People from all over the country are coming together online in an effort to save a piece of history tied to Jim Bakker's heyday at Heritage USA.
Before scandal laid him low, Bakker returned to Fort Mill from a trip to Israel with a mission to replicate the Upper Room - the place where Jesus is said to have had his last supper with his disciples - on the Heritage Campus. The building was painstakingly reproduced and opened as a 24-hour prayer center, where as many as 40 prayer ministers manned banks of prayer phones, ready to respond to any crisis.
"I saw many, many good things come from it," June Brobst, a former prayer minister, said. "It was a wonderful experience ... it never felt like a job."
But the Upper Room has been empty since 2006. At the time, Freedom Christian Center was using the building for it's ministry, but mold was discovered and the ministry was asked to vacate the building while the mold was treated, according to Dorothy Wilson. Now it is in danger of being demolished, she said.
Coulston Enterprises bought the Upper Room along with the rest of the undeveloped Heritage USA land several years ago. The company, run by Earl Coulston, planned a massive amount of new development around the old PTL theme park, including a commercial center around the lake. More homes and town houses were also planned in the development.
Following the mold discovery, Wilson said, Coulston employee Eric Greenway told a Regent Park Homeowners Association meeting in 2007 that the Upper Room would have to be demolished because it posed a drainage problem for a town house project. Neither Greenway nor Coulston immediately returned calls seeking comment.
Wilson said she heard the property may be up for sale.
Rather than let the building go, Wilson set up a Web-based petition at www.petitiononline.com/HUSA2009/petition.html to save the Upper Room. As of Monday, 226 people had signed the petition. It asks that the property be saved from the wrecking ball and either sold or donated to a ministry that would use it for the original purpose of a place for 24-hour a day intercessory prayer.
"The Upper Room building is very special to many, many people around the world," Wilson wrote in an e-mail to the Times. "It is the desire of most, if not all persons who signed my online petition that the Upper Room of course NOT be torn down. We would hope that the Coulstons could donate it to MorningStar or one of the other ministries located on the grounds of the old Heritage USA, or that they would sell it to a ministry who will reopen it."
Brobst is one of more than 200 people to sign the petition. She has many fond memories of her time at the Upper Room. She spent about a year as a prayer minister, and also worked in other positions within the PTL.
The Upper Room saved many lives, she said.
"I had one young woman whose suicide we prevented by getting the police to her house while she was still on the phone with us," Brobst said. "I'm not sure how I got involved; It was one of those things you just sort of slid into."
She also shared a humorous story:
"One of the funniest things that ever happened was we had a temporary supervisor and he came to me and said, 'June please come out here, I've got a woman, I really think she's near death, she has no color,'" Brobst said. "I went out and talked to her, and she was fine, I said, 'John, there's nothing wrong with her - she's albino.'"
She said the Upper Room had been the real hub of the PTL ministry.
"I absolutely want it saved," she said. "I saw a lot of good come out of the place."