Building a Kingdom Hall: Volunteers Get the Job Done in a Few Short Days
Here in the Ozarks, we have a rich landscape of faith-based communities. In our ongoing series exploring some of the lesser known of these faith groups, KSMU’s Jennifer Moore headed out to Aurora to learn more about how Jehovah’s Witness communities pick up a shovel and a hammer when it’s time to erect a new Kingdom Hall.
Reporter standup: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for one thing: knocking on doors. But today, the tables are turned, and I am actually going to be knocking on their door to find out more about how their community comes together whenever a new Kingdom Hall needs to be built. People have been toiling for 10 days now working on a new construction site here in Aurora, Missouri. And I’m here to find out what that entails exactly.”
“We come from all around. In our particular region, there are some who have come here, probably, from as far as 150 miles away to be a part of this project,” says Tim Adkins.
Adkins is on the Regional Building Committee, which sees a Kingdom Hall built from start to finish. At the construction site here in Aurora, dozens of people wearing hard hats and jeans are hard at work. There are young and old, blacks, whites and Asians, and their backgrounds run the gamut from housewives to students to bankers and people who actually do construction work for a living.
Every one of them is volunteering his or her time, brainpower and muscle to get this Kingdom Hall built.
“It’s actually been, as long as I can remember, this type of program, where the congregation is heavily involved in the building of their individual congregations. Really, it started to get organized, though, in the fashion you see it today, in the 1970s,” Adkins says.
And then, in 1999, he says, the World Headquarters Office in the US arranged the Kingdom Hall Fund, where contributions can be made, and where congregations can take out no-interest loans for projects like this one.
Adkins says Jehovah’s Witnesses now place a strong emphasis on safety and first aid. Within the last year, he says the branch office has distributed a safety handbook that all must follow if they are going to work on construction sites.
“Because of safety, [volunteers] as young as 13 can be on the project, but they have to stay out of the construction area. So they typically work in food service, or perhaps in cleaning areas—things of that nature,” Adkins says.
Chelsea Thompson, 16, is one of the younger volunteers working on the project.
“Well, I just started cleaning. Mainly I’ve been cleaning in the food tent, and in the kitchen. Mainly, we, like, do dishes and make sure everything’s clean and sanitary,” Thompson says.
“What I do most of the time is work as a safety man,” says George Brown, a senior citizen who estimates he’s worked on up to 50 projects in Missouri and Kansas.
He’s a retired carpet cleaner. Even before he retired, he used his vacation time to build Kingdom Halls like this one.
Brown: “When they scheduled a building, I scheduled my time so I could be here.”
Moore: “That’s pretty unselfish of you—to give up your vacation time…there’s nothing you’d rather be doing, I guess?”
Brown: “No. This is a blessing, because you get to be around good people. And our God blesses us because of it.”
After a few minutes of my arrival, everyone puts down their tools and heads inside the new building. Tim Adkins and I head in that direction, too.
Adkins: “The building that you see finished on the outside—with the roof, the brick, everything completed—was done in about a three day period.”
Moore: “And so now, the volunteers are taking a minute to reflect, and to remember God?”
Adkins: “Yes. We take time during each day, even on our projects, to give thought to a scriptural discussion. It’s brief. It’s about 10 minutes. But it keeps us focused. And it helps us to reflect on spiritual matters, not just physical.”
Moore: “Do you mind if I come on in?”
Adkins: “Sure, let’s go.”
SOUND: “The text for the day is a nice reminder from Isaiah 48: 17 and 18…”
The break includes reading a passage from the Bible, a few words from a speaker, a brief discussion, and a prayer. At the conclusion, they offer a word of encouragement to each other, and it’s back to work.
From start to finish, the entire Kingdom Hall here in Aurora took a mere two weeks to build. This process is not unique to the Midwest: it’s how Jehovah’s Witnesses build Kingdom Halls worldwide.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.