By Kim Plummer Krull
Nearly every day a van picks up Kevin Soults at the Cypress, Texas, home where he lives with five other individuals served by Bethesda Lutheran Communities.
Since Soults, 51, uses a wheelchair, he and three others relied on their carport to make getting in and out of the van easier — until that aging structure needed reinforcing and was out of commission.
“But now they can use it again,” Mathias Blaber, an area director with Bethesda, said of the newly reinforced carport — just one of many updates Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s Laborers For Christ, working for Bethesda, is making possible through a new ministry partnership. (Read a related story, “LFC, Bethesda partnership aims to upgrade, maintain 170-plus sites.”)
Laborers For Christ is assisting Bethesda — an LCMS Recognized Service Organization that provides homes and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — with upkeep and maintenance on 188 of Bethesda’s 300 program sites in 14 states.
The work by Laborers for Bethesda began with a two-home pilot project last fall in Cypress and is expected to take about three years to complete.
At a meeting of guardians and parents of Bethesda clients, several expressed their gratitude to Laborers who began working in January on 17 additional Bethesda homes in Cypress.
“One mother was very appreciative that Laborers would be working on the house where her daughter lives,” Blaber said. “She was excited to learn of the savings, and how that money can now be used for other services.”
Laborers’ work for Bethesda differs from the ministry’s traditional construction projects for churches and schools, creating a new opportunity that is expected to mean a record need for men and women to serve, says Marcy Scholl, specialist with Laborers For Christ.
For the first time, Laborers will have ample projects during the winter months, Scholl says, as Bethesda keeps in mind “work-friendly climates.”
In February, Laborers also began work for Bethesda in Orange County, Calif. In Cypress, Laborers have replaced water heaters and toilets, installed new doors, power-washed siding and patched and painted lots of walls.
Where Kevin Soults lives, for example, “the walls have really taken a beating by four wheelchairs,” Blaber said. “But now they’re all smoothed out and painted and look great!”
He calls Laborers “awesome!”
Jim Pressnell, Bethesda’s vice-president of Religious Life, said the partnership “connects two Lutheran organizations committed to helping others by empowering people with hearts of faith and hands of service.”
“Because faith is alive in everything that Bethesda and Laborers For Christ do, our partnership celebrates our calling to serve alongside each other,” he said.
Paying it forward
Laborers came from eight states to Cypress to work for Bethesda. The team includes Richard King, a retired master plumber from Joplin, Mo., who joined Laborers For Christ after his home and church were damaged in the deadly 2011 tornado.
“We had so many people help us in Joplin, this is a way I can pay it forward,” said King, whose congregation, Immanuel Lutheran Church, participated in Laborers For Christ to rebuild.
King calls Laborers’ work for Bethesda “needed” and “very satisfying.” He enjoys working and praying alongside fellow Christians.
Laborers stay in their RVs at a nearby RV park in Cypress. Their workday begins with prayer and ends with devotions and “attitude adjustment” back at the campsite. Laborers’ spouses also lend a hand, volunteering at the local Bethesda Community Life Center.
In Cypress, Bob Miller, a retired pilot from Granbury, Texas, serves as project manager. The Laborers team also includes a former teacher, engineer, carpenter and farmer.
“If you can handle a paint brush or a power washer, you can do this,” Miller said of Laborers’ work for Bethesda. “The only thing really needed is a willing attitude.”
Max Biesenthal, LCEF’s senior vice-president of Ministry Support, said the partnership has “the potential to benefit the Kingdom beyond measure.”
“Laborers and Bethesda are two iconic Lutheran service organizations — it is a perfect fit for us to work together and share Christ’s love,” he said.
To learn more about the project, visit teambethesda.org/lcef.
For information about serving with Laborers For Christ, visit lcef.org or call Marcy Scholl at 314-885-6441.
Kim Plummer Krull (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer in St. Louis and a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Des Peres, Mo.
Posted March 8, 2016