Church holding basketball fundraiser to renovate pastor’s office

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 12:55 PM

Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Hillsborough was built in 1923. It’s a solid, one-building church with the main sanctuary entrance up several steps from outside. The fellowship hall is directly below the sanctuary. On the side is just enough space for a few small rooms, including the pastor’s office. At the side door there’s a long ramp. The parking lot is gravel, and the church’s cemetery takes up most of the ground on the property.

The church building suits the congregation of about 200 who attend regularly, but there’s room for improvement. And now that the pastor, the Rev. Ronnie L. Johnson, uses a prosthetic leg after a partial amputation earlier this year, the need is greater than ever. Johnson uses a cane as he navigates the narrow hallway into to his small office. The floor in the hall and his office has worn over the years so he feels the slope and unevenness. So Piney Grove Missionary Baptist is planning a basketball tournament for two reasons. It will raise money for the church’s building fund, so Johnson’s office can be renovated, and it will launch the church into the community in a new way. Church members plan for the tournament to become an annual event, and hope participants from several churches – not just Missionary Baptist or in Hillsborough – will participate. The 3-on-3 tournament, with divisions for ages 10 and up and men and women, will be held July 27 at A.L. Stanback Middle School.
Johnson has known Piney Grove Missionary Baptist since he was a child, as he grew up in its sister church, Mt. Sinai Missionary Baptist in Durham. He has been at Piney Grove’s pulpit for 16 years. His right leg was amputated below the knee after an infection spread following a foot injury. He used a scooter for months before the surgery, and his leg was hurting so badly that he was ready for it to go, Johnson said. He has had type 2 diabetes since his 40s, and is now 64. Diabetics are more susceptible to infections. His mother and both grandmothers were also diabetic.
Associate minister the Rev. Gregory Johnson said that church deacons Devon Breeze and Joseph Poteat have helped make the pastor’s office accessible. After Ronnie Johnson makes his way up a few stairs to the pulpit Sunday mornings with his cane, Gregory Johnson brings a tall chair for the senior pastor to sit in while he preaches. Ronnie Johnson said he could probably stand while he preaches after he gets a better fitting prosthetic leg.
“They’ve been truly supportive,” the senior pastor said. “Not to say there haven’t been days another lion roared his voice. You stop and say some things and move on. God always shuts the mouth of a lion. Ask Daniel. We’ve got to be patient with each other,” he said.
Gregory Johnson said a church member asked if the senior pastor would retire because of the amputation, “but God put him there in the surroundings, and we’ve got to take care of the shepherd. We’re family here at Piney Grove and you take care of your family.”
Ronnie Johnson said his wife, Veronica, has been instrumental in helping him after the surgery. She drives him around, but he would also like to be able to drive using his prosthetic eventually. She has been so supportive, he said. His surgery was in January, and associate minister the Rev. Audrey Ward filled in during his two-month absence. Johnson also worked at Duke University Medical Center running an MRI lab, he said, before his recent health problems.
“My pastor’s come a long way in a short time, to God be the glory,” Gregory Johnson said.
“You can’t lay down; you’ve got to keep going,” Ronnie Johnson said. “God’s always reconciling us back to him.”
Everyone who comes for the basketball tournament will get a chance to play. The fee is $10 per player ($15 day of event), and the church hopes also to get sponsorships to pay for tournament costs like basketballs, a first aid kit and trophies. Whatever they raise will pay for the renovation of Johnson’s office first. Eventually Piney Grove would like to have a youth/community center. Johnson said the church would like to get back to more community involvement, and basketball is one way to do that.
For information about the church, visit Sunday services are held at 11 a.m. Piney Grove offers transportation to and from church. Call 919-644-0489 for a ride.



WHAT: Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament
WHEN: 8 a.m. July 27
WHERE: A.L. Stanback Middle School
3700 NC 86 South, Hillsborough
REGISTRATION: $10 per person by July 25; $15 day of tournament (cash only). Proceeds go to Piney Grove building fund.
RULES: Teams must register with three players per team, five players maximum. Competition in four divisions – youth (10-17), women, 18 and over, 35 and over.
INFORMATION: Call Michelle Kirkpatrick at 336-212-8766 or Piney Grove at 919-732-9420, or visit