The sweet smell of new lumber and the sound of pounding nails fills the air around the Grace Lutheran Church off Ciechanski Road.
Ten men and one woman from the Builders for Christ organization began construction on a 90-by-46-foot new multi-purpose sanctuary Monday.
The builders, 10 of about 200 associated with Builders of Christ organization, are mostly from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
They traveled to Alaska for the sole purpose of building the new church.
The builders found out about the church's need from the Kingdom Workers organization, the parent organization of Builders for Christ.
Project Manager Marv Kaul said they travel throughout the states to build structures, wherever the need arises. In addition to churches, the group also has built schools and parsonages.
"We feel blessed to be allowed to come out and do this," he said.
The existing church building, currently housing a congregation of 130, will be used for the Lutheran Elementary School that will start in the fall of 2001.
Pastor Thomas Schmidt said a new building is needed because the present one has too much activity going on.
The new church will be used for worship, workshops and vacation Bible school.
This summer also marks another important event for Schmidt's fold. The church celebrated its 20th anniversary of congregating in the area on Sunday.
Schmidt said in the beginning, the congregation of 48 people gathered to worship in various areas and churches until a church of its own was built 13 years ago.
"We need room, we are growing," Schmidt said.
The church had the plans drawn to build, so the builders began construction soon after they arrived.
"We all work together as a family," Kaul said
The builders, also apart of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), travel around the United States to construct new buildings for churches associated with WELS for no charge.
The builders, with an average age of 70, work five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"They (the builders) are kind and big-hearted, I can't say enough about them," Schmidt said.
Many stay in the homes of congregation members or in the RVs that they drove to Alaska.
The group plans to have the exterior finished by the end of July, Kaul said, and the church members will finish the interior.
"When you have a lot of hands, it don't take long to accomplish it," Kaul said.
Men from all walks of life join Builders for Christ after they retire, Kaul said.
Paul Kock, assistant project manager, said the work is satisfying to him. He likes being able to do something for people in need.
Traveling and building also is a way of getting to know others in the organization, he said, as well as members of other congregations.
"It is always nice to get together," he said.
Kaul said the builders do not cut corners in their work and like to be able to say "it was a job well done."
"We pride ourselves on doing good work," he said.
Schmidt said he and his congregation appreciate the hard work provided by the builders.
"They love to serve the Lord in that capacity. We couldn't do it without them."
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