The Bible Museum opened its doors in 2017 after being on The Reverend Dr. Terry Snelling’s heart for decades
HOUSTON, MO. – On a church trip to Eureka Springs, Ark., back in the 1970s, The Reverend Dr. Terry Snelling of Houston, Mo., was first inspired.
“After I saw another bible museum, I started collecting,” said Pastor Terry. From his own growing stockpile of Bibles, biblical paraphernalia and musical instruments, he was ready to open a museum and garden.
“It was in my heart for over 45 years. God said, ‘Do it.’”
His plan had been to convert his locally-established salon, Mr. Terry’s, where he’d been beautifying the heads of Houston for decades. In 2016, a woman told him about a nearby property for sale. This enabled him to keep the salon which his daughter Terina Hayes now runs.
The future museum building was in disrepair and Pastor Terry made an offer. Once the seller found out the city of Houston was condemning the building, Pastor Terry struck a deal. The building had previously been a creamery, a butcher shop, and a store called “Lum’s Dog House” that sold dog food and did horse shoeing. The property sat idle for many years, had a caved in ceiling and rotted floor. Pastor Terry set to work with his grandsons and brother Tom.
“He had his eyes focused on what God wanted,” said Brenda Christensen, a volunteer who has worked at the museum since it opened, along with her sister Alice Potter. Pastor Terry first met Brenda when she worked at Houston House, a nursing home. He was there to sing and play the autoharp for the residents, which he has done for the last 18 years.
Pastor Terry invited Brenda and Alice to his church, Nagle Christian Church in Tyrone, Mo. The sisters became parishioners and later volunteered at the Bible museum when it opened on Easter Sunday 2017.
Pastor Terry holds a degree in theology and has been leading services for the last 16 years. Sharing God’s word has been his life’s mission and the Bible Museum was only his most recent outlet. He also preached and sang on a television show in West Plains, Mo., and played music and took calls at a Christian radio station in Salem, Mo., He taught Restorative Justice and other courses at South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Mo., for seven years.
Of the 500 bibles in the museum, Pastor Terry’s favorites were the miniature ones.
“Nowadays, they make a bible that [only] has some of the bible in it.” Pointing out one complete miniature King James version, he said, “That has all the bible, all the New Testaments. The whole bible, made back in 1896.”
There are braille bibles, finger bibles (extended versions of the miniatures), a bible belt buckle, necklace and ring. One authenticated, framed bible page dates back to 1589. While most of them are printed in English, he also has versions in Chinese, Danish, German, Japanese and Spanish.
“I always wanted to play a harp because the bible says to ‘Praise the Lord with harp,’” Pastor Terry said. This led to another collection in the museum, musical instruments, the predominant one being the autoharp. He has more than 50 autoharps. He watched someone play it once and said he thought to himself, “Oh, that makes sense, so I went and bought one and started to play it.” Beginning with piano when he was young, he also played guitar and the dulcimer, but he said the autoharp was his favorite.
More than 680 visitors have come through the doors of the small, free museum, as far away as Oregon and Russia. While visitors are primarily there to see the vast collections, read quotes stenciled on the walls, and see historical pictures of the evolution of the museum, some come for something more. One of Brenda’s best experiences as a volunteer was a woman who came in and she ended up praying over.
“The ideas came from God,” said Pastor Terry of his design of the Garden of God’s Word. Along meandering paved pathways, visitors will find benches to rest on and inspirational bible quotes to read. The quotes were written on a variety of construction materials, such as a vanity top for a sink, a door and frame, a mirror and slabs of marble. The pieces are spread along the walkways that are thick with trees, vines, bushes and roses. The path begins at a quiet street corner, leads around a wall, away from the occasional sounds of town and ends up in the parking lot of the museum.
Brenda and Alice spoke about a nearby, tiny chapel Pastor Terry built from a chicken coop. The chapel was sizable with a pitched roof and held a piano, lectern, several short pews and was adorned with stained glass windows. Alice said more than 100 couples were wed there and in the past, bible studies were also held there.
While the garden does not close, the museum is open Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m. The museum closed down at the end of October and reopens on Easter Sunday. Pastor Terry took a break from preaching and running Mr. Terry’s Salon this fall to focus on his health, but his volunteers still keep the museum, located at 219 North Second St., in Houston, Mo., going.