Monday, March 12, 2007
A Chapel on a Hill
I didn't expect to feel the wind so strongly. I had just climbed the steps up to the Chapel, and the wind was blowing through my hair, and whipping through the building. You see, the walls had come down.
A bunch of people were working on the Oak Hill Chapel. What had started with a reevaluation of the roof had led to wide renovations, including the reconstruction of the walls. Now there was a team of people tearing down walks, knocking down chimneys, and planning how best to redesign the Chapel.
I got to watch for a bit on Saturday, and I couldn't believe how quickly the group (Donald, Patti, Duck, Hazel, Chad, Nathaniel, David, Ann, Lori, Tida, and Rebekah) had worked! Where there had been brown metal siding there was nothing. Where there had been insulation, dry wall, paint, and windows, there was just plain ol' air.
But that was how it had started. Dr. Carl Painter had an idea for the chapel, and began building it on a beautiful hilly spot overlooking a valley of trees. That was before the electric company decided to run a line within feet of the Chapel. Dr. Painter (I called him "Grandpa" more often) took it in stride, and negotiated a contract where he helped to clear the trees for the line. With his sawmill, some grandkids, and the LORD, he felled trees, and then planed many of them into boards.
He built a solar kiln in his sideyard and began curing his own lumber. And he continued his building. I have memories of Grandma cooking a fantastic supper. The family would gather around, and then the question would come: "Where's Grandpa?" Somehow, he usually managed to be the last to stop working, and the last to the supper table!
Grandpa didn't sit in just rock a rocking chair: he rocked the world he lived in. He often wore white slip-on shoes, jeans, a red-flannel shirt, and a baseball cap. He climbed all over the ladders at the Chapel, and was the overseer of all that went on. Of all the times that I saw him at work, he never appeared to be anxious or worried about how the Chapel would turn out. He just kept on working, whether those of us in family could be there to help out, or not.
We all had different amounts of construction experience: Some knew roofing and wiring backwards and forwards, and someone showed a lot of us cousins how to nail a nail right. (I think one of the pieces of advice was -- don't hit it like a girl!) Some could whirl a Bobcat around like it was on ballbearings, and could level the parking lot next the chapel. Some installed the ever-present yellowsandstone into the Chapel itself. Some laid the tile in the baptistry, and showers.
As time went on, the door widened for jobs beyond construction. Some had incredible visions for the future of the chapel. Some brought signs to point the way to the Chapel and the Intelligent Design Resource Center. Some painted I-beams. Some decorated the Chapel with flowers, and tablecloths, and pictures, and curtains. Some brought beautiful plants to decorate the ground around the Chapel. Some brought brooms, and dustpans, and trashcans. Some labeled the drawers in the classrooms and kitchen. Some organized the books on the shelves. Some made even more bookshelves.
And for every event that was held at the Chapel (it seems to me!), there was always a feast. Somehow the most talented cooks in the county seemed to convene at Oak Hill Chapel and make the most delicious food imaginable.
But even as Christ said -- the food the soul lives on is more than just bread. Through creation meetings, Bible studies, work days, and youth retreats, the nourishment of God's Word was spread as a feast.
So here was the wind, back again. But it couldn't whip away the work that was going on. It wasn't strong enough to blow away the people who were determined to carry on the project. And so it was that one man, living for God, started something that continues to bless people, and spur them on. Even when an electric company's plans seemed to limit the man's plans, God made a way. And He continues to make a way: just as in the times of Nehemiah, God raises up men, women, and children to continue His work -- in His time.