How would YOU feel if you purchased some property on Wadmalaw Island deep in the Charleston Lowcountry, almost to the end of the Maybank Highway on Brigger Hill Road, and learned that there was an old historic cemetery in the back corner? Well, if you were Pastor Don Miller, you would be thrilled! So, the truth is, there is a cemetery lying near the back corner of SonShine Oaks Retreat and a portion of the adjoining property belonging to neighbor, Linda Rackley!

Anyone who knew Pastor Don knew that he had a deep and intense love for God’s Word rightly divided! He faithfully and passionately shared truths and encouragement from the Scriptures with anyone who would listen.

Old brick pillars topped with acorns will be the invitation to enter the cemetery

One of the larger grave markers

Once Pastor Don learned of this cemetery, he began envisioning a small prayer chapel to be built near that portion of the retreat. He knew this could be a special place to meet people informally to encourage them, pray with them, and open God’s holy Word with them and give them hope whenever the opportunity would arise. Thus rose the dream of the “HOPE” Prayer Chapel.

Even though Pastor Miller is now with his savior in eternity, his dream lives on! The Chapel, to be named “HOPE”, will soon be built in his memory and honor.

And since Pastor is now no longer with us to fulfill his dream, ministry co-founder, Scott Truesdell has been feeling the prompting of the Lord to take up this vision. He plans to be available in the chapel from time to time to share encouraging words, prayer, and sit down to open God’s Word with guests, neighbors, and the community. He is currently spending time in prayer and in study of the Word to help prepare for this calling.

Please pray with us that once the chapel is built, God will be able to use this new space as a place of HOPE for all who come!

A part of the volunteer team assembled on January 30, 2015 that got a great start clearing out all the undergrowth surrounding the grave markers

The cemetery apparently has its roots from the area surrounding Brigger Hill at one time known as Rockland Plantation. Under the vision and direction of the nonprofit organization co-founders: the late Pastor Don Miller, his wife Yvonne Miller, Scott and Sheryl Truesdell, and associate and long time friend Annie Talian, volunteer efforts have been successful to begin to restore dignity to the neglected cemetery. Neighbors such as Linda Rackley, James and Mary Frances Brown, Stephanie Washington and family,  Evelina Washington and son, James, sister, Georgianna “Margie” Durant and her granddaughters, Lexi and Lisa, and cousins, Sally and Margaret, and many other relatives and a host of local volunteers have been active in this process. The majority of the cemetery area has been cleared out of all the nasty overgrown vines, trash trees, shrubs, and weeds and 30 marked graves and many unmarked graves have been located! While there are many cemeteries and graveyards all over the Charleston area, that are several hundreds of years old, the oldest grave here at the Rockland Cemetery dates back to 1905.

The chapel will be located near the cemetery and will be a place of hope, prayer, encouragement in God’s Word, and personal reflection for the guests of the Retreat, friends and relatives of those who are buried in the cemetery, neighbors, and the larger community.

This photo is taken from the approximate spot where the chapel will be located. There is a wonderful view of the Retreat from here, and the chapel itself can also be seen easily from around the Retreat tucked just under the huge oak canopy here.

Local Architect, Patti Wilbourne of Patti Wilbourne Designs, LLC, has worked with us to design the chapel to fit into its surroundings and invoke the feeling of having always been there. It will contain some wooden pews (which are already acquired), a restroom, and small coffee kitchen, and will be accessible to those with mobility restrictions. It will also be equipped with several antique stained glass windows (also in hand) that actually came from an old church built over a hundred years ago. The story of how the windows came to us is a story in and of itself!

Architect’s rendering of the interior of the chapel. Note the ramp for those with accessibility needs

Contractors and volunteers are also assembled and ready for action! Neighbor and general contractor, Rick Jackson of Jackson Holdings, LLC., cooperating general contractors, Tim and Matt Gochenauer of Gochenauer Construction, LLC, have joined to begin construction and oversee volunteers. A gracious volunteer, Guy Travaglio and his family of Goose Creek, who have been instrumental over the past year in several other property improvements, will be helping on this project as well. Many other volunteers are also standing by to begin the work. Plans have been submitted to the County Building Division and construction is anticipated to begin in mid to late January, 2017.

Architectural rendering of the exterior of the soon to be built Prayer Chapel, “HOPE”

Funding for the chapel design and construction began through donations a year ago. Although we have raised funds sufficient to pay for design and planning costs, and we do have enough to begin the project, we are continuing to trust God to for ongoing donations so that construction can keep moving forward. If you would like to be a part of this special project, please visit our Prayer Chapel page for ways you can help!