Published December 8, 2005
ATLANTA — Terry Moncrief’s philosophy of ministry can be summed up on his recent comment concerning the inner city.
“Don’t look at the outside of the dilapidated buildings, but look at the heart [of the residents].”
The same can be said for Moncrief. Diagnosed with brain cancer last November, the inner city ministry veteran still loves to talk about the lives mended and people restored during his 33 years as director of the Techwood Center in Atlanta. It was recently renamed the Terry P. Moncrief Baptist Center for Ministry in his honor.
“Without question, Terry is one of the most godly men I’ve ever known,” attests Artie Turner, administrator of the Center for the past 13 years. “I haven’t known anyone with a kinder or more caring heart.
“Across the country, this place is spoken of highly. That is largely due to Terry. When you talk about selfless people, he is one. I can’t tell you how many people he’s helped either through here or personally by providing help with rent, utilities, food, or whatever. People have called at three in the morning asking him for a ride to the hospital; he’d give it.”
Moncrief remains an employee of the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association in partnership with the Georgia Baptist Convention and North America Mission Board. He will begin long-term disability Jan. 1.
Because the name change of the Center was only made in October, signs, stationary and the Web site (www.techwoodcenter.org) still use the previous name.
Those changes will come, but for now the Center’s funds are channeled to more pressing areas, including ministries that help thousands each year through clothing, food, Bible studies, medical and dental services, job training, worship services, tutoring, children’s and youth activities and counseling services.
Much of the counseling and immediate outreach is performed by Pastor Marvin Dorsey and members of Techwood Baptist Church, where Moncrief was pastor until his illness prevented him from doing so. Other churches, most notably Dunwoody Baptist, also provide assistance.
It was last year in June during a walking tour of the Center with a visitor that Turner says Moncrief’s left arm began shaking uncontrollably. Tests taken later revealed the cancer diagnosis.
From his home in Kennesaw, Moncrief’s spirits remain high despite his health.
“I’m feeling okay these days. I’ve been through a lot, but the Lord has brought me through,” he says.
In 1965 Moncrief wanted nothing to do with the Center or the faith it represented. It was that year the Georgia Tech student suffered through the death of his father in a car wreck, prompting him to declare himself an atheist. In 1967, though, he would pray to receive Christ in a chapel service. The couple that counseled him, David and Helen Beal, were the directors of Techwood Baptist Center located a few blocks from the Georgia Tech campus.
“I told them that God might want me to be a missionary in the city, and they told me all about the ministry of Techwood,” recalls Moncrief. “David said he had an immediate need for a football coach for a group of 9- to 12-year-old boys.”
After earning his degree from Southern Seminary and working with another Baptist center, Moncrief was invited to take over as director of Techwood.
A fire to the Center’s roof in June 1987 forced Moncrief and volunteers to develop an even more intimate relationship with the community when Bible study groups began meeting in homes. Ironically, ministries now homeless were being taken in by the community, churches and various agencies. Through the years he has forged lasting relation-ships with nearby residents.
One of those residents is Lena S. Howard, who for 25 years has stocked The Master’s Market – the Center’s food pantry – in addition to cooking and helping lead services for Techwood Baptist Church.
“I couldn’t say enough about Pastor Terry,” she says. “I’ve learned a lot from him about just being a good Christian.”
Willie Baker, 72, is a rehabilitated alcoholic who came to the Center to “make sure I didn’t go back to an old habit,” but says he gained a big brother along with a renewed relationship in Christ.
“He’s a guy you can talk to at any time,” he says about Moncrief. “He’s a good leader who was always there if you wanted to talk or go to him about a problem.”
“Our first focus is to help people come to know Jesus and make a change,” says Moncrief. “As they want to change, we work with them. We still don’t give up on people. In the last five years we’ve had about 1,000 come to Christ through the Bible studies we have for the homeless.
“We’ve been blessed by our mother church – Dunwoody Baptist – and volunteers throughout the years. Ann Murray, a member of Second Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, has brought lunch for the homeless every week for the past 20 years. Betty Sheriff coordinates our volunteers – about 450 a year.”
Arthur Turner, Artie’s dad, has been ministering alongside Moncrief in the community for 22 years. Since 1985, Turner’s boldness and Moncrief’s compassion helped the two in witnessing every Tuesday and Thursday.
Many times Turner witnessed firsthand Moncrief’s response to adversity. He tells how once a girl at the Center got violent and knocked Moncrief’s glasses from his head before crushing them. She was arrested and one could imagine her surprise when, upon being bailed out, found that the one who posted bond was … Moncrief.
“I’ve learned about caring and compassion for people from him,” testifies Turner. “He helps people understand they are just as important as anyone else in God’s eyes.”
For the last seven years Turner has led a Bible study at the Center. Flipping through a worn notebook in Moncrief’s office recently, he points to a number of those saved at the study: 1,120.
Moncrief’s family have also been involved in the Center’s outreach, as his wife, Becky; daughters, Lori, Karen, and Cathryne; and foster son, Daniel Post, have helped in various ministries.
Despite his absence, Moncrief is still making a difference at the Center, says Tara Jonick, who first got involved through the Baptist Student Union at Georgia State University.
“I miss him very much,” she sighs. “He’s been like a second father to me since I came through the door.”
Now in her third year at Moncrief Baptist Center, among Jonick’s responsibilities is teaching Bible Study to first through fifth graders. She also attends Techwood Baptist Church.
“Terry supports you in everything you do,” she continues. “I’ve never met anyone whose personality is so Christlike. Even now that he’s sick, his spirit is still here because Christ works through him so much.”
No matter what lies in the days ahead, Moncrief says he’s looking forward to it.
“[Jesus] has a whole new future for me,” he testifies. “I’m just looking to do everything for the glory of God.
“We don’t know how long we’re going to live, but we can know how we’re going to live.”
Volunteers and funding are needed to continue the ministry provided by the Moncrief Baptist Center. Outreach opportunities include:
For more information call Marvin Dorsey or Artie Turner at (404) 881-1291 or Joel Harrison of the Atlanta Metro Baptist Association at (770) 455-4870.
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