OMMITMENT IS NOT WHAT IT USED TO be,” say some Adventists who think they have detected lethargy and a lack of sacrificial zeal in some church members. But sometimes just one or two people who see a need and passionately share their goal to make a positive difference can ignite an innate desire in others to become involved and help where they can. Such was the case, recently, at Campion Academy
, a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school in Loveland, Colorado, nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Here the Christian life-style of service has been very evident—and it began with just two people recognizing a need and deciding to do something about it.
How It All Started
Darrell and Carlene Lang of Chadron, Nebraska, in October 2006 decided “on a whim” to attend Campion’s homecoming weekend. Carlene had graduated from Campion in 1978, and Tianna, the couple’s daughter, in 2004. Their son, Tyrrell, had graduated from Maplewood Academy in 2006, but also was interested in tagging along.
During the Sabbath worship offering appeal that weekend, Daryl Bohlender of the class of ’71 pointed out that in 2007 Campion Academy would be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary. He also noted that numerous upgrades, repairs, and improvements warranted attention—with the most critical being a new gymnasium roof. So that morning’s offering, Bohlender said, would help to fund various repairs and renovations.
Being a professional roofing contractor, Darrell Lang noticed particularly the staining on the inside of the school’s huge gym roof. Carlene saw him looking up at the ceiling, so her eyes drifted there too.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘Are you thinking what I’m thinking?’” Darrell explained, and then both agreed to offer to put a new roof on the gym.
The Langs realized this would be no minor endeavor. The gym roof covers more than 20,000 square feet. About three layers of roofing materials had to be stripped off and “about a million nails” pulled out before new felt and shingles could be put in place. Darrell calculated it would take his crew four to six weeks to do a job that big.
Although the task seemed daunting, later that day Darrell offered to put on the roofing at no cost for labor—if funds could be raised to purchase the needed materials and volunteers recruited to tear off all the old roof coverings. Members of the class of ’72 agreed to help, and a roofing fund was immediately started.
The Idea Grows
Bohlender began talking with friends, parents, and other alumni about possibilities.
“Someone came up with the idea of creating a group of people who would commit annual gifts of more than $500 to help Campion with capital improvements,” Bohlender said. “Not just for this project, but for the ongoing needs of the academy.” Thus, the idea of Friends of Campion Academy Foundation (FOCA) was born. Others suggested they approach Maranatha Volunteers International,
a nonprofit, Adventist lay-run organization headquartered in Sacramento, California, which coordinates and implements the construction of urgently needed buildings, such as churches and schools, throughout the world. Maranatha expressed interest in helping with the project.
But serious challenges loomed, such as recruiting enough volunteers to help with the project and, of course, raising sufficient funds. Maranatha required the Campion group to have $30,000 cash in hand for materials 30 days before the project began so Maranatha could commit to coming to the academy with its volunteers. FOCA jumped into action. A steering committee was appointed, promotional materials printed, phone calls made, and letters written explaining the project and the need for funds—and the efforts paid off. Within 30 days the $30,000 had been raised, and more funds were coming in. By the time Maranatha arrived on the academy campus, more than $80,800 was in hand. In the end, supporters raised a total of $142,394.
“If you think that is a miracle,” says Terry Schwartz of Lincoln, Nebraska, who was Maranatha’s on-site construction supervisor, “there is more—much more!”
Schwartz explained that in the process of removing some of the old administration building carpet, which had been glued down, underlying tiles were pulled loose. “So a few of the workers decided to tear up all the old tile. This created a big problem,” he said. “Some old tile has asbestos in it, and you need various kinds of environmental permissions, supervision, and approval to remove and dispose of that tile. By the time I found out about it, several hundred square feet of tile had been removed. That could have brought us a fine of about $25,000 and sealed the building for up to eight weeks!”
Schwartz made a very quick trip to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Denver, which regulates removal of such items. “Believe me,” he continued, “it was with fear and trembling that I approached the folk there to tell them what we needed and what we had done.”
He added, “[This kind of challenge] really improves your prayer life.”
To his surprise and relief, upon learning this was a volunteer group donating time and funds to fix up a school, officials at the agency expedited the process and in about an hour resolved a situation that could have been an “absolute disaster.” And when the tile was tested, it was found to be free of asbestos.
“God is good!” Schwartz reported. “We could have been shut down, but we weren’t.”
Evidence of God’s Blessings
The Lord’s blessing on the renovation project seemed evident. A need arose for a particular piece of equipment—a specialized angle grinder. No one on site owned one, and renting one would be very expensive. But expensive or not, the equipment was necessary. Schwartz was dispatched to rent it. Because it was an unusual item, the rental agent asked what it would be used for and by whom. When he found out it was for a volunteer workforce at Campion, he checked it out with no rental charges at all.
Kevin Binder, a local building contractor and a member of the Campion class of ’73, became the “go-to guy” for supplies and materials. Because of his contacts with local suppliers, many vendors gave hefty discounts for locally purchased materials.
“Those discounts were liberal donations from the local community,” Binder said. “The local businesses were impressed by what we were doing and showed that by their enthusiastic cooperation and deep discounts.”
And the benefits of the project weren’t only financial.
“There was this young man who had come in from a distance to work with us,” Schwartz said. “He became really discouraged and told us he was going to leave and go home even if he had to take a bus. So we talked with him, offered support, and moved him to another job where he thrived and worked like a dog. Part of his job was to blowtorch the epoxy paint off the bathroom walls in preparation for putting in the new tile. It was hot, dirty work, but he did it willingly. He stayed the full time and finished out the projects with us.”
That young man, Eric Voelker, later registered as a new student at Campion Academy and is now a senior at the school.
The roof was stripped, repaired, and completely reshingled in five days. And although some of those days saw the temperature rise above 100 degrees, as many as almost 50 volunteer workers were often on the roof at one time.
“It looked like a swarm of ants,” said Sadie Torrez, a local church member who served as the overall project coordinator. Torrez has been part of more than 30 Maranatha projects and has served as coordinator for eight other projects.
The outcome of the project included reroofing the gym, painting the administration and office areas, recarpeting the office areas, painting in the dorms, remodeling the bathrooms in the administration building, and remodeling the bathrooms and doing some painting in the nearby H.M.S. Richards Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School.
As the result of an idea and the sacrificial commitment that began with one couple—Darrell and Carlene Lang—and grew to include almost 50 Maranatha workers and about 30 local volunteers, the academy shone with new luster for its one hundredth anniversary homecoming in October 2007, and a large group of volunteers say they were blessed by being involved and making a difference. A growing, ongoing Friends of Campion Foundation is also now in operation to help propel a continual flow of improvements to the school.
Commitment and dedication still flourish in the Adventist Church. Sometimes it just takes vocalizing an idea and someone else jumping in and saying, “I’ll help,” to get the momentum going.
The folk at Campion Academy can assure you: it works.
Dick Stenbakken is a former director of the General Conference Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries. Now retired and living with his wife, Ardis, in Colorado, Dick continues his skill in biblical drama with a ministry he has launched called Biblical Faces.