By Faye Gaston
A team of eighty-six "Builders for Christ" began erecting a new church building for Mt. Hillard Baptist Church on highway 165 during the first week of June. Men, women and children from West Virginia, Ohio, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky are volunteers to provide this free labor.
The advance team of ten arrived on Friday, May 31, 2019 with the number growing during the week-end. They enjoyed a fish dinner provided by Mt. Hillard Baptist Church and Sunday School and Worship Service on Sunday. The team of 86 will have the framing of the church building done by the end of the first week of June.
Then other teams will come in to do the electrical work, sheet-rock and finishing work. 80 percent of the work will be done by the end of July. Then Mt. Hillard Baptist Church members will complete the work with carpet, etc. The new church building will be 7,398 square feet.
The headquarters for the 300-plus Builders for Christ is in Acworth, Georgia. Mt. Hillard will be their 28th church. Mt. Hillard's pastor, Dexter Foreman, contacted them after hearing about a church they built in Andalusia, Alabama, last year, their 6th church in Alabama.
The Co-ordinator is Bobby Lunceford who is a former General Contractor of residential and commercial buildings. He said the mission statement of Builders for Christ is, "Building the body of Christ through volunteer church construction on the solid Christian Foundation that our great country was built upon." He said that the volunteers are called by God individually. He said, "This is the hardest work we ever loved. We spend our own money as volunteers for free labor. Lessons learned in serving last a life-time. We leave each new church building re-newed. I used to go to church to get, now I go to church to give.
"Builders for Christ is about serving God. While building the church, at every meal we have the blessing, eat and have a devotion by a volunteer. The days and evenings are a big family reunion. We joke, work, have snacks, and sometimes there is a camp fire. Those who began to volunteer in Junior and Senior High School continue to volunteer as adults. I have seen miracles, like a heavy rain holding off until we finished for the day."
The team of 86 were living in 8 campers and rented cottages, with sixteen staying in the "old" church building with air mattresses. They wore matching purple T-shirts with "The Master's Builders 2019" on the front and "Builders for Christ, I Corinthians 15:58" on the back.
He said that Mt. Hillard Church spent $20,000 in doing their part in building an on-site covered pavilion where the volunteers can eat, provided several stoves and refrigerators, a storage place for groceries the volunteers bought in bulk and hook-ups for 12 campers. Mt. Hillard bought materials and had the slab ready. There are 8 portable toilets.Through the free labor of volunteers the church will save $200,000 or more.
Mt. Hillard's pastor, Dexter Foreman, conducted a tour of the frame work of the church for the church members, including the oldest church member. Pastor Foreman lives in Valley, Alabama and is Chaplain at East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika. He said Mt. Hillard has a membership of 65 and the present "old" church building will be used by the community for gatherings in fellowship and in ministry to the community.
Union Springs Police Chief Danny Jackson, a member of Mt. Hillard, made public announcements about this project with invitations to attend the Wednesday night worship service. On Wednesday night, June 5, 2019, the team of volunteers brought chairs from the pavilion and lawn chairs into the partially built church. There were several floor fans and a sound system for the keyboard and a guitar and two singers. Bobby Lunceford was the MC and announced that this service was "dedicating the building to the glory of God."
After four songs of worship and prayers, a church pastor in the volunteers preached on "Sowing Discord Among Church Members" and used Scriptures from six books of the Bible to illustrate discord among Believers, the consequences, repentance and forgiveness.
Several folks came forward as others gathered around them to pray for them. The crowd did a "laying on of hands" as prayer was made for healing of one diagnosed with breast cancer.
A presentation was made of three crosses built by Wesley D., a Down Syndrome volunteer. He began serving as a volunteer in 1996 and is still serving in his 30's. MC Lunceford said Wesley had a vision 15 years ago to build Crosses and is called "Cross Builder". He presents three crosses to every church the volunteers build.
As Wesley spoke, Mt. Hillard Baptist Church members Ranzi Cowan, Danny Jackson and Angela Jackson accepted the three crosses presented to Mt. Hillard Baptist Church. Many photos were made of this moving presentation. (It is noted that last year as they were building a church, Wesley asked for 18 inches of old barbed wire from a hardware store. He made a crown of thorns, a reminder of the one Jesus had on the Cross. At his church, Wesley is the head usher and runs Wesley's Coffee Shop.)
MC Lunceford invited each volunteer, during the rest of the week, to drive a large nail in the unfinished walls and write a Bible Scripture and signature. He said this is symbolic of the spikes in the hands of the crucified Jesus.
To adjourn the "dedication of the building to the glory of God" the team of volunteers of men, women and children posed for a huge group photo.