For many years, Houston resident Terry Snelling had a vision of creating a museum for his collection of Bibles and items related to the Bible.
Snelling always figured the project would manifest when he retired, and his plan was to convert the building on Walnut Street that houses his “Mr. Terry’s Hair Salon” business into such a facility. But God’s timing frequently differs from man’s, and a local woman approached him last year and said she knew the perfect place where he could make the idea happen much sooner.
Snelling pursued the suggestion and last June purchased the building at the corner of Second Avenue and Walnut Street that had been condemned by the City of Houston. Before falling into decay, the vintage structure housed several businesses over the years, including a butcher shop and “Lum’s Dog House,” where dog and horse food and other items were sold by owner Willard “Lum” Elmore.
At first, accepting God’s timing seemed confusing to Snelling.
“I said, ‘Really Lord? That building’s mess,’” he said. “I said, ‘This is my idea,’ and God said, ‘No, I put this on your heart years ago.’ I said, ‘OK.’
“Then the money and everything fell into place so I was able to do it.”
Making The Bible Museum a reality in the dilapidated building required a major refurbishing project. Snelling and his brother, Thomas, bolstered and recovered the ceiling and walls, installed hardwood floors, used up several gallons of paint and did whatever else was necessary to resurrect it.
“It was a lot of work,” Snelling said. “It was in bad shape.”
Everything on display at The Bible Museum is part of an elaborate collection Snelling has assembled over the years. His favorite thing to collect is miniature Bibles, and there are dozens to view in the museum, including complete versions so small it’s hard to believe every word is there.
Also featured are vintage musical instruments related to the Bible, large print Bibles printed in the 1800s and even the Bible on 8-track tape.
“I found things on eBay, stuff clear over in Europe, and anywhere else I could,” Snelling said. “I even have another trailer full of stuff. If the building was bigger, I would display it, too.”
Snelling said his yearn to create a Bible museum can be traced back to a trip he took to Eureka Springs, Ark.
“God had put it in my heart when I was a very young man that I wanted to do this,” Snelling said. “I went to a museum there and that’s when I knew I had to do it.”
The notion of expanding The Bible Museum has already crossed Snelling’s mind.
“If the Lord opens the door, then it will happen,” he said.
What can a person expect when perusing the museum?
“Growth,” Snelling said. “That’s why the door is green, because God’s always growing and producing. The Bible says one plants, another waters and He brings the results. So you come in and look around and something gets planted in you and you grow from it.”
OUTSIDE THE MUSEUM
As a native of Houston, Snelling opened Mr. Terry’s Hair Salon in 1975 and later moved the business to its current location on Walnut Street.
Snelling possesses a doctorate in theology from Grace Bible College, in Cary, N.C., and did assistant pastor stints at multiple area churches before becoming head pastor at Nagle Christian Church, in Elk Creek, 12 years ago. He started there in a “temporary” role that quickly turned permanent.
“They didn’t even ask me,” Snelling said. “They just said, ‘You’re our pastor now.’”
Snelling said being pastor at a small, rural church requires at least one specific trait.
“Lot of patience,” he said. “It’s a little country church, and it’s not going to grow big. You get the congregation built up and then people leave –– they don’t leave me, but they just move away from the area. I’m the second-longest running pastor to be there. Most last only two to four years.
“But God told me to be there, so that’s where I am.”
Snelling also took on the nearby Nagle Schoolhouse as a project, renovating it and delivering it from certain demise.
“It was going to die, and I couldn’t let that happen,” he said. “We would do hayrides past it, and I would always think, ‘Poor school, gonna die.’ Finally, I became the state trustee over it and took my own money and saved it.”
Snelling also spent years in other forms of ministry, even doing television preaching for eight years on a West Plains station.
“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” he said. “I went down there every Monday and preached, sang and brought in guests.”
Snelling also spent seven years ministering to inmates at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking.
“I taught how to deal with anger management from a Christian perspective,” he said. “I also did a restorative justice class, where we did crafts and other things to give back to the community.”
Last February, Snelling concluded a 16-year run of making weekly visits to Houston House Nursing Home in Houston, where he would minister and sing to its receptive senior residents.
Snelling also has purchased and refurbished numerous houses in Houston, and in 2014 created the “Hillside Chapel” out of a small outbuilding behind Mr. Terry’s. The structure is known for having been a chicken coop.
“The last people who owned it put chickens in it,” Snelling said. “I stripped it down and turned it into a chapel.”
The chapel has hosted numerous weddings, including eight so far in 2017.
Across from Mr. Terry’s is a pond Snelling now owns. It’s something he has wanted to acquire for years.
“It finally worked out,” Snelling said. “A lot of people always thought it was just dirty sewage or something, and I’ve enjoyed clearing out some of the trees and plants and giving it a nicer look it deserves.”
Pastor Terry Snelling’s “The Bible Museum” is open 1-4 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Walnut Street and Second Avenue in Houston. There is no entry fee, but donations are accepted. A trio of volunteers share Friday duties. Snelling works the other two days.