he sound of children may soon be heard echoing inside the buildings at Morris School once again. Paperwork was signed Friday to finalize the sale of the property, according to Reverend Robert Turman, founder of Center Hill Parochial School, ROTC College and Our Christian Fellowship Church. Officials at the school, which has been located at Center Hill for the past 31 years, will soon begin moving all of the operations and church facilities to the location on Morris School Road, about 15 miles west of Searcy.
We want to keep the whole spirit that the Franciscan Brothers started here,” Turman said. “We intend to be good neighbors. We want to do everything the Franciscan Brothers have done, but we are going to expand on it.”
The church is purchasing 21.11 acres and the buildings from land developer Johnny Brock, Turman said. The purchase includes a chapel, dormitories, classrooms, a double tennis court, ball fields, a playground, an indoor swimming pool and a gymnasium. Also, an industrial kitchen and dining facility are equipped with six bread ovens, a walk-in cooler and a walk-in pantry.
In anticipation of the purchase, the Turmans began cleaning up the campus and formulating plans several weeks ago. Turman and his wife Grace and their son Paul and daughter-in-law Cathy shared their dreams for the facility during a Friday tour.
“We plan to use everything,” Grace Turman said.
Paul and Cathy will oversee the operation of the kindergarten through 12th grade school, a capacity in which they have served for about the past 12 years at Center Hill. In addition to the school, an east building will serve as a Foreign Missions Building or the ROTC College to train ministers. The Turmans said they will rotate on a three-month basis. During their stay, he said, they will undergo seven hours of Bible study and four hours of prayer, six days per week.
The plans also include many visitors, conventions and a hospitality house. There are immediate plans for building a “circular” Bible museum east of the chapel to house the world’s largest Bible chart. The chart is a recent donation from a man who lives in Indiana, Bro. Turman said. Church members have already begun collecting historical Bibles and Bibles in all languages to fill the museum, he said.
“We are a non-denominational, family-oriented, people-loving Bible Church,” Turman said, adding that during the past seven years church members have distributed a half-million copies of the Bible as well as 10 million gospel tracks.
Plans are also in the works to host a family camp for the International Christian Fellowship. In addition, Bro. Turman anticipates holding Cherokee councils on the campus. He serves as chaplain of the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri.
Many of the functions on the campus will be open to the public such as the church services and Christian education programs. Church members also plan to maintain the basements of both the Friary and the chapel as public shelters in the event of a need. Turman said both have been declared as certified bomb shelters.
The Turmans were counting their blessings Friday as they walked around the campus. It’s an answer to a prayer, Grace proclaimed. A prayer was held on the campus seven years ago with a bus of “preachers” from 12 states and three countries, Brother Turman explained. Knowing the church couldn’t afford the property at that time, he said, they asked God to provide a way if it was His will.
“He did,” Brother Turman concluded.
The Morris School complex in the 1960s.