MOUNT CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH
300 CANAL STREET (RADERVILLE)
BELLE GLADE, FLORIDA 33430
The Mt. Calvary Baptist Church was organized in 1942, under the leadership of Pastor Randolph. The church services were held in Belle Glade on a plot of land on 5th Street, now known as the “Loading Ramp”. The land was donated by St. John First Baptist Church.
During the time from 1943-1944 a church was built in Raderville, “Cross the Ditch”. The church was a small wooden structure and featured a large cast iron bell that was sounded every Sunday morning for Sunday School. The church was led by Pastor Randolph and later in 1944, Pastor Williams became the leader for a short period of time.
From 1945-1946, Pastor Ingram and Pastor Smith each served for a short period of time. At this time, the church had its first Deacon Board: Chairman, Deacon Tom Lockett, Deacon Frank Williams (husband of Sister Mary Lee Williams), Deacon Earnest Wilson, Deacon Sherman Smith, Deacon Wadell Jasper, Deacon Homer Brown, Deacon Willie Ree Smith, and Deacon Willie Lawrence, Sr.
Reverend Sim Nelson, Sr. moved to Belle Glade from Americus, Georgia in 1946, with his wife, Sister Willie Mae Nelson and nine (9) children. He united with Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. In 1947, Rev. Nelson was appointed to serve as pastor of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. He served the members faithfully from 1947-1950. Pastor Nelson will always be remembered for his powerful sermons and uplifting prayers and hymns. The membership grew tremendously during Pastor Nelson’s leadership.
There was a great baptism in 1949. Pastor Nelson baptized twenty-six (26) candidates. Mt. Calvary did not have a baptism pool so the baptisms took place at New Bethel Baptist Church, which was then located on the corner of 8th Street and Avenue A. This was the largest baptism in the history of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. Some candidates from that baptism are still serving at Mt. Calvary after years: Sister Omelia Lawrence, Sister Margaret Woodson, and Sister Doris Harrell.
Pastor Phillip Beasley followed Pastor Sim Nelson, Sr. in 1951. He and his wife, Sister Beasley would travel every Sunday from West Palm Beach. It was the responsibility of the Deacons to schedule dinner for the Pastor and “First Lady” at someone’s home each Sunday before they returned home. In the meantime, the church’s responsibilities would fall upon the Deacons for the week.
Pastor Beasley was very small in stature, but a very powerful preacher and leader. He served Mt. Calvary untiringly for many years. During Pastor Beasley’s leadership, the little wooden church started to lean and membership had outgrown the church. The floor squeaked when you walked across it and the ceiling was dark from being soaked by the rain.
Finally, in 1964 one of the most blessed events took place! A new church was erected. The church was larger and constructed of cement. Through the hard work of Pastor Beasley, Deacons and members of Mt. Calvary, this dream became a reality. Pastor Beasley continued to serve a few more years. In 1966, Reverend Sim Nelson, Sr. returned to Mt. Calvary to serve for a second time. He returned to Mt. Calvary just as powerful as he was in 1947. Pastor Nelson later moved on to serve as pastor at Union Baptist Church, Bean City, Florida.
Reverend McGahee was called to serve at Mt. Calvary in 1968. He and his wife, “First Lady”, Sister McGahee, traveled from Lake Placid every Sunday. It was the responsibility of the Deacons to schedule dinner for the pastor and his wife at someone’s home before they returned home. The weekly church activities would fall upon the Deacons.
Pastor McGahee served Mt. Calvary faithfully. Even through many months of illness, he would press his way to serve Mt. Calvary with the “First Lady” or one of his children at the driver’s wheel!
At this time, several Deacons were added to serve on the Deacon Board: Deacon Albert Harper, Deacon Arthur Slappy, Deacon Frank Williams, Deacon A. D. McKinnon, Deacon Robert Riley, Deacon Adolphus Whitehead, Deacon Marvin Holloway, Deacon Elmore Williams, and Deacon Hasting Kearse, Sr. As Pastor McGahee’s health continued to fail, Reverend Leon Camel, Jr. was asked to fill in for him many times.
In 1976, Pastor Leon Camel, Jr. and “First Lady”, Arlene Camel, came to Mt. Calvary to lead its members. This was the beginning of tremendous change and growth for Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
Pastor Camel came to Mt. Calvary as a young and energetic preacher, leader and teacher. Under his leadership, the church underwent many changes. He took back the leadership of the church from the Deacon Board and he reviewed each auxiliary of the church and changes were made, if necessary.
Pastor Camel was a man of many visions and dreams. He worked untiringly to make each vision and dream a reality. Many exciting things happened during his leadership. He was instrumental in starting the Transportation Ministry with the purchase of a church van, later another van was purchased. The Heaven Bread Basket Program was started which was initiated to help the needy, to feed the hungry, to provide clothing and most importantly, to share the good news of God’s grace. This program has been a gateway through which many have come from darkness into the marvelous light.
Under Pastor Camel’s leadership, the church went through a renovation. The Fellowship Hall was added, the church pews replaced, windows replaced, new furniture was purchased, the baptism pool relocated, church entrance remodeled and lighting updated.
It was the desire of Reverend Camel to help God’s people enjoy life and be happy. He made it possible for many to travel each summer over many states and Canada, inviting members, as well as non-members.
At the time of Pastor Camel’s leadership, most of the Mt. Calvary Baptist membership resided in Okeechobee Center. A decree by the management of the Okeechobee Center stated that all residents must be farm laborers or senior citizens that were former farm laborers—others would have to relocate. During the EXODUS, Pastor Camel was very helpful in finding housing for Mt. Calvary members that had to relocate. He encouraged them to purchase homes in South Bay and Belle Glade. Many members own homes today because of Pastor Camel’s dedication and help. There were many great Deacons that served during Pastor Camel’s leadership: Chairman, Deacon Frank Williams, Deacon Ulysses Mobley, who later became Deacon Chairman, Deacon Levi Nelson, Deacon Alton Tucker, Deacon James West, Sr., Deacon Bruce Williams, Deacon Willie Perryman, Deacon Linnie Rouse, Deacon Joe Kyles, Deacon Robert Walker, Deacon Arthur Ross and Deacon George Lawson.
Pastor Camel was blessed to have ordained and trained young ministers of the gospel: Reverend Andrew Berry, Reverend James West, Jr., Reverend Leroy Nelson, Reverend Lionel F. Camel and Minister Lemorris Camel.
Pastor Camel had a great concern for the youth. He wanted to reach out and help those that were experiencing difficulty in the public schools. He initiated and organized, along with Elder Clarence Brown of Greater St. Paul Church, the first Black private school in Belle Glade. I the year 2000, the school became known as Oliver/Ford Christian Educational Center. The school was named in honor of the mother of Elder Clarence Brown, Mrs. Louise Oliver, a teacher in the Glades area for many years and Mrs. Mary Ford of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, who served the church untiringly for many years. Mrs. Ford and her husband were successful in providing an education for their nine (9) children, most of them earning college degrees.
The Oliver/Ford Christian Educational Center used the unique curriculum, “The School of Tomorrow”. The school was successful in helping many students (low achievers) to progress at the individual paces. Unfortunately, after five years of operation and the passing of Pastor Camel, the school was disbanded due to lack of funds and certified teachers to keep the doors open.
God allowed Pastor Camel to serve Mt. Calvary Baptist Church for 26 years. Many wonderful things happened during those years. He goes down in history as the longest serving pastor at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. Truly, Pastor Camel’s work spoke for him.
In 2003, following the passing of Pastor Camel, his son, Reverend Lionel F. Camel as assigned to be the leader of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church. He came to Mt. Calvary with the “First Lady”, Sister Pamela Camel, by way of Boynton Beach, Florida. Pastor Camel’s presence is visible at the church on weekdays as well as Sundays. Pastor Camel is a “People Person”. He is concerned about the well-being of every member and non-member of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.
Pastor Camel has been faithful in continuing the projects of his father, Reverend Leon Camel, Jr. The Transportation Ministry has grown. In addition to the two (2) vans purchased by his father, a beautiful black, 40 passenger bus was purchased! The Heaven Bread Basket Program continues to progress and the building plan for the new sanctuary is moving forward. Under his leadership, the Fellowship Hall was remodeled. It now has been divided into Sunday Church School classrooms, which have been named after former pastors of the church.
An exciting new project was born! Pastor Camel was instrumental in purchasing an old church building next to his parent’s home. This building was beautifully renovated and decorated by the very talented “First Lady”, Sister Pamela Camel. It is now known as the Reverend Leon Camel, Jr. Family Christian Resource Center. The Center is used to host many church activities: Banquets, special honorary events, receptions, birthdays, retirements, and repast for families after funerals, etc. First Lady” Pamela Camel is a very faithful worker with the Youth of Mt. Calvary. She has worked hard to sponsor skits for different occasions: Christmas, Black History month and graduation activities for high school seniors.
Pastor Lionel F. Camel is a very young, energetic preacher, teacher and leader. Through his leadership, the membership has grown. Pastor Camel is concerned about getting the “Word” to everyone. He encourages members to attend Sunday School and Prayer Meeting.
During Pastor Camel’s leadership, several Deacons have been ordained: Deacon Robert Butts, Deacon Ralph Townsend, Deacon Alfred Fields and Deacon Willie McKenzie. Deacon Joe Kyles was named Chairman of the Deacon Board.
God’s grace has brought the Mt. Calvary family to 67 years of worship, praise and the celebration of God’s goodness to each of us. Let us continue to pray that God will continue to bless Mt. Calvary Baptist Church with Pastor Lionel F. Camel’s leadership for many more years.