First African Baptist raising money for building repairs - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

First African Baptist raising money for building repairs

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Antoinette Ellis has spent her life in the church.

She volunteers her Sundays to give tours of First African Baptist, a church built in 1859. Its congregation back then, mostly slaves, donated the money they had saved to buy their freedom to purchase a lot on Franklin Square.

"I'm a mother," said Ellis. "Could I have given up the opportunity maybe free my kids?"

The sacrifice didn't stop there. After working all day in homes and firleds, parishioners made the bricks of the church from Savannah River clay and laid them by night.

"By bonfire and the lantern, they literally built this church," she said.

Today, the building stands as a lesson to members of First African Baptist.

"It kind of shows you that everything is possible, that anything could be done," she said.

"One pivotal piece of history is right beneath my feet," she said. "Hear this, these floors are hollow. Four feet of crawl space beneath them. And look, air holes cut into the floor. This is believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad."

"We wanna make sure the structure is sound," said Reverand Tillman.

These days, most tithes and donations go to First African Baptist's charitable work, feeding the hungry, mentoring children and helping felons become productive, law abiding citizens.

"We have a high poverty rate in Savannah, and we do our best to reach out to help," said the reverend.

Much like their forebears, these church members have put their religious mission before their needs. That's why now the church needs repairs, including a complete electrical rewiring and the restoration of their organ, one of only three of its kind in the world.

"In order to get it back up and running, it's going to take 250 to 300 thousand dollars."

The church has begun taking donations to raise money for those repairs...

Rev. Tillman has pledged not to cut back on charitable work to fund renovation.

The pastor is reminded of a question one little boy asked him after church.

"When we raise all this money for God, how does God get it?"

His answer?

"The way that we are actually able to give to God is by serving one another and having the love that God has given us to do that."

Rev. Tillman is hoping Savannah's citizens will pitch in to help First African keep that legacy of service alive.

To donate, visit here.

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