ELKVIEW, W.Va. — A Kanawha County church is out of debt thanks to a large donation from a an Elk Valley Christian School graduate and cancer survivor who credits his good health 40 years later, in part, to prayers from Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in his native Elkview.

In June 2016, floodwaters tore through Elkview soon after more than $700,000 had been borrowed for a new school building.


Everything had to be removed from the Mt. Pleasant sanctuary following the June 2016 flood.

“We ended up going from, three years ago, having no debt whatsoever to (owing) $1.25 million and it was a heavy burden,” said Pastor Lee Swor.

The gift from Sam Hensley, who now lives in New Jersey, takes the debt amount to $0.

Decades ago, when Hensley was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told he would be dead within the year.

The congregation at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church responded with prayer vigils lasting, at times, through shifts covering 24 hours.

Community members rallied around Hensley.

Hensley, now a resident of New Jersey, beat the cancer and went on to father two sons.

His donation is dedicated to those who prayed for him along with his father and late mother.

“He talked about the miracles he’s seen in his life,” Swor said of Hensley’s reasons for making the donation which were detailed in a letter. “He said he just wanted to give back.”

The donation came ahead of what’ll be the third anniversary of the June 2016 Flood.

“It’s just been amazing how people have been determined to overcome and get through this and we have people in our community who are still not back in their homes, they’re just still working to get there,” Swor said.

At this point, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church has been restored.

Going forward, Pastor Swor saw reason for optimism.

“Regardless of what you are going through, I have learned that the Lord knows — long beforehand — how he’s going to get you through it,” Pastor Swor said.