CRESAPTOWN, Md. — Throughout the Gospels and the New Testament, Jesus calls us to love our neighbor. Living out that love can take on many forms, and occasionally our actions can have a bigger impact than initially expected. All it takes is a willing heart and willing hands and seeing what God will do.
Approximately 30 strangers connected with five area churches descended upon a home in western Maryland this spring to repair a badly damaged roof for a family. The group left a lasting example of love in the form of a new roof after the three-day project wrapped up on April 30.
SEEING A NEED
The roof of the 1947 home on Brant Road, Cresaptown, had been in disrepair for nearly five years, but owners Tom and Valerie Montgomery didn’t have the financial resources and weren’t in the physical condition to do the repairs themselves, so they “put a Band-Aid on it,” according to Valerie. A friend of Tom’s put a new tarp on the roof about seven months ago, and the Montgomerys had buckets staged strategically throughout the house to catch the rainwater.
Neighbors Jim McConnell and his wife Lana, who winter in Florida, have lived directly across from the Montgomerys for nearly three years and saw the need immediately.
“When we moved in here, that place had a tarp on it,” Jim McConnell said. “When we realized they didn’t have resources, we asked Pastor Jim (Jeffries) if Habitat for Humanity would take it.”
Jeffries serves as the head pastor at LaVale Baptist Church, where the McConnells attend, and he is a member of the local board of Habitat for Humanity. Last summer, he reached out to the Joe Saweikis, the pastor of Mountain City Church (MCC) in Frostburg, which has a North American Mission Board Disaster Relief trailer filled with supplies by the church, the Western Baptist Association (WBA), and the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.
“Our friends here with the Western Baptist Association said they could probably help us out with their relief trailer. They came out to look at it, and they were all in from the very beginning,” Jeffries said.
Early this year, Saweikis reached out to MCC Relief Team Leader Kerry Wolford and member Randy Rice, who co-owns a roofing company and has 20 years of roofing experience. Between the three of them, they came up with a plan to repair the roof for the Montgomerys. The plan was ultimately executed April 28-30 with volunteer crews from five area churches. In addition to Mountain City Church and LaVale Baptist Church, Pleasant View Baptist Church in Oakland, Gospel Life Church in Keyser, W.Va.; and Zion Community Church in Wellersburg, Pa, assisted in various ways.
“God has amazingly put His hand upon this project,” said Saweikis. “He moved in the hearts of believers who have donated the majority of the material needed, and we had people coming from different churches to help out.”
Hite Roofing of Cumberland donated the shingles and the majority of the roofing materials, while Mountain City Church supplied the fully stocked trailer. Fat Boys Pizza in Frostburg provided dinner on April 28, and a variety of church members brought meals for the other workdays.
In addition to asking the Montgomerys if they would accept help for the project, the McConnells extended their hospitality throughout the three days of the project, allowing their driveway to be used for parking and their backyard to serve as a food station, and opening their home for workers to access an indoor bathroom.
PUTTING IN THE WORK
The roof repair project, headed up on the construction side by Rice, involved removing the old shingles, replacing some of the decking, and shoring up the soft spots before taping and laying down shingles on the roof. Crews started at the back of the house, where weathering was most evident.
“The roof proved to be in far worse shape than we initially anticipated, but that did not deter those who were working,” said Saweikis, adding that several of the workers have professional experience in the construction and roofing trades.
On April 29, the volunteer crew papered both sides of the roof, installed a drip edge, and started laying down a few rows of shingles on the front side of the house, leaving the remainder of the shingle work and the finishing work for April 30, when crews shingled both sides, capped the roof, and cleaned gutters and trim.
Not all jobs were relegated to the roof. There was plenty to do on the ground in the way of measuring and cutting sheets of plywood, passing up shingles, recharging batteries for tools, keeping crews hydrated, cleaning up the work area, and more.
Volunteers even used the opportunity to engage in gospel-focused conversations. Each day, ground crews joined Lana McConnell and broke up to canvas the neighborhood, delivering pouches of tracts and Jesus videos and sharing about the work being done nearby.
LEAVING AN IMPACT
“We didn’t think it would get done in three days, especially after seeing the back,” said Tom. “We are all very thankful. The whole family is very thankful.”
“This will take a lot of stress off us,” said Valerie, who cares for her homebound mother in addition to running the household of five.
“God works in mysterious ways. He brought a lot of good people around,” Tom added. “We’ve met a lot of new friends, and we reconnected with an old friend (Jim Jeffries).”
After the final shingle was placed and some smaller cleanup items completed, Jeffries gathered the Montgomerys, the McConnells and the workers to close out the project on April 30, praying a blessing over the home, the family, the neighbors and the neighborhood.
Saweikis said the effort speaks to the cooperative aspects of the Church, as the larger body of Christ, as well as the Western Baptist Association, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware and NAMB.
“That’s the idea behind the SEND Relief (trailer), where a pastor that has a need can call for the trailer, which comes with the people, and we cooperate (to get the job done),” he said. “Not only did we provide a roof that was needed, but the gospel was also shared, and food was passed out to the neighbors. It was incredible to be a part of.”
Ruth Jellison is a member at Mountain City Church in Frostburg, Md. She serves as the middle and high school technology and communications teacher at Calvary Christian Academy in Cresaptown, Md.
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