Grace United Methodist Church Mission Team helps build church in the Bahamas

PICKENS — Every year for the past 12 years, the Grace United Methodist Church of Pickens Bahama Mission Team has made the journey to the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas in July. Home construction and repair are usually on the agenda. This year’s task was to participate in a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Project to start construction of a Methodist church in Deep Creek. The group is led by Ray Haskett and Ken Lowe.

The mission team has only been back from their trip for two weeks, and the whole team is already wanting to go back and finish the job. The sense of family was so strong between the 14 in the group, 12 of whom had been to Eleuthera before.

Their commitment to serving God in the project and each other began before they left at the preparation meeting. Each team member was given a devotion booklet, with a daily devotion to be read each day for one week before the trip and each of the 10 days of the trip. Their project was to help the community of Deep Creek construct a 2,800-square-foot church.

Once the team arrived in Eleuthera, they hit the ground running. A survey of the worksite was daunting when they saw the huge mound of dirt in the center of the foundation. In the course of the week, it was estimated that they moved approximately 85 tons of materials by hand, with shovels, buckets and wheelbarrows.

The team spent the first two days filling in and leveling and compacting the foundation area for the concrete pad. They pulled string lines across the foundation, filling dirt into all the low spots, then using hand tamps to compact the fill so that they could provide a solid base on which to pour the floor.

It was extremely hot. At times the work seemed like a boot camp workout that wouldn’t end. By noon a lot of the team members were worn out. The team put up a tarp for a “shade shack” to allow for refuge from the sun from time to time.

They also had to be very aware of the need for hydration, because of the heat and sun. The team drank more than 40 gallons of water, purchased in five-gallon jugs, in one day. Another issue was people getting severe sunburn on the back of necks, ears and legs, so they had to implement a sunscreen patrol.

The mission team was invited to help build the Methodist Church in Deep Creek by Pastor Remelda Carey. John Pender, a member of the church, was instrumental in organizing materials and people in the community to help with the project. It didn’t take long to see that Pender’s heart is really in building this church for his community.

The team always considers it very important to become personally involved with the people of the community they serve. Such it was in Deep Creek as they worked together, prayed together and ate together.

As the team spread dirt and mixed and poured concrete, both Americans and Bahamians realized that each others’ hearts were in this project for the purpose of serving and glorifying God.

As their work routine progressed, it became more intense — up at 5 a.m., dressed, breakfast, devotions and on the job at 7 a.m., and off at 6:30 p.m. on the longest day. They all had a common goal the team was working toward: getting the foundation completed before coming home.

The last half of the project was the most rugged, as the group had the task of mixing 35 cubic yards of concrete in a cement mixer. They would end up mixing 173 batches of concrete. One batch took six five-gallon buckets of sand, three five-gallon buckets of gravel, two five-gallon buckets of water and one 96 lb. bag of cement, all of which was loaded by hand into the mixer, poured into wheelbarrows, then poured out into the prepared area.

It became quite an involved operation as well. Some crews filled buckets of sand, some shoveled buckets of gravel, both of which had been shoveled into a truck from another location, others got the water, while others put down plastic, reinforcing wire and installed the concrete forms. Some screened and floated the concrete, some smoothing its surface.

It was amazing to see how much work could be accomplished when people are motivated by a creative Spirit.

As the team poured the last wheelbarrow of concrete Monday afternoon, the feeling of accomplishment was felt by everyone present. They knew something significant had taken place, and God’s new church was begun.