By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- For the second time in less than 15 years, the Mississippi Nail Benders are working at Liberty Baptist Church to help expand and build a new sanctuary that will house 400 people.
The Rev. Keith Warren has been at the church for 22 years, so he's seen the growth first hand.
"It's wild," he said, describing the church's overflow.
On their first trip in 1998, the Nail Benders brought a crew of close to 200 people to build a sanctuary that housed 225 church-goers.
A different crew comes each week during the five- week mission, and stays in the church and at local hotels. The groups focus on framing, roofing, electrical work, insulation and painting, and each week's crew comes with two or three licensed contractors.
Members of the church will volunteer as well, though, since they have some experience with the Nail Benders.
Warren said that groups from his church have been traveling to Nail Bender work sites since 2005 to help for a designated week.
"Our teenagers have grown up doing these projects together," he said.
When the Nail Benders make the trek to a church in need, they require that all materials are paid for. Besides that, the group is self-sufficient and doesn't ask for anything else.
Warren said it's estimated that a total of 500 volunteers will help put the new sanctuary together over the course of the five weeks. With the framing going up on Memorial Day, he said he's hoping to have the building's dedication on Aug. 19.
"It's a lot of work in a short amount of time," he said.
The Nail Benders are doing more than just building, though. The original cost of the new sanctuary was $1.2 million, but after cutting labor expenses, the cost went down to $400,000.
"As pastor, I want to make the best use of God's money as possible by being a good steward," Warren said. "And they're helping to save God's money."
He added that the Nail Benders bought all their food locally and stay at close-by hotels, bringing revenue into the area.
"This is a very community-minded mission group," he said of the Nail Benders.
Liberty Baptist created a theme that combines two bible verses for this year's project, which they feel encompasses their growth and thankfulness.
"The miracle continues; not unto us, oh Lord, but onto thy name give glory," Warren said.
"I started out in a small building, but God just keeps on giving."
If the project isn't finished by the Nail Benders in the five designated weeks, Warren says his congregation will complete the task.