Frank Voss (right) helps with the construction of a Sunday school building Jan. 28, 2013, at Abiding Faith Lutheran Church in Smyrna, Tenn. Voss is one of several volunteers helping with the project. (TMP Photo/D. Whittle)
For more than 30 years, Herb Mehne and Frank Voss have hammered nails for God as unpaid volunteers.
This month, they are heading a team of volunteers to help construct a 2,500-foot Sunday school addition at Abiding Faith Lutheran Church on Old Nashville Highway in Smyrna.
Nevermind that Voss is 80 years old and Mehne is a youthful 76, as they build their way across America while physically constructing worship buildings as members of Builders for Christ, a conservative worship group with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
“Serving others is a good prescription for youthful health and spiritual growth,” Voss said, as he oversaw placement of a truss by fellow construction volunteer Bill Dierson, of Appleton, Wisc.
Voss is in Tennessee with his wife, Judith.
“Judith and I have been wed now, going on 52 years,” Mehne said. “Eight out of 11 volunteer construction workers have their wives with them."
Christian volunteerism may be good for marriages, apparently.
What is their volunteerism worth in dollars saved?
“This volunteer team is helping save our church between $30,000 and $40,000 in construction costs,” pastor Bill Werth said. “The Dow Smith Construction Company, of Smyrna, is in charge of the overall project that’s costing in the neighborhood of $270,000.”
A caravan of mobile homes arrived in Smyrna in late-January, with most of the volunteer laborers arriving from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan and Texas. The mobile living quarters are camped out on church grounds across from Stewartsboro Elementary School on Old Nashville Highway.
“We came directly to Tennessee after finishing a construction job for a Lutheran church in the Ozark Mountains in remote northeast Arkansas,” Dierson said. “The Arkansas project was big, a 4,000-square-foot church building from the ground up.”
Abiding Faith Lutheran's female members are helping to feed the volunteer families.
“Last week, my favorite robust meal was jambalaya, prepared by women of the church,” said Voss, who serves as assistant project manager.
“Our church ladies prepare hot lunches Tuesdays through Saturdays,” said Abiding Faith Lutheran member Gary Evans, of Smyrna. “Church member Christy Pflueger was over-seer of one meal last week.”
On a recent work day, the pastor’s wife, Darla Werth, was busy preparing vegetables and ground turkey for poor-boy sandwiches for that day’s lunch for the laborers.
“It’s a labor of love, what we do for the volunteer laborers here in the fellowship hall and kitchen,” Darla Werth noted.
“I allow myself to gain 10 pounds each working project because of the good food prepared by church cooks,” Mehne said. “Plus, the ladies also provide us snacks and coffee during our mid-morning and mid-afternoon work breaks … So, we’re very appreciative.”
Mehne is a retired educator, having served more than 30 years as a principal and shop teacher.
“I had a construction company for of my career, totaling more than 50 years in construction,” Voss said. “Serving with Builders For Christ is part of our spiritual commitment.”
Inclement Tennessee weather has hampered construction progress, though.
“We’ve lost several days due to rain and some ice,” Mehne explained. “In the winter months, we strive to work in southern states. We work on projects in northern states during the warm months.”
Meanwhile, the nearby saw blades roared as the men prepared to roof the new Sunday school building.
Persons wanting to know more about Abiding Faith Luther can call 220-9258.
There’s a Sunday worship service held at 8:30 a.m., followed by Sunday school bible teaching and another worship service at 10:45 a.m.