ST. LOUIS — First Baptist Church, St. John, members had to begin working on their carpentry skills after calling new pastor Ken Lovelace.
Lovelace and his wife, Lygia, have 10 children – five natural and five adopted. The St. Louis County church knew it would be challenging for the large family to find temporary housing while their Dallas, Texas, home sold. Church member and Missouri Baptist Children’s Home executive vice president Russell Martin offered a house on the Children’s Home campus.
“But there was a catch,” Lovelace said. “It had not been lived in in several years and had deteriorated to the point that it
was unlivable. So the catch was that our family could live there if we were willing to renovate it first.”
Church members have labored alongside Lovelace, who also works as a carpenter. Volunteers worked on the house for nearly two months, often with more than a dozen participants each day.
Robin Salsman, minister of worship and education, called the renovation project a major undertaking. “So far, church members have volunteered around 2-3,000 man-hours,” he said. “Every room, practically every surface” needed some sort of renovation.
“The work on Ranch Oak [the house] is a blessing, I think, both for those who worked on it, as well as for MBCH,” Martin said. The project provided a local missions opportunity for the church, teaching volunteers that “you do not have to travel to someplace else to do missions, but [that] it can be done in your own backyard.”
This house not only benefits the church’s new pastor. It serves as a continued ministry to the Children’s Home. First Baptist, St. John, has had a good relationship with MBCH for years, helping out with the annual Strawberry Festival and assisting during workdays. The congregation’s recent interim pastor, Derald Harris, works at the Children’s Home as public relations director.
“For MBCH, it meant that a house that was in need of real repair in order to be used was going to be repaired so it can be used in one of our ministry programs,” Martin said. “The way it was, it could not be used, and we did not have the financial resources or the staff resources to get it done. We do not know for sure [for] which ministry it is going to be used. But we know God knows, and we eagerly await to see what He is going to do through this particular unit.”
Salsman said this project is one of the healthiest things the church has done in a long time. “We’ve had a ball,” he said. He emphasized the camaraderie that resulted from the time spent working together. “It’s a very fun project – I recommend it. I have never seen a church do this in my whole life.”
Lovelace flew back and forth from Dallas to St. Louis to assist with the work on the home. “Rubbing shoulders with these great people in the grit and grime of a dusty construction project revealed to us how wonderful a church family we were privileged to be coming to serve,” he said.
The Lovelace family was able to move into the house Aug. 25, around two months after the renovation project began.
“The people of FBC, St. John, stepped up to the task, pulled together and tackled the project,” Lovelace said.†“I’ve never seen such a sight — dozens of willing hearts and hands of all ages unified in the effort to get it done. And the beautiful thing about it was that it was apparent that they weren’t just doing it for the obvious beneficiaries, my family and the MBCH; they were doing it for the Lord. And for that reason, God blessed greatly.”