A group of retired men has been doing construction work recently at Old Liberty Baptist Church east of Conway.
The Master’s Builders, a group ranging in age from their early 60s to early 80s, is a volunteer organization affiliated with the Baptist Missionary Association that travels the country six months out of the year doing ministry-related construction jobs of all kinds. Carol and Eddie Sikes of Gilmer, Texas, are among the couples who parked an RV on the property of Old Liberty, like so many churches before.
“We organized in 1990. Our first job was in Delores, Colo. Some years we do maybe four jobs. This year when we finish our last two jobs we will have done eight,” Carol Sikes said. “We’ve done 131 jobs since we were established.”
Churches contact the Master’s Builders when they get ready to build and get on the group’s schedule. They do not work during November through February, when it is too cold, or July through August, when it is too hot. The average age is 74, and the oldest active members are 82. Members come from Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, Carol Sikes said. When they have a job, their office coordinator sends out the details in a letter to all the members, telling them when and where to arrive.
“The church furnishes the material, and we furnish the labor, free. Everyone goes at their own expense. We ask if the church can feed us one meal a day, but sometimes if it’s a small church they can’t,” Carol Sikes said. “We’ve built sanctuaries, classrooms, family life centers, fellowship halls. We’ve even built a parsonage. Any ministry-related project, we will build.”
She said the group has traveled as far as Post Falls, Idaho, Plano, Ill., and Fort Meyers, Fla., but most of their builds are in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri. Following their stay at Old Liberty, the group had a job scheduled in Hattiesburg, Miss., followed by their last job of the year in Charleston, Mo., she said.
As the men are on the road half the year, the majority of their wives travel with them. They try to find a volunteer project of their own in each town they visit. This time the women worked at Lifeword Ministries making Christmas shoebox gifts to be taken to children in third-world countries who will not receive anything else for Christmas.
Eddie and Carol Sikes said after spending so much time together, the group is like one big happy family.
“You might hear us picking at each other, but it’s all in good fun,” Eddie Sikes said.
Dot Bowie, a member of Old Liberty Baptist Church, said the congregation has needed a new building for some time due to steadily increasing growth. She said the new building is at least three times the size of the old one. When the new building (located right next to the old one) is complete, the church will use both buildings for its ministries, she said.
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