Building a ministry

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, July 1, 2009

For the 10 volunteers helping to construct a new education building at Hopewell Baptist Church, retirement from work was only the beginning of a “better career.”

The volunteers are members of Campers on Mission, a Christian ministry that helps build church buildings at no cost to the churches. They will spend the rest of this week and the following two weeks in Andalusia constructing a building for Sunday school classes at Hopewell Baptist Church, located on Brooklyn Road.

Project leader Walt Miller, a member of Campers on Mission from Enterprise, said the ministry is a fulfilling one for those who participate.

“We’re a bunch of Christians who volunteer to travel and construct churches,” he said. “We’re all retired, and I’d say the average age is around 70 or so. I’m a retired military pilot, and we’ve got a retired executive here, and a retired schoolteacher — very few of us made a living in the construction business. But we’ve been doing this for a while and have learned everything through our experience.”

Five Hopewell Baptist Church members, including pastor Barry Wilkinson, have also helped with the project. Tuesday, the volunteers erected most of the exterior and interior walls, and by Thursday they hope to be ready to add trusses. By Friday, most of the drywall will be added.

The volunteers will complete a large portion of the initial work, before contractors arrive to lay shingles and bricks and finish other minor details.

“I’d argue that our volunteers here will do as good a job as anybody you’d pay to do it,” Miller said. “We want to do an excellent job, because this is God’s house.”

The volunteers begin each day at sunrise and work until around noon. Most do several projects in a year, and travel to different churches with their RVs and trailers.

Wilkinson said his church appreciates Campers on Mission’s help in constructing the new building. The church does not pay the volunteers, but provides RV hook-ups and daily lunches.

“It’s a wonderful thing for us,” he said. “It allows us to use the Lord’s money for missions and things like that, rather than having to spend it on the building.”

Wilkinson added that he found out about Campers on Mission through church member Marcus Godwin, who has participated in the ministry for eight years.

“(Godwin) knew they do great work,” he said.

Miller said when the volunteers finish the work at Hopewell Baptist Church, they will have one week of rest before moving on to their next project in Alexander City. He estimated that the Alabama chapter of Campers on Mission participates in more than 30 projects a year.

“I retired to do this,” he said. “I spent 33 years in the military, but this is by far the ‘better career.’ We may not make as much money, but our retirement is out of this world.”

The new addition is 2,800 square feet and should be ready for use by mid-August.

“These extra classrooms are sorely needed for our kids’ Sunday School,” Wilkinson said. “I can’t say enough how thankful we are to Campers on Mission.”