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An article from the Friday, July 6, 2001 edition of "Biblical Recorder" -

Carpenters for Christ swarms Valdese -

By Norman Jameson - BR Correspondent

One hundred thirty-nine sweaty men from 14 states and Germany swarmed Valdese for 10 days in June looking for a blessing. They searched for it on top of a roof, under beams, astride scaffolds, beneath sheet rock, under a blazing sun, next to each other in sleeping bags and in a school cafeteria.

They didn't leave the 20-acre site on Lovelady Road in Valdese until they found their blessing. When they did, they praised God, tossed their tools into trucks and turned for home, leaving behind a building in which members of Cornerstone Baptist Church can meet.

These "Carpenters for Christ" come from all over for 10 days each year to build a church home for a congregation that could not build one any other way. The church must have land, materials and a poured cement pad when the volunteers arrive. The pastor must be on site every day. Other than that, members can stand back and watch it rise, as visitors to the site did every day.

"They receive the building. We receive the blessing," said volunteer brick mason Alan Wellbaum from Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Many of the volunteers have come together annually for a dozen years or more. It was the 20th year for director Julian Newman of Talladega, Ala. They consider it a blessing to have a "family reunion" time together, working closely with the church they're helping, and stretching themselves beyond their normal life circumstances.

"When Carpenters for Christ came to survey our site, they met our people, they saw their faithfulness and willingness to sacrifice," pastor Bill Abrams said. "We don't deserve what they're doing for us. It's the grace of God. It shows what God can do through a community when they're willing to work."

Newman said there are more Carpenters for Christ groups in Alabama than in the other states combined. His crew is one of three that can build churches from a slab.

Cornerstone Baptist Church is an eight-year-old congregation that started meeting in a funeral home and graduated to a metal storage building. Abrams said the church building project became a community event.

Burke County Schools permitted the workers to stay at Heritage Middle School; a local banker made the construction loan process easy; a general contractor volunteered to help them get a building permit; church members washed the workers' clothes every night; and people from as far away as Virginia brought food and cakes.

Three hundred worshippers attended the first service in the new building on Sunday, June 10, just three days after the builders started.

Valdese Mayor Jim Hatley spoke during the service. Complimenting the dedication and hard work of Carpenters for Christ, he said, "We need mayors for Christ. We need teachers for Christ. We need citizens for Christ."

Newman, a timber seller in Alabama, downplays his leadership role. He said he just wakes the men up in the morning and the Lord takes over. Who wakes him up? "I have an alarm clock," he says, laughing.

Why does he do it? He said simply, "These folks needed some help with a building to house a church."

Only three of the 139-man crew were professional builders. No site foreman directs the activity, but each man pitches in to help someone who knows what he's doing.

Raymond, a computer programmer from Indiana, said his main building skill is "willingness."

"If you're willing, God can use you," he said.

That's the blessing these carpenters seek, the electric feeling that they are tools in the hands of God. When they successfully tackle a task that requires more than they can bring to it, they feel the power of God coursing through them.

They leave behind that valuable and visible lesson in Valdese - a building that contains a worship center for 160, a fellowship hall and 13 classrooms - a church to meet in it that knows the power of God working through people who simply are willing.

(Christ in the Carpenter's Shop)

Copyright © Cornerstone Baptist Church, Valdese, NC, 2001 - 2010

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