Families vacation while building churches
Photo: Day five of Cowboy Church’s new children’s church by Baptist Church Builders of Texas. Photos courtesy of Pam Honeycutt.
For The Record
Cowboy Church of Orange County is the beneficiary of a program where families spend their summer vacation building churches. Each third full week in June Baptist Church Builders of Texas volunteers travel at their own expense to somewhere in the United States. They help churches with their building projects.
Theresa Agnew, secretary-treasurer of the group says they start looking for applications for the next year’s project as soon as they finish the current project.
The group came in on Monday last week and completed their part of the work on Cowboy Church’s new children’s church by noon Friday.
“We make sure it is dried in. Usually the work left to do when they leave is cosmetic, such as painting and trim.
The program has been ongoing since 1978. Agnew and her husband have been involved for 20 years. They bring their grandchildren along. “Our oldest grandson is 21 and he’s been coming since he was 7.” They let the rest of their grandkids come when they get to age 7.
It’s done like an old fashioned barn raising.
“The first wall goes up about 15-20 minutes after they start on Monday morning,” said Agnew. “It’s an impressive thing to see how fast it goes.”
Agnew said they try to get inspectors set to come inspect on Tuesday morning so they can run the wiring. Inspectors think there is no way they will be ready. She said they have to call them back on Tuesday and say, “Please come, you’re putting us behind. So they will come on out and they are just floored.”
“We get it as far as we can in a week. It’s dried in. The doors and windows are in. They are starting sheet rocking today. The electric is all in and the plumbing. It’s cosmetic now,” said Agnew on Thursday.
People of all ages and all abilities join in. “There is always something someone can do even if they can’t build. There’s always nails to pick up, water to pass out or sweep,” said Agnew.
They had people from their 90s on down on site. “They can’t work very long, but they can sit under the cookie tin and supervise,” said Agnew.
There is one group that cooks the meals. “We cook lunch and supper Monday through Friday noon.”
Meals were cooked and served at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center.
The Cowboy Church project involved 180 volunteers. Sometimes they have as many as 275 volunteers. “A lot of it depends on where you go, because for a lot of people this is their vacation. So if you go someplace where there is something they want to do nearby, after it’s over with, you tend to get a few more families.”
“We call it our family reunion,” said Agnew. “Even if we can’t remember a person’s name, we remember them.” She said they hug and carry on as if they are family. “You’ve got people that have been coming for over 20 years.”
To find their next project, they call around to different Baptist associations to find out if they have any churches in their area wanting to build. If they say yes, they tell them to go to their website and fill out an application. There are several requirements for them to come build: They have to own the land; they have to have a slab poured before they get there; they are required to have the money for the materials; and they have to have a line of credit set up with a bank if they run out of cash for the build. “We don’t want to build half a church and have to stop because they don’t have the money to finish. We just like to know they are going to finish it; otherwise we’ve wasted our time. It doesn’t glorify God if it’s not going to be used.
“If they are not ready that year, but we can see they might be ready the next, we tell them we’ll hold it and talk to you next year and see how far you’ve come along.”
If you are interested in volunteering next year, registration is $40. That covers all the meals they provide during the week and a directory. Children 10 and under don’t pay for meals. Visit churchbuilders.com to find the application for a build or to register to volunteer. For more information you can contact Agnew at firstname.lastname@example.org. Church affiliation is not required to participate.