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About Us

The History of Open Door

In 1938 God placed before the City of Charleston West Virginia an Open Door. It was in that year that Rev.
B. G. Entsminger founded the Open Door Mission, later to be also known as the Open Door Mission Association, the Open Door Apostolic Mission, and finally the Open Door Apostolic Church.
Rev. Entsminger had a great burden to reach out to the poor, the hungry, and the hurting, not only with the gospel, but with the love and care they needed to make it from day to day. The church started as a shelter for the needy, as well as a church.

Bro. Entsminger
Rev. Entsminger

Before long it was soon known throughout the homeless circles, and men and women in need came to the church for help.
One of the biggest projects that the church was involved in was purchasing shoes for school children. The church soon became well known for its social work and began to attract a great deal of interest from area business leaders, as well as those in city government. The small group of individuals who were involved as charter members occupied a tiny "store-front" building located at 124 Virginia Street West, often referred to as the "Cracker Box."
The church's first revival was held in March of 1940 with Rev. W. T. Poling as the evangelist. It was the first real growth that the church congregation had experienced. Then, in November of 1941, Rev. Clarence Eby came and preached a revival for the church in which the congregation was nearly doubled.
Another exciting thing happened during this time that would forever change the lives of those who were a part of the Open Door. It was in September of 1940 that Evangelist Willie Johnson began making Open Door her home. To know her was to love her, for truly she was one of the most anointed ministers of this century, and yet she was humble. You would have to search far and wide to find a greater soul winner than Sis. Willie Johnson. Soon the church was bursting at the seams, and the need for a new building was getting greater every day with the continued growth of the church.

Willie Johnson
Sis. Willie Johnson

After a new church was completed, and the members had moved into their new location, they felt the need to begin a radio program, and so they began a program on the now extinct radio station WGKV.
In 1945 the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Churches Inc. merged to become the United Pentecostal Church,(UPC). Also around this time Rev. Entsminger felt the need to start an "Old Folks" home, and so the "House of Mercy" was begun at 147 Court Street, and soon the church had expanded its ministry to the elderly of the city, as well as the poor and needy.
On Easter Sunday, April 6, 1958 Rev. Entsminger suffered a severe heart attack, and after 20 years of service as Pastor and Founder of Open Door, he went to be with the Lord.
After a great deal of prayer and consideration, Rev. D.L. Scott and wife were voted in as Pastor in February of 1959, with a 100% vote. During the years that followed, the church continued to grow and prosper. Then in August of 1968, Rev. Scott felt a calling to become a missionary. In February of 1969, Rev. Douglas Rashall was elected pastor contingent upon the departure of Rev. Scott. So after serving as pastor for eleven years, on April 24, 1969, Rev. Scott left to become the missionary to Ecuador, South America.

Bro. Scott
Rev DL Scott

The church continued to prosper and grow under Rev. Douglas Rashell's leadership until Oct., 1971. Upon leaving the church, he took the pastorate of a church in Texas. They are now pastoring the Woodlands Tabernacle, in the state of Texas.
In September of 1971, Rev. B.J. Sowards and his wife were in Charleston on business when he told his wife that he would love to pastor a church in Charleston someday, if it was the Lord's will. He was unaware at that time of Rev. Rashall's pending resignation. It was just a matter of weeks later that Bro. Eugene Ramsey, a Board member of the church, called Rev. Sowards and talked to him about pastoring Open Door. Up until this time, Rev. Sowards and his family had been pastoring in Fayetteville, WV for nine years.

BJ Sowards

Before that they had assisted Rev. E. C. Sowards, Sr. (his father), who was Superintendent of the East Central District.
Barbara Sowards On October 27, 1971, Rev. B.J. Sowards and family were voted in as pastor of Open Door Apostolic Church by a unanimous vote. A new era began under their leadership. There were great expectations of what God was going to do. Rev. Sowards was a man of faith with a vision. He immediately began renovations on the church building and also on the day care center. He began to teach and preach on giving to god's work. The church responded by following the leadership of Pastor Sowards. He started a yearly sacrificial offering at Thanksgiving, He asked the church to make a pledge to start a building fund.
The property of the church was limited and there was no room to grow. Also, Urban Renewal was going to take the church property to build what is now the Town Center Mall. The building fund began to grow and the church purchased property at Kanawha Blvd. W. The property was zoned for a church and all of the neighbors had signed their approval of Open Door building in their neighborhood. Rev. Sowards and the trustees attempted to acquire a building permit to build a $465,000 building, but were turned down with no reason given. Rev. Sowards was very disappointed. Urban Renewal was definitely going to take the existing building; and for whatever reason, the city of Charleston would not allow the church to build on the property they had purchased on the West side of town.
In the fall, of 1978, Bro. Hughes, an elder in the church, had a dream about a building. A few days later he was walking in his neighborhood, just a few blocks East of the State Capitol, when to his surprise he saw the building in his dream. It was the old Greystone Motel. He went inside and found that it was for sale. He then called Rev. Sowards and asked him to come and look at it. When Pastor Sowards looked at the old motel, he didn't see an old run-down building that it was, he saw the beautiful building that you see today.
The church purchased the Graystone Motel in April of 1979. Pastor Sowards along with the saints put themselves into turning the old motel into a House of Worship. Pastor Sowards and wife kept working on the building, although some could not see what they could see. But they never lost the faith in his vision. Pastor Sowards and his wife were respected and loved by everyone who knew them.

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On January 26, 1996, Pastor Sowards suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep. He had completed the sanctuary, and had several times seen the auditorium filled to capacity with people praising God. Open Door Apostolic Church would not be the church it is today were it not for the vision, and over 25 years of hard work, that Pastor Sowards and wife freely gave to the work of God.

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