What does a missionary do, when working in an area where the harvest is plentiful, and the budget can't keep up with the needs of all of the newly planted churches? Here's our answer to this question:
In all aspects of our ministry, we strive to make dollars go as far as possible - and the construction of new church buildings is just one example of that. While a building is not essential – many of the churches we work with meet in homes – the lack of a building is sometimes a detriment to church growth. Most rural homes in our area are extremely small and dark, and holding meetings outdoors isn’t a viable option during most of the rainy season.
One thing that you should know up front is that, even if we had unlimited funds, we wouldn’t ever want to step in and "give" a church building to a congregation. Does that sound awful? It has been our experience that people appreciate things they've worked for much more than they appreciate things that are given to them for nothing. In the end, we want the congregation to know that this is their church building, not ours. It isn't unusual for congregations which have received a "gift" of a church building to then assume that the giver will also pay for furnishings, maintenance, etc. We want to avoid setting up a dependency/expectation situation like that.
If a congregation desires to construct a building, and they approach us for help, Russell and Clay will meet with the pastor and congregation members and discuss construction details with them. While we do receive some donations earmarked for church construction, the usual situation is that we receive more requests for church construction help than the amount of funds we receive, so part of what we do is to advise the church members on how to build their buildings in the most economical way, making use of local materials and skills. Over the years we’ve learned a few tricks which can help make an adobe building much stronger and longer-lasting than the traditional construction methods, and we pass this information along to the congregations, as well.
Once the new building has a foundation and walls, using mostly labor donated by the church members and locally acquired free building materials (sand, rocks, gravel, dirt for adobe bricks, hand hewn lumber), we use our limited funds to help buy roofing materials, which generally are not locally made. With walls, a roof, and a dirt floor, a congregation can begin to use the building immediately, while the process of completing the structure continues over time, as funds allow.
Using this method, we hope to assist approximately 18 congregations construct buildings this year alone and we have previously helped with around 110 since we moved to the Gracias area ten years ago. Our cost for one of these projects is typically about $1,000, for a church which will hold 200 or more people.