From factory to fellowship
April 26 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

From factory to fellowship | Friday, April 26, 2002

Friday, April 26, 2002

From factory to fellowship

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Jasper and Sue Evans are looking for a few good volunteers who don't mind hard work, German food and the blessings that come with service to God and others.

For the second year running, the Evanses are spending six months in the German town of Erda, which is near Geissen, about 60 miles north of Frankfurt. They are recruiting, coordinating and hosting volunteers who are assisting a small but determined Baptist church that is working to convert an old cigar factory into a new worship center.

This isn't the first German project for the Evanses, who live in Mooresville and are members of Charlotte's Pritchard Memorial Baptist Church. They helped remodel the 1936 Olympic village in Elstal into the German Baptist Union Seminary (1996-97), and assisted with the conversion of an old wood-processing factory into the Baptist Church of Wernigerode in north central Germany (1997-98).

That's where they met Rudolf Gerhardt, who sent an appeal to N.C. Baptist Men (NCBM), requesting assistance in building a worship center for the congregation in Erda.

When the Evanses and NCBM international missions coordinator Robert Stroup first visited Erda in the fall of 2000, they found a small congregation with a large vision for their surrounding area. Fifteen to 20 families with about 30 children and youth were making do in a tiny building with no space at all for children's activities.

Erda is one of six villages in a region called Hohenahr, which has a total population of about 12,000. There is no other Baptist church in the district.

Church leaders saw a golden opportunity for expansion when an old cigar factory came onto the market, but they could not pay the asking price. They continued to pray with confidence, however, and the owner eventually reduced the price.

The decision to purchase the factory came at another cost - some members thought it was too big of an undertaking, that would require too much of a financial sacrifice. They pulled away, but others have stepped forward, said Sue Evans.

Working on Saturdays and holidays, the congregation razed a part of the factory that was beyond repair, and began renovating the remainder. With income barely large enough for building payments and some construction materials, members expected the project to take five to eight years.

That's where N.C. Baptist Men stepped in, with hopes of reducing that timetable by a large margin. The Evanses committed to serving as on-site coordinators and volunteers began to arrive in May 2001. From May to September, volunteers contributed about 1,500 days of labor, by Sue Evans' calculations. Volunteers came from across North Carolina, and from Texas, Virginia and South Carolina. The German church that the Evanses had assisted in Wernigerode also sent a three-person team.

While in Erda, volunteers worked hard but were also treated to home cooking and sightseeing trips to nearby castles, cathedrals, old towns and festivals. Each team worshipped with the Erda congregation, placing a pin on a world map indicating the partnership bond between the two countries.

Luther and Becky Yaun, of First Baptist Church in Greensboro, learned about the project from the NCBM newsletter and traveled to Erda last July. After a day of installing "itchy rock wool bats" in part of the upper floor, Luther said, "that Jasper Evans believes in making optimum use of his volunteer help!"

The Yauns also spread vapor barriers, put up pressboard, and spent time with their hosts. "Becky and I so enjoyed meeting the members of Erda Baptist Church," Luther said. "They are friendly to the greatest degree, hospitable and Christ-loving. ... I covet that other N.C. Baptists might experience this same joy and incomparable experience that my wife and I shared in Erda, Germany."

Peggy Bridgeman, a retired schoolteacher from First Baptist Church in Hickory, was one of eight volunteers who worked in Erda last August. Bridgeman shared kitchen and cleanup duty at the apartment where the team found lodging. At the job site, she said, "I was a gofer, a sweeper, a shoveler and mover of sand, and an experienced wheel barrow user for cleaning up the job site."

"God is so good," Bridgman says, "He understands German as well as English. ... The days of living in the village, socializing and worshiping with families in the church, witnessing their love for the Lord and their commitment to Him and the establishment of a larger facility for worship and outreach touched my heart!"

Bridgeman will host a young woman from the Erda congregation for a two-month visit to America this summer.

During the winter months, local church members braved cold weather to replace the structure's existing flat roof with a cathedral roof. The congregation's goal for the next six months is to complete the basement area, making it usable enough to allow the sale of its old facility. Those proceeds can then purchase materials toward completion of the new worship center.

Visitors have been impressed with the church's vision - and surprised that it has accomplished so much without the aid of a pastor. Arno Kawohl, pastor of a Baptist church in Giessen, preaches once every three months and provides some assistance. Visiting preachers, missionaries and members of the congregation preach at other times. One member is a retired missionary, while two others are employees of Evangelisch Rund Funk (Christian radio). The radio outreach is affiliated with TransWorld Radio, which has headquarters in Cary.

Volunteers haven't signed up as quickly this year, the Evanses say, so they are unashamed to paraphrase the Macedonian call: "Come over to Germany and help us!"

For more information about helping with or contributing to the Erda project, contact Fatima Roma, Overseas Project Coordinator for N.C. Baptist Men, at (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5100, ext. 324, or e-mail froma@bscnc.org.

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4/26/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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