JACOKSONVILLE, N.C. - From the days of the early church in first-century Palestine to the current day, Christians worldwide have used a plethora of methods to spread the message of Jesus Christ. Roger Whaley's preferred method is taking a page from history, using a wooden chuck wagon he built himself, and traveling wherever he feels compelled to go.
"I'm going to go wherever the Lord sends me and if I have the funds," said Whaley. "I'm following the church's mission statement: Know Christ and make Christ known."
Whaley, who is the associate pastor at Peletier First Missionary Baptist Church, said the wagon has been in his mind for the past four years though other commitments, both in his church and with his handyman business, By His Hands, kept him from getting to work on it.
Last summer, though, Whaley got to work on the wagon after collecting scrap metal and wood from around the area, mostly leftovers from jobs.
After about six week, work on the nine-foot-tall, four-foot-wide wagon was fin-ished.
The chuckwagon was compete with a canvas cover, as was normal for the kind of covered wagons traveling ministers, known as "circuit preachers" would travel in during the Second Great Awakening, an era during the late 18th and early 19th century when church membership rose nationwide due to the efforts of those preachers.
Whaley even sports the black, wide-brimmed hat and suspenders of many preachers of that era.
The body of the wagon is empty, save for a few seats where Whaley lets children sit and have their pictures taken. Like most chuck wagons of the day, Whaley built a small door in the back, but instead of keeping salted meats and coffee, Whaley keeps spiritual literature, including pamphlets on Christianity. Whaley says, though, that the concept is basically the same.
"That was the main gathering place for Cowboys to get fed back then," said Whaley, who transports the wagon to and fro via trailer and van. "This wagon is a gathering point to get spiritually fed."
After showing it to his home congregation, Whaley took the wagon on the road for the first time for Benson's Mule Day celebration in September. Whaley said his first time out with the wagon was a success, talking to festival attendees through the weekend and drawing sizeable crowds. Whaley said the biggest thing he took away from the weekend was a misunderstanding of Christian doctrine.
"A lot of people don't know what it means to be saved or what they're being saved from," said Whaley. "There were a lot of people I spoke to who professed to go to church and weren't sure what it meant to be saved."
Floyd Dixon, long time church member and chairman of the deacons, gave his seal of approval for his associate minister's method of evangelism as well as his handy work.
"(Whaley) can do anything with a piece of wood," said Dixon. "He's a good minister. The Lord has called him to do this."
Whaley said the scripture from the Book of Matthew that instructs believers to go and teach to all nations is a way of life for him.
"It's a commandment from our Lord," said Whaley. "It's not just for Baptists, it's for all Christians."
Anyone who wishes to assist Whaley with his ministry can contact Peletier First Missionary Baptist Church at 252-393-1455.
Roger Whaley, the associate pastor of Peletier First Missionary Baptist Church, stands in front of his church with his replica of a 19th-century chuck wagon.×
Roger Whaley, the associate pastor of Peletier First Missionary Baptist Church, hangs a bell on the back of his replica of a 19th-century chuck wagon.×