Published in the Rains County Leader on September 27, 2016:
If you drove north on Highway 19 last week, you probably noticed some unusual commotion going on around Believers’ Baptist Church. Actually, the activity started several weeks ago when ground was broken and a foundation was prepared for a new building dedicated to our youth and children’s ministries. Last Monday, however, the work began in earnest when a crew from Volunteer Christian Builders arrived.
Volunteer Christian Builders, or VCB, is a non-profit organization that has grown from a few families in 1963 to over 800 families who are bound together by a common desire to help Christian churches and camps by providing volunteer labor. Some VCB members use vacation time to work on projects, but many are retired and work on a number of projects during the year. General operating expenses of the organization are paid by donations, but VCB has no paid employees, and builders pay their own expenses.
The crew that is working on the BBC project is based out of First Baptist Church in Allen and is led by Kenneth Kemp. Since they are so close, some of the men came over Friday to check out the site and to set up the RVs where they will live for the next two weeks. I met a couple of them, but by the time I arrived on Monday morning, they had been at work for almost two hours, so I didn’t get a chance to meet most of the twelve or so men who came to work. I saw them throughout the day as they passed my office on the way to the Fellowship Hall to take a break or when they stopped for a moment to ask if there was a phone they could use or if we could buy blue Gatorade the next time we stocked up.
I also saw them in the kitchen. The one thing they asked us to do was to provide food, and church ladies (and men) know how to do that. I have helped lay out lunch a couple of days since I’m there anyway, and I made taco soup one day, but I’m in the kitchen a lot, restocking the refrigerator with water and soda and checking to see if the ice chests need to be replenished. I’ve seen red-faced men who have stayed out in the near-triple-digit temperature a few minutes too long and are cooling off and rehydrating before going back to work.
When the whole crew comes in for a scheduled break or a meal, dripping with sweat and looking as if they’ve taken a shower in their clothes, they often apologize for tracking dirt in on the floor. I watch them thanking God for the food, asking Him to bless our church, and smiling as if they’re having the time of their lives, and I wonder what motivates them to do what they do.
I had some of the same thoughts about our BBC volunteers Wednesday night as we prepared for the onslaught of AWANA clubbers, coming back for another year. Each February, when we have our annual sign-ups for service opportunities, I hear hesitant comments about AWANA – “I don’t think I’ll sign up this year because…” – but experience tells me that most will come back. Some who didn’t even sign up will show up on opening night and take their places with the kids from 3 years old to 6th grade who come bursting through the doors with an apparently unlimited supply of energy.
I am one of two secretaries, and one of my duties is to check in the Cubbies (3 years old to Pre-K) and Sparks (K – 2nd grade) when they arrive – and to pass out cookies to those who have their books and their t-shirts. After I’ve returned thirty or so little smiles and looked into all those eager faces covered with cookie crumbs (I have to admit – everybody gets a cookie, even without a book), I’m smiling, too, regardless of how tired I was before the crowd hit the doors. And every year, even though I sometimes think of how nice it would be to spend a quite Wednesday evening at home, I sign up again.
I wonder if, while they are measuring, sawing, nailing, and otherwise bringing shape to a pile of lumber and hardware, if the builders visualize the little crayon scribbled pictures that will adorn those walls. While they’re feeling sweat trickle down into their eyes, do they imagine the children, excited because they successfully quoted the books of the Bible or mastered the 23rd Psalm? When they feel like they’re too tired to lift one more board, do they hear the voices of the teens who have found a safe place to ask the hard questions that trouble them?
Whatever it is that motivates this wonderful group of men and the wives that support them in their work, we are blessed to have them. Words of gratitude seem like a very small offering for what they are doing. A time will come, though, when the One for whom they really work will say “Well done.” Until then, thank you will have to do.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos