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Exclusive preview: New history book's preface sets tone

On April 4, I penned the final words to my new book Founded on faith...Built on love. It was fitting that on Easter Sunday I brought to an end a project that spanned nearly two years––only to declare a glorious future. I believe God’s favor is on this ministry and I humbly thank Him for all He has done. My column this month is the recently released book’s preface, a perfect way to preview this “book for the ages.”

The dawn of Wednesday, November 11, 1885 blew into the little northeastern North Carolina town of Ahoskie with the weight of apprehension and the stirring of possibility. The breeze blew strong, and those few who ventured outside bent into it.

Just down the street from the Ahoskie Baptist Church lived Mary Presson and her nine-year-old daughter, and namesake, Mary Presson. Times were tough for them, but on this morning their fortunes dramatically changed.

As the sun peeked over the eastern horizon, both Mary Pressons prepared for a venture into the unknown. The younger Presson gripped her ticket for a train ride from Ahoskie to Thomasville, a trip to be taken under the guidance of her pastor, John Mitchell.

Mitchell, who had previously served the downtown Baptist church in Asheville, enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of Ahoskie. He was a close friend of John Mills—the stalwart, stubborn, bighearted man whose dream was to begin an orphanage reflecting the Christian values that had matured in him while he studied at Wake Forest College.

Mills teamed up with site selection committee member John Scarborough to find land appropriate for the dream that Mills said had “scratched at my skull until it bore a hole in it.”

Mitchell, Mills, and Scarborough arranged for little Mary Presson to be the first child admitted to the new orphanage and, later, for her mother t