Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Saws buzzing, sawdust floating through the air, and the smell of fresh-cut lumber.
It's a typical scene at a construction site, but this time the workers aren't taking home a paycheck: They're offering up their labor for the love of God.
Craft Baptist Church Pastor Wade Holman admits “that seems to be the big question around the church” – how does someone take on two to three weeks of hard labor without asking for a penny in return?
“In my opinion, they're led by God to do this,” Holman said of the team of Master's Builders helping the Jacksonville Church renovate a sanctuary constructed in 1953. “Just how many people would go out and do work for nothing except to serve?
“They're gone (from home) all the time and they basically live in their RVs (for the duration of the project they're on). I'd say they're moved by the spirit of God, and the love that they have for people drives them to do this work they do.”
Crew members from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas started their second week on the project, which includes creating a new platform for the altar along with a new baptistry located behind the altar; an area for a puppet ministry that will be used with children prior to the start of church services; a new handicap-accessible restroom; lowered ceilings; new doors into sanctuary and a foyer that will serve as overflow area during services.
“When we came in, we were planning on tearing out the old ceiling and hanging sheetrock, but this building has about a 9-inch swag in it, the roof had come down that much. So we had to put I-beams in to support that weight,” said Eddie Sikes, the Master's Builders field coordinator overseeing the Craft church project.
This project is the 124th for the organization since it began its national ministry in 1991. A team has been to Jacksonville in the past couple of years, helping construct a storage room on the Jacksonville College campus, where it will return when work begins on a new living residence there, Sikes said.
His teams number between 15-25 men, with their end of the work. “We frame it, wire it and hang the sheetrock,” Sikes said. “We don't shingles, we don't do insulation, we don't do plumbing.”
Both Holman and his assistant pastor David Smith said that if not for the contribution of these volunteers, it would have taken a longer time to get the renovation off the ground because their labor has helped keep down costs; Sikes noted that cost would have doubled or tripled without volunteer labor.
And for this ministry – all done for the glory of their Lord – the pastors say they are grateful.
The Master's Builders “are rebuilding churches and helping our little churches to be able to grow,” Smith said, crediting the Holy Spirit for the joyful service this group of volunteers bring with them.
“It started at the cross – it allowed us to be engulfed in that love. We want to share it. And that's what they're doing,” Smith said.
“I have a sincere appreciation for what these guys do,” Holman added; “I know they're God-sent, but it still just puts me in awe that they're willing to spend their own money and go and do. They say it's because they love what they're doing and who they're with, but I say it's a love of God that they're able to do this. And I will say this, too: They will amaze you in how much work they can do in one day. My wife and I were actually gone last week, and when we came back I could not believe how much work they had done! They really accomplish a lot of work, they really take this seriously.”
It's evident just how big an impact the group has on the community when men begin asking about becoming part of The Master's Builders, and so far, Sikes said, two men from the Jacksonville church have expressed an interest in permanently joining the builders' group.
Which, in all honesty, doesn't surprise Smith, who admits that he and his wife have kicked over the idea themselves.
“They gather together to do just one thing, and that's to build. And they do it out of love – and that is a beautiful thing,” Smith said.