Doing God’s work

Minot members of Mission Builders lend hands to sister church

Jill Schramm/MDN Terry Thiel with Mission Builders cuts a board for the construction project at Bread of Life Lutheran in Minot Wednesday.

Phil Olstad and Terry Thiel enjoy putting their construction skills to use, especially when they can aid their faith community.

Thiel and his wife, Kathy, and Olstad, all of Minot, are part of the Evangelical Church in America’s Mission Builders team that is working on an addition to Bread of Life Lutheran Church in Minot this summer. Olstad’s wife, Marilyn, isn’t involved in construction but participates in other ways, including occasionally assisting with the team’s morning devotional.

JoAnn Linrud with Bethany Lutheran in Minot also is among several members of the project crew, which includes builders from Texas, Florida, Missouri and Minnesota. The Mission Builders team at Bread of Life is headed by project manager Steve Schenk of St. Louis, Mo. Temporary camping facilities exist at the church site to accommodate out-of-state workers.

“It’s a pretty good commitment, especially for the people coming from out of town. That’s a pretty serious commitment,” Olstad said. But he added, “It’s always enjoyable.”

The Bread of Life addition is Olstad’s fourth Mission Builders project in five years, including volunteer work on his home church, Christ Lutheran in Minot.

Jill Schramm/MDN Phil Olstad, a local Mission Builders worker, hammers a section of framework on an addition to Bread of Life Lutheran Wednesday.

He and Thiel, both members of Christ Lutheran, had worked as volunteers alongside a Mission Builders team on a project at their home church before joining the roster.

“I had just retired and thought I can do this,” Olstad said. “So I signed up for the next year.”

He has 11 years experience in selling windows and has built garages, additions and done home repairs in the past.

Thiel, who decided to join Mission Builders for reasons similar to those of Olstad, also has construction experience and has worked on six Mission Builders projects, including his volunteered time on the Christ Lutheran project. He’s traveled as far as Great Falls, Mont., living in a camper during the construction. Some Mission Builders members live in their recreational vehicles and travel to different work locations every year, but Thiel and Olstad generally have stayed closer to home.

Both worked on projects at the Lutheran Camp of the Cross near Garrison and at the Bible camp at Lake Metigoshe. Linrud, in her second year with Mission Builders, also previously helped at Lake Metigoshe.

“It’s fun, but we are tired by the end of the day,” Thiel said with a smile. “It’s giving back, and it’s a good reward to give back.”

“I think we get more out of it than we give,” Olstad added. “You build relationships.”

The Bread of Life project offers a chance to get reacquainted with some out-of-state builders they’ve worked with on previous projects.

“Wherever you go, you meet somebody you worked with before, and there’s always new faces,” Thiel said.

They have come to know fellow ELCA members in the Minot area through working on site with the construction volunteers from Bread of Life. The construction assistance and volunteer coordination offered by Mission Builders enables churches and ministries to stretch their dollars.

“It’s a money-saving thing for the church. We get paid, but it’s minimum wage,” Olstad said.

According to the Mission Builders organization, the congregation or ministry undertaking a building project acts as the general contractor. Mission Builders, which brings an extensive background in building construction best practices, provides project-management oversight and labor to assist ministry volunteers. During the pre-construction process, Mission Builders managers can give advice on building design and will coordinate subcontractors.

At Bread of Life this summer, the Mission Builders team is assisting with the framing of the addition and other general construction. Hired contractors perform elements of the project that require licensed or specially skilled tradespeople.

The Mission Builders crew in Minot works Tuesdays through Saturdays. The job started in mid-June.

Mission Builders expects to complete its share of the work by the end of September. Bread of Life hopes to have the addition largely completed to be available for use by Christmas.