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“If you keep God first and trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, acknowledge him, and he shall direct your path.” Those are the inspiring words of Henry Thomas Wells, Jr., senior pastor of Kingdom Life Christian Church in Williamsburg. And he himself has followed this advice.

Pastor Wells’ personal story is a testament to man’s ability to overcome negative influences that too often accompany deep poverty and lack of education. “I tell the young adults in my church that I was able to pull myself up, but I didn’t do it alone. It was the hand of the Lord helping me along the way, leading me, guiding me, and directing my path.”

Wells grew up in an impoverished South Florida community, where he struggled with speech issues and was often the target of bullying. At the insistence of his elementary school teachers, he participated in speech therapy classes. By 16, Wells was failing in school, using and selling drugs, and already had run-ins with the law.

Then he learned he was going to be a father. He wanted to provide for his small family. So, he enlisted with the U.S. Army, married his girlfriend Donyale, and they became an official military family. It was during the premarital counseling process that Wells entered into a relationship with God.

The Army told Wells he would need to take civilian remedial education classes to progress in the military. So he started with the most basic preparatory classes. Eventually, Wells earned an associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree in business.

During his 10 years in the Army, Wells’ relationship with God became the foundation of his life. Just three years after accepting the Lord, he was mentored and licensed as a minister by a pastor who recognized his potential. Wells knew then he wanted to fulfill his calling as a minister of the Gospel into a fulltime ministry.

After leaving the military, he launched a lawn care business that grew to include purchasing trucks and hauling freight. Then, the Great Recession hit. His business tanked. With a growing family to consider, Wells worked as a contract specialist for the Army for the next 10 years. During that time, he earned two master’s degrees, one in business administration and the other in theological studies.

And through all of it, Wells was a roving preacher, at schools, town halls, whenever there was a need and an opportunity to share God’s word and teachings with others.

A new building. A new vision.

Finally, after years of planning and saving for a permanent church home, Pastor Wells, his wife Donyale who is also a pastor, and other like-minded people realized their dream when a building that housed a former daycare center came on the market.

Pastor Wells brought the opportunity to a competitive bank who could not provide the financing needed to fund the purchase. That bank suggested that Wells talk with Chesapeake Bank.

Enter Chesapeake Bank and Regional Executive and Commercial Lender Leigh Houghland.

Wells met with Houghland, provided all the necessary documentation and outlined the plans and goals for the church. The vision: to create an interdenominational church community to help build strong families and connect people in need to nonprofit agencies that could improve their lives.

Houghland and Chesapeake Bank got behind the project and even provided additional funding for unexpected remodeling expenses.

“Chesapeake Bank and Leigh Houghland believed in us, in our vision. Chesapeake Bank is our financial partner,” said Pastor Wells.

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If you have a hope for the future, find out how Chesapeake Bank can help you get there, too. Visit chesbank.com or call 800-434-1181.