About Mobile Baptist Builders

How would you handle 125 of your friends and family coming to visit for a week and participating in an old-fashioned "barn-raising" for your church? How about finding a place to sleep for 125 people for one week? How about providing 18 pounds of bacon, 20 dozen eggs, or 250 biscuits each day for the workers?

The mission of the Mobile Baptist Builders is to organize a team of volunteers to build a first or second unit building for a church. Each year, the coordinator, Burben Sullins, along with a prayer team, selects a project the team will tackle in June. The team, under the technical leadership of contractor Tony Poiroux, will put the building under roof, erect the inside partitions, construct the floor and baptistry in six working days. The contractor provides the skills needed to construct the building according to specifications and applicable building codes. Usually, there are several contractors who come with the group and volunteer their expertise. There are also many skilled workers who contribute, such as electricians, bricklayers, roofers, carpenters, plumbers, etc.

The Mobile Baptist Builders is a ministry of the Mobile Baptist Association. MBB started in 1982 with nine men and five women, who built a log church in Utah. The group has built churches in Washington, Georgia, South Carolina, Maine, Colorado, and many other states. The team has one major project that is usually located some distance away from Mobile, and one or more smaller projects located closer to home. The shorter duration projects include building a chapel in prison, re-building a black church burned in a racially motivated fire, and building a home for a missionary. The group has two or three meetings, one immediately after the trip and one at Christmas to introduce the team to the location of the next project, and one in May to communicate the details and get a final count of the participants so plans can be made.

Who are these volunteers who give a week of their time to travel at their own expense to another place and work on a church they will likely never be a part of? There are engineers, managers, housewives, counselors, insurance professionals, bankers, teachers, and the list goes on. There are jobs for everyone - those that can hammer and build do so, and those that can provide support are also utilized, as they are willing. The experienced men and women work with the newcomers to ensure the work is completed. Some women organize into meal teams and provide nutritious meals for all the personnel at the site, and some work with hammers and nails alongside the men. And of course, since this group is based out of Mobile, Alabama, each breakfast includes a mountain of grits!

These volunteers give because they want to express God's love in a tangible way. Each year, the project is in a different location, but when the group arrives, you would think you were at a family reunion. Young and old, each person is excited about working for the Lord and seeing familiar faces from past building trips and meeting new Christians. The volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds - they are not all Southern Baptist. When the team goes to a site one year, the next year some of the church people from that site join the family!

The work is intense, but the team has a great time. There are many jokes that go on from year to year, and of course, there is a team jester. He arrives each year with a fresh crop of gags, jokes and enough good humor to cheer everyone up!

God is working all around us, and when MBB comes to a site, revival often occurs, with a side benefit of completing a building when they leave. The group arrives on a Friday evening. Saturday morning is the start of the first workday. Each morning, the first thing the team does is to circle up and pray on the site before they start building. The first morning is a time of introspection - each person there really prays for the building as well as their own witness during the week. The love of God is so evident in the team that many people have been saved just from being around the team members. Some of the team members that come on the building trips are not saved, but few leave without being heavily witnessed to. One young man that helped roof a church accepted Christ during a mission trip and later died tragically in a drowning accident. If he had not accepted Christ, he would have died a sinner.

Each night, there is a praise and worship service. The supper meal is planned so anyone from the community who wants to attend is welcome. When the Holy Spirit is working, the testimony service may go on for several hours but no one wants to leave. On the last night there, the team has a "Hallelujah hoe-down." There are skits, songs, parodies, a pie-eating contest (a gag pulled on an unsuspecting team member) and the infamous "Lloyd's Words of Wisdom".

The builders come from many churches. They have been praying for many weeks for the project. Some pray for safety for the workers, some pray for the host church, some pray for revival, and all pray that the weather would be good enough for all the volunteer's time to be utilized to the maximum. How many of you have tackled a home building project or renovation? What did you do when things just did not really fit? Each year during the construction, there seem to be obstacles that come up that could delay the project. MBB knows what to do - they get down on their knees and pray. The team has experienced God's grace many, many years - in 1997 in Autreyville, Georgia, the team was roofing the church and watched a tremendous rain storm pass less than 5 miles away, but it did not rain one drop on the roof! In Washington, in 1995, the wind was blowing so hard the workers had a difficult time staying on the roof. In Denver, Colorado, a tornado blew through town, flooding the streets around the building, but the rain did not come until work had stopped for the day. Building inspectors have threatened to close down the whole building project until God intervened and the inspectors released the project.

The church members are astonished at the time and love MBB give for their brothers and sisters in Christ they did not even know before this week. This reaction is common - the secular world teaches us we never get something for nothing, and even God's people have a hard time believing it. The volunteer labor, if the church had to pay for it, could be up to several hundred thousand dollars. The volunteers also bring their own tools, which could be another twenty-five thousand dollars if the church had to buy the tools. The church is just asked to house the volunteers, participate in the worship services, and to pray. MBB will build the building, but the church needs to fill it!

MBB are not the only volunteer organization to accomplish this type of mission work. There are many more dedicated spiritual teams that always need more volunteers. It is important that we listen to God and be sensitive to His will - if He wants you to volunteer, find a Bible-based organization and offer your services. God used many people in the Bible at all ages. He does not discriminate - look at Abraham! Noah was six hundred years old when he took his step of faith to build the Ark. If you cannot join a team that is traveling to a project, volunteer in your community. Our country needs a strong Christian influence now more than ever.