I don’t see a rundown church… I don’t see it. I see potential” – Coach John Wolfe
Weleetka resident plans to open gym in old church
WELEETKA, Oklahoma— Located just a few blocks behind Weleetka’s only bank sits the long-vacated 95-year-old Christ Community Church building.
From the street, it is obvious the weatherworn structure has seen better days; the grass is overgrown, shrubbery is unkempt and many of the windows are broken out.
Inside, light fixtures hang from the ceiling, graffiti covers the walls and the floors are littered with rubbish.
To most, the neglected building’s days of use may seem long passed. But to Muay Thai coach John Wolfe, the old church still has a lot to offer his community.
“I don’t see a rundown church… I don’t see it. I see potential,” Wolfe said.
The coach’s plan for the old church is to repurpose it and transform its basement into a gym and the sanctuary into a theatre that shows only Christian movies.
He says the project has had naysayers since beginning, but the community has been encouraging and supportive overall.
“I tell everybody, ‘If you come down and just spend 10 minutes with me, you see the vision. You’ll see it. You’ll see what I’m talking about, and you don’t see the work,’” he said.
The reason for undertaking such a laborious task, Wolfe said, stems from his youth in north Tulsa.
“I didn’t have a gym. I didn’t have a mentor. I didn’t have a place where I could go to until I met a gentleman that helped me into martial arts. But as far as something like this, a safe zone, I didn’t have that,” he said.
Coach Wolfe knows the positive impact martial arts training has had on his own life and he says that that is what he wants to offer Weleetka’s youth.
More than anything, what he says he is trying to bring to his small town is a safe place that specializes in nurturing hope.