Bringing hope to New Hope
By Ann Floyd
Quality engineer with IBM. Executive secretary for Mayo Clinic. USAF pilot. College professor. Highway patrolman. Every pastor would love to have these professionals in his or her church.
Jay Sherwood, pastor of New Hope Assembly of God in Seymour, Mo., looks at this mix of men and women, pounding nails, taping wallboard and putting on roofing at his church, and says, "Their willingness to do what theyre doing blows my mind."
Because of the willingness of these MAPS (Mission America Placement Service)* volunteers to park their RVs on a church site in this farming community of 2,000, don work aprons, follow the architects blueprint and sweat under the summer sun, Sherwood and his congregation of 100 now have a facility to seat more than 300.
New Hope Assembly burned to the ground in a fire set by an arsonist in January 1999. While the congregation has been worshiping in a former steak house, more than 50 people have been saved and 20 have been baptized in a nearby lake. Many have also received the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The new converts dont know a lot about the Bible or church, Sherwood says, but they do know the reality of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. A discipleship program is already in place.
A beehive of activity begins at 6:30 a.m. on this hot August morning, as volunteers spread out through the partially completed auditorium, classrooms and offices.
Don McGuire and his wife, Nadean, coordinate the 12 RVs and the crew that have been on site since June. The McGuires have supervised 10 projects since 1990, when Don retired from Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Okla., after 35-plus years.
"Were doing it for the Lord," Don says. "We get a lot of personal satisfaction when we see a project finished. But the real key is the fact that we are doing what the Lord wants us to do."
I dont interview Don very long hes anxious to start hammering.
The workers assemble at 9:30 for a coffee break provided today by Marty Day, a member of New Hope for nine years. Saved while watching television and delivered from drugs, Marty moved to Seymour from the city. "I have never been to a church that has so much love in it," she says. "Pastor Jay is a friend."
As she watches the volunteers, she says, admiringly, "We couldnt have done this without them. Theyve become like part of the family. They worship with us and get involved in our Bible study."
Nadean says volunteers give more than just labor to their projects. When they leave a site, they contribute to needs they have learned about during construction. For an Indian church in Fort Totten, N.D., they purchased a refrigerator for the church and a study Bible for the pastor. "One of these days were going to see a lot of souls ," she says, as her voice trails off and her eyes fill with tears.
Stories abound of Gods provisions that enable the workers to volunteer in their retirement years. When a worker went to a local garage to have a tire repaired for his vehicle, he told the mechanic he was a volunteer, helping to build a church.
The man said, "Did you say youre volunteering? I cant charge you for that tire. Go your way."
Rich and Bonnie Nelson joined MAPS because of plans they made when they first heard of Foreign Missions MAPS more than 20 years ago. They bought an older home, remodeled it and rented it. Their plan was to have the house paid for, so they could live off the income, since neither of their employers had pension plans.
When layoffs jeopardized their plan to join MAPS full time, they went to work on a Teen Challenge project during a two-week vacation. MAPS workers there continually asked, "How long before you are full time?"
As the Nelsons told about the layoffs, a man said, "Go home and figure out to the penny exactly how much money you need and tell me." They did, and he gave the Nelsons $30,000 to finish paying for their rig and truck. In three weeks they were on the road full time. Through this and other miraculous provisions, Bonnie says, "It seems the Lord is saying, All these years you planned, you worked, you disciplined yourself. Now you just do the work and let Me take care of you. And Hes doing that."
This morning Bonnie, her work clothes already black with tar, heads for the roof. But the task she really enjoys, she says, is putting in electrical sockets.
Billy Ernst, mid-70s, has been with MAPS since 1989. In 1974 he had a heart attack; seven years later, a quadruple bypass. He helps pour concrete, paint, put in insulation "Whatever Im told to do," the former banker says. Most of what he does hes learned on the job. "When the Lord asks you to do something, He enables you to do it," Billy says.
B.J. Jacobson says she and her husband, Arne, formerly from Rochester, Minn., are enjoying the "funnest" time of their 38-year marriage. "The fellowship among the women in prayer and Bible study is really special," she says. "Weve seen so many prayers answered."
As Pastor Jay walks through the building, he expresses his gratitude. "Doing what theyre doing is an inspiration to us, and they minister along with us. I feel like they are missionaries to Seymour."
Executives-turned-missionaries bring hope to New Hope Assembly of God, so those who need Jesus can continue to enter its doors.
*MAPS RV Volunteers began in 1986 with 17 volunteers. Today more than 2,700 are involved across America. Patrick J. Donadio is director of the MAPS Department in Assemblies of God Home Missions.
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