Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
JACKSONVILLE — They come from all over the state – and in this case, Colorado and Oklahoma, too – to serve the Lord, helping not only to throw up buildings, but build up the Body of Christ in different ways.
They are the men and women of the Texas Baptist Men Retiree Church Builders., who have been doing this since 1979.
More than 40 members of the group have spent the past two weeks at Woodland Heights Baptist Church, throwing up walls inside an 8,000-square-foot steel-frame building that will feature four offices, eight classrooms, two restrooms, storage and a big commercial kitchen.
“God has blessed tremendously in regards to growth: We were at 60, and now we're at 350 to 400 (members) in a year-and-a-half, and we needed the space desperately for classes” and a fellowship hall, explained associate pastor Brian Faulkner.
But like many congregations, only a certain amount of funding was available to immediately build, so church leaders contacted TBM to help out.
“It's a burden that they took off our church, in regard to expense,” Faulkner said.
In another sense, the men and women – through their joyful ministry – are giving Woodland Heights church members (who range from their 20s to 40s in age) a wonderful role model to emulate by demonstrating “the giving of time” and selves, he added.
But to hear their guests speak, it's they who receive the greater blessing.
“It blesses our hearts to be able to help other people,” said lead electrician Jim Mohle of Waller. “It's a blessing from the Lord.”
Wanda Olsen, of Colorado, described the different ministries the group is involved in.
While the men focus on construction, the women lead a Bible study and visit local nursing homes and shut-ins, among other things. “We try to reach out in a variety of ways,” she said.
“We try to go into the communities,” added Ann Beard, whose husband Ron is coordinator for the Jacksonville project. “And we usually get very, very positive response.”
Though sometimes their name badges evoke teasing.
“We wear them everywhere we go, and people will say, 'You don't look like a man to me,'” she laughed, as Olsen joined in.
Through their outreach, the women said, the group works hard to model Christ's love.
“We strive to show the love of Christ, as he washed the disciples feet, as he ministered to the lepers, to the hungry, to those who are ill … these are the ways we try to show Christ's love, and then we be able to share the story of salvation through what we do,” Olsen said.
Beard confided that the women feel that they “get so blessed as we serve, as we minister out.
“We just talk to people on the street, and (are told), 'You are such a blessing to us.' But we are so blessed – I can't even express what it means for us to be able to come and serve. It's just awesome,” she said.
The biggest blessing, though, is watching two diverse groups of people form the kind of strong bonds usually seen among family members in a short period of time.
“We consider ourselves family, and we call ourselves the family of God,” Beard said. “All these people are our friends … we just go in and love the people we've met. It's a very rewarding experience.”
There is a precious spirit TBM members exemplify, Faulkner added.
“A gentle, sweet spirit of these men and women, (who are) 74-86 years of age, doing this work …working so hard together, and (showing) that unity,” he said.
“We're blessed here to see it in place, working daily, is just such a blessing. You talk about getting the hugs, seeing the smiles, hearing the love and working 8 in the morning to 4:30 every day, giving of their time,” he added. “Why? Because they love God. … They are truly mentors.”