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