Our Founders' Story

Larry and Betty Self were converted to Christ in the late '60s at a big Baptist church in Lebanon, Tennessee, where Larry was called, licensed and ordained to preach the gospel. After serving two churches in DeKalb County, in 1973 he was called to pastor Cookeville Baptist Temple, where he served for just over two years, during which time he got acquainted with Bro. U. L. Whitson.

While conducting a tent revival in Double Springs, Bro. Whitson introduced Larry to some men he was working with on a personal level. As a result of that tent revival, Bro. Whitson, Larry and Betty, along with their children and another family, started a mission to hold church services in a rented building on Thursdays and Sundays as an outreach to the Double Springs community. That was in addition to the services at Cookeville Baptist Temple. 

The following winter during a Sunday evening service, Larry heard the testimony of Bob Marsh, who was a good man but struggling with alcoholism. Seeing Mr. Marsh the next day on a cold street corner in Cookeville, Larry asked him how he was doing with his commitment to not drink. He answered, “Okay so far,” but where he had been, booze was flowing like water. Larry told him in his most “preachery” voice, “Bob, you shouldn’t hang out in places like that.” It seemed the Holy Spirit asked, “What are you doing to give him another place?”

Shortly thereafter on the same day, another man came up on crutches and asked Larry to buy him a bowl of chili. Again, the Holy Spirit seemed to say, “There is a great need that’s not being met here.” Larry went to a phone booth (this was long before cell phones) and called Bro. Whitson to share his conviction that there was a need for a rescue mission in Cookeville. Bro. Whitson stated that he had been thinking the same thing.

Since Larry and Betty were so new in town, it was through Bro. Whitson’s influence and connections that we were able to rent the building on North Cedar Street. The first overnight guest began with a folding cot and Mrs. Betty’s home-fried chicken and biscuits.

We were on Cedar Street for five years without a shower facility or a kitchen sink. We moved to our current location in 1981, renting the lower part of the old country church (formerly Wilhite Baptist). The property was purchased later that year and paid off in four years.

In the 40 years that have passed since our founding, Bro. Larry, Mrs. Betty and many staff members and volunteers have touched countless lives with immediate physical provisions and countless souls with their heartfelt gospel ministry. And now they have passed the torch to our new director, Kim England, who is dedicated to taking the Cookeville Rescue Mission to the next level.

Don’t wait for an open house. You are welcome to visit anytime to see what God has done here.