Volunteers from several states help expand Bogalusa church

Published 9:34 am Monday, September 19, 2016

The Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church is getting a facelift and an expansion, and it’s getting a little help from friends across America.

The help is courtesy the Macedonian Missionary Service, a U.S.-based Baptist nonprofit group of builders who travel the world helping Missionary Baptist Church groups on construction projects. Pete Underwood, the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, sought out the help of Macedonian Missionary Service and the group was happy to oblige.

Brant Lane, one of the volunteers with the Macedonian group, said he first got involved with the Bogalusa church about a year-and-a-half ago, when Underwood reached out to his group.

“We looked at the plans with them, to make sure we felt like it was something that could be done,” he said.

Paul Lamb, another volunteer builder, said he’s been in the construction business for years and one of the services Macedonian Missionary Service provides is a review of the design plans to see if the project can be done for less money.

“We help them with value engineering,” he said. “Brant and I know where you can change things and save a dollar and you don’t hurt the integrity of the building or the look.”

The church has to buy all the materials, so if they can save a dollar, they try to, Lamb explained. Lane explained that the Macedonian Missionary Services can provide not just free labor, but free expertise.

“We’ve got master electricians, plumbers and different things like that, like heating and air guys who come and work with us,” Lane said.

The Bogalusa job is ambitious. Lamb said the church will get a new fellowship hall and some new offices, and the project will add two buildings to the property but also connect the three existing buildings together.

“If you look at the buildings now, it’s three separate buildings and we’re going to put all five buildings under one roof,” he said.

Construction kicked off this week, and by the end of next week, Lamb said it will be over for Macedonian.

“The walls will be up, but it won’t be 100 percent,” he said. “What we try to do at Macedonia is be where we can be the most effective financially, and the biggest expense is putting up the shell of the building. So that’s what we do, is provide two weeks of free labor.”

The rest of the work will likely be done by church volunteers.

Lamb added that Macedonian hopes the savings will be put back into charity work.

“It’s our prayer that the money they would have spent on the labor to direct it into the mission field,” he said.

Unlike other denominations, there is no central authority in the Missionary Baptist Church system. This means each church must fend for itself in terms of fundraising and also church members aren’t required to go on trips to help other churches. Yet the two weeks of labor requires dozens of volunteers from all over the nation. So, the Macedonian Missionary Service uses a website and a newsletter, and for each construction project, they solicit volunteers.

Over a two week period, Lamb said he expects volunteers from about 10 states to descend on Bogalusa. The volunteers pay for their own trips and they’re either retired or they must take vacations, and some bring their whole families to help out.

“I imagine when its all said and done that’ll be 100 different folks who have helped out,” Lane said.

Lamb said the construction trips are cordial, fun affairs.

“Brant is married and he has four kids, and most of the people who are out here bring their children out and we meet people from all over with a common goal,” said Lamb. “And that’s important. You’ll never hear a cross word, you’ll never hear an argument because everyone’s here because they want to be. … We allow everyone to work at their own pace, from sweeping the floor to building some intricate thing. We’re just happy to have people here to help.”

Lane said the mission trips reflect the purpose of the church itself.

“We’re trying to be the light in a world that needs one and encourage people to go to church,” he said.