ENID, Okla. — Volunteers from across the country are busy building a new home on West Randolph this week for a couple returning to Enid after 13 years of missionary work in the Philippines.
Oakwood Christian Church and Lakewood Christian Church of McAlester provided funds to build the home for Paul and Mary Wilson, who returned from the Philippines in March, and World Mission Builders provided about 30 volunteers to build the home.
World Mission Builders is a faith-based nonprofit that has built more than 300 churches and ministry-related buildings since 1975 in 89 countries.
The construction project in Enid has been a family affair. Paul Wilson’s brother, Joe, is domestic project coordinator for World Mission Builders and was founding pastor at Oakwood Christian. Their brother, Philip, a retired pastor from Eureka Springs, also has been on hand to help with the build. A fourth brother, also a pastor, from Kinta, was unable to make it to the project.
Joe, who joined World Mission Builders after retiring from Oakwood Christian in 1999, said it’s rewarding to be able to build a home for his brother.
“He sold everything and had a heart for missions and went into the mission field,” Joe said. “The end result was, when he reached retirement age, he ended up homeless, in the sense that he didn’t have a home to move back to.”
When Joe put out the call to World Mission Builders to help with the project, builders from Oklahoma, Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Iowa answered, in a caravan of campers and pickups.
Oakwood Christian Church has provided housing and meals for the workers, who were busy Monday erecting the home’s walls. While they work at the home site, a group of wives who also made the trip have been busy at Oakwood Christian, sewing dresses that will be sent to women in need in the Philippines.
Joe said the group plans to have the walls, trusses, doors and windows complete this week on the 2,300-square-foot house, which sits on almost 5 acres — also funded by the sponsor churches.
Paul said he and Mary are grateful to have a home to return to after their years of service in the Philippines.
“We have been without a permanent home for 14 years, with mission work,” he said, “and we’re very grateful that World Mission Builders saw our need, and Lakewood and Oakwood helped put up this building.”
Paul came to Oakwood Christian as a youth pastor shortly after its founding, in 1978. Eric Keller, current senior minister at Oakwood Christian, was one of the youths in Paul’s ministry during the 1980s.
His first stint in the Philippines was in 1985 to 1987, serving as a “living link missionary,” coordinating Oakwood Christian’s overseas mission work.
After returning to Enid in 1987, Paul and Mary continued to travel to the Philippines several times a year to maintain Oakwood Christian’s ties to the Christian community there.
The couple transitioned back to full-time ministry in the Philippines 13 years ago, providing leadership training, printing Bible study materials, planting new churches and in “livelihood projects,” teaching locals how to farm, raise livestock and run small businesses.
Paul said the work has focused on helping members of the ministry become self-sufficient.
“We want to help them become self-reliant, rather than depend on foreigners,” he said. “We want them to become self-sufficient in their own culture, rather than depend on donations forever.”
The work hasn’t been without hardship or risk. Paul was shot through both his legs during a robbery that occurred while he was delivering Bible school supplies and twice suffered dengue fever.
But, it’s all been worth it, Paul said, to start new churches and see “people coming to know about Jesus Christ, our Savior.”
Paul, with World Mission Builders’ help, was part of building more than 100 new churches during his time in the Philippines.
He and Mary will continue that work, traveling to the Philippines on a regular basis to maintain the relationships built there and to oversee continued ministry.
Mike Watts, chairman of the missions committee at Oakwood Christian, said Paul and Mary’s missionary efforts, and the work to build them a home, represent Oakwood Christian’s commitment of more than three decades to overseas missions.
“Overseas missions go to people who, if we never delivered the Word to them, they might never hear it,” Watts said. “Jesus told us ‘Go into all the world and tell them,’ and we take that as our mission statement.”
David Fink, site foreman for the house-building project, said World Mission Builders gave him an opportunity to continue using his skills as a contractor after retirement.
He got involved with World Mission Builders after the organization helped build his home church, Fredonia Church of Christ, in Fredonia, Kan.
Fink said building homes and churches for others is a way to pay forward the blessings he’s received.
“God has been good to me, and we just want to share his goodness with others,” Fink said. “God has blessed us in this country with health, wealth, time and talent, and God expects more out of us than just taking care of ourselves.”
Bruce Smith and his wife, Myrna, drove from Mason City, Iowa, to help build the home for Paul and Mary. Smith said he’s been part of about 40 building projects with World Mission Builders.
For Smith, the mission building has been a way to continue serving after retirement.
“I had retired, and I needed something to do,” Smith said. “One day, I was reading my devotional, and it said all of God’s people work ... and when they get done, they’re still supposed to continue to work and serve the Lord.
“God’s blessed us so well, and we’re not supposed to retire, entirely,” Smith said. “We’re supposed to keep serving in the Kingdom.”
Joe said most of the volunteers with World Mission Builders are retired. It’s a way, he said, to keep contributing to Christian missions.
“It’s about more than retiring and then sitting down with the grandkids for 20 years and then dying,” Joe said. “We’re supposed to keep serving.”
Through a fundraising match program, World Mission Builders will build two more churches in the Philippines, in conjunction with the home under construction in Enid.
For now, Mary Wilson said she’s just adjusting to the faster pace of American culture after her 13 years of living in the Philippines. And, she said she feels “blessed to have a house to live in.”
Coming home has meant relearning the small blessings of life in America, she said.
“One of the biggest things I’ve enjoyed is just having a washer and dryer again,” Mary said with a laugh. “One of the most exciting things has just been being able to do my own laundry whenever I want.”
Paul said he hopes to use the house and grounds to host youth programs for Oakwood Christian once it’s completed. The couple plan to move into their new home this fall.