Transplant Times

Fort Mill’s history is rich in religion

April 29, 2014 

Fort Mill has an interesting history.

As newcomers, Cherie and I continue to enjoy learning about people and events that shaped Fort Mill and the surrounding communities.

We have interviewed a number of leaders in the community, and as we have listened, it has occurred to us that one thing that would be absolutely helpful to any future collaboration of leaders in this community would be prayer.

Not too many people that were of adult age during the 1980s will forget the names of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. Pastors Jim and Tammy Faye built PTL Ministries and Heritage USA, the third most successful theme park in the USA at the time. Unfortunately, this gifted couple became lost in the glitz and glamor of their popularity and were eventually indicted for a number of fiscal improprieties directly related to the ministry of PTL. This scandal shut down the ministry once and for all.

It’s been 10 years since the remaining Heritage USA property was purchased and rededicated as a center for ministry. Pastor Rick Joyner has located his world-changing MorningStar Ministries there. Also, pastors Mahesh and Bonnie Chavda have located their unique All Nations Church at Heritage.

Under the guidance of these gifted ministry leaders, the former PTL Ministries property again is making a significant contribution to the larger Fort Mill community.

Praise the Lord, indeed!

Another ministry leader who has decided to pick up one of the pieces of the former Heritage USA property is Russell James. He is the ministry leader of the The Upper Room and one of those leaders who has invested himself in redeeming the once-abandoned property. James, who refers to himself as “The Gardner,” believes that he was inspired by God to purchase the prayer and worship center that was a remnant of Heritage USA.

In hearing James’ heart for the Upper Room, it is obvious that the Heritage USA property has once again become holy ground in the heart of the Fort Mill community. If you have the opportunity to visit the former Heritage USA property, please make every effort to do so. You will not be disappointed by the warm welcome you receive and the sense of peace you will feel by strolling the grounds.

Recently, a friend of mine in the community invited me to breakfast. His name is Ken Davis. He was involved with the PTL Ministry when it was flourishing and shared with me what it was like when that ministry was at its best – and at its worst. For Davis, the reviving of the Heritage USA property for ministry is a very satisfying thing. He believes that the property, once dedicated to the work of Christian ministry, should always remain dedicated to the work of ministry. So after breakfast, Davis decided to introduce me to “The Gardner” of the Upper Room Prayer Ministry, James.

What a blessing it was to spend the day in this sacred space. James is a man of strong faith, deep humility, and possessed of a true servant’s heart. The express purpose of the Upper Room Ministry is to provide the community with a place of worship and prayer. I can tell you with all sincerity that the Upper Room Ministry provides that exactly. Personally, I was coming off a very stressful week, and after spending time in the Upper Room, I felt refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of the day.

Please know that in writing this column this week, I am not attempting to lift one religion or any churches up above the others. I simply want to report on an aspect of this community that is historic in the annals of Christian religion, and most certainly had a dramatic impact on the Fort Mill community during its peak years of ministry.

Cherie and I would love to accept any invitations to visit your local ministry or congregation in an effort to become more familiar with the many ways God is touching the community of Fort Mill.

In this season, may God’s peace be with you.

You can reach William Winship and his wife, Cherie, at

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