For the last 30 years, the East Side Grace Brethren Church in Blacklick, Ohio (Chip Heim, pastor), has been combining missions and manual labor as a testimony to their love of Christ.
In the early 1980s, the men’s group at East Side “had a vision to bring men together to pound nails to help others and in the process disciple each other,” said Heim, who also participates in the group’s ministry efforts. With the Lord leading the way, the group was able to fulfill their vision. The East Side church completed their first construction project at the then-Brethren Navajo Mission in 1983 and since then has completed roughly 40 projects.
The official program coordinator, Butch Forrest, works to find projects, but Heim says that often they “simply fall into our lap.” The church has numerous connections through people in other Grace Brethren churches who need help, or when their church goes on mission trips they might make improvements for the mission they are working with. Forrest will also regularly contact Grace Brethren ministries to see if there are any needs that they could fulfill.
While this ministry stemmed from a men’s group, they still need other people to participate who aren’t doing the manual labor, making it a ministry opportunity for all members of the church. The average number of volunteers is 30 to 50 people per project, with helpers ranging from young children to grandparents. Children often bring drinks to construction workers while older members prepare meals during the projects’ completion. Others who are more experienced in manual labor often pitch in with the construction work itself.
In addition to working in their area, the group has also traveled throughout the U.S. or overseas to complete projects. A project last summer found them working at the Happy Church in Jackson, Ky., which is located in one of the poorest counties in America. The group added a second story to the church, reconfigured the entrance, and worked on building a new multipurpose structure. This was their fourth visit to the Happy Church in the last six years.
Not all of the projects have as big as the Happy Church project. In addition to the 40-plus larger projects Heim mentioned, the group has also completed countless smaller projects locally. Some of their past projects include completing someone’s roof, repairing a driveway, or fixing someone’s plumbing. To this group, it doesn’t matter how big the project is, just the fact that they get to help someone out for the glory of Christ is enough for them. — By Melissa Sorensen
(Editor’s Note: Melissa Sorensen was an editorial intern for GraceConnect.)
[Connect:] Send a note of thanks or encouragement to this group via Pastor Chip Heim.
This story first appeared in GraceConnect eNews. To subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter that includes news and information from congregations in the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches, click here.