CENTERTOWN, Mo. — "Practice makes perfect," according to an old maxim. For two small churches in mid-Missouri, practice also means service.
For two years, youth and adult sponsors from New Hope Baptist Church, near Centertown, Mo., and from a several churches in Jamestown have assisted others each summer as part of Group Workcamps, a ministry of Group Publishing. The program combines the spiritual experiences of camp and a mission trip.
This summer, 23 students and six adults from six churches — New Hope Baptist; St. Paul's Evangelical Church, Jamestown Assembly of God, First United Methodist Church and Jamestown Baptist, all in Jamestown; and nearby Moniteau Evangelical Church — will help with a building project in Davenport, Iowa.
St. Paul Pastor Brian Bish began coordinating the annual effort when he became the church's minister three years ago. Many participants generally have little or no construction experience.
To get to their church, several New Hope members drive along a stretch of State Highway 179 between two tiny communities, Marion and Sandy Hook. Several, including Pastor Joshua Crider, noticed the Tyler and Gail Therrien home needed a new roof.
"About half the people from the church drive by that house every Sunday," Crider explained. "And someone asked if we could do something."
In the past, Crider had known the Therriens, who had been his parents' friends, but had lost contact with them when they had moved away. The pastor knew Therrien is disabled and that Gail recently lost her job. ?They didn't have the ability to do the repair on their own," Crider said.
Perhaps those planning to go to Iowa could assist the Therriens as a "good warm-up" to the summer ministry trip, he thought. "Why do we always have to go to a different state to do something when there are things that can be done here?" he asked.
"Josh thought of this family and we [church members] thought we could come up with the supplies to fix it," New Hope member Jamie Russell noted. "And we thought the St. Paul's youth and other volunteers could do the labor."
At first, New Hope members weren't certain whether the small rural church really could furnish supplies. "We did ask ourselves: How can we afford to do this?" Music Minister Diane Reed said. "Finally in a business meeting, we decided: 'Okay, we're going to do it.' Then things seemed to fall in place."
A member of St. Paul's "happened" to be visiting at New Hope one Sunday morning and heard about the project. "He went back and talked about it at St. Paul's," Reed said.
New Hope's children could help with the project, too. During children's sermon on Sunday mornings in March and December, participants spread through the congregation to collect change. Money collected each spring is given to the Southern Baptist Convention's Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. December's collection benefits the SBC's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.
Though they collected each Sunday of those months, they hadn't been gathering coins each month of the year. A few years ago, they added a Vacation Bible School collection each summer. As other needs arose, they would pass the buckets throughout an additional month.
Now the practice is done each Sunday, with the collection to benefit different causes. The children wanted to assist the Therriens, too.
With the children's help, New Hope raised enough funds for roofing supplies for the home within three months. Churchwomen made sandwiches and provided other goodies for lunches for the volunteers, with a local grocer discounting the cost of meat.
New Hope member Jerry Benne hesitated to participate at first. But "Josh asked for volunteers and I knew roofers," he admitted, and he agreed to act as project coordinator.
He asked Chris Phiffer of Integrity Construction to examine the roof and offer advice on the best way to tackle the repair. Phiffer helped the church get materials at his cost and supplied some tools, as well.
New Hope and St. Paul's touched the Therriens' hearts as the combined-church team swarmed the couple?s roof March 14-16. Therrien had owned a construction company before becoming disabled. The couple moved to the area last August.
"I'm very well traveled," he said on March 15. "But I've never seen the spirit of giving like I've experienced these last couple of days…. I've seen lots of church groups overseas…but charity begins at home…. This is a very humbling thing."
The churches point to God's provision to help the Therriens. "The Lord just worked in so many ways — in big and small ways," Reed said. "That's just what God does."
And members will be reminded that small congregations can work for God's kingdom at home as well as elsewhere, Crider said. "Now they will be able to see it every time they drive by."