The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 3, 2013

Big city dreams: Children's ward reimagined into biblical environment

By Rich Brown
Globe Columnist

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — James Billings held onto his vision for revamping the children's department at Christian Church of Carl Junction for several years. Last month it became reality, thanks in large part to Marv Dahmen, a deacon at the church whose artistic talents were put to the test.

When Billings asked the children's ministry support team, which includes Dahmen, if it would be possible to make the children's area at the church seem look like the streets of a biblical city, Dahmen accepted the challenge.

The retired Carl Junction High School art teacher with a degree in welded steel sculpture went to work, even though it meant putting in long hours outside his preferred field of sculpting.

"The hope was to inspire children with the message of God's word the moment they walked through the doors," said Billings, children's minister at the church. "Creating an environment where children feel that they are in a biblical city makes God's word come alive even more."

The support team decided that the best approach would be to give the Sunday school hallways the appearance of the road of a biblical town with buildings on each side. In addition, each classroom door would be designed to look like a place of business in the town. Billings said the crowning glory took place in the fellowship hall, where Dahmen painted a 42-foot mural and where the dedication of the project took place last month.

Billings said the dedication was held to publicly give God glory for blessings he bestowed upon the project. Those blessings were needed if the project was to become a success quickly. Billings added that Dahmen himself asked for God's blessings in making the project reality.

"Immediately, results started happening," Billings said.

"Needed supplies were donated from many different sources, including thousands of dollars of Styrofoam, paint and many other miscellaneous items to construct the project. The response made it obvious that God was blessing this project."

When he needed a certain material to complete a section he was working on, Dahmen said it always seemed to be there.

"James and I were talking about needing a whole bunch of Styrofoam and how expensive it was going to be when Brian Hughes, our youth minister, walked up," said Dahmen, president of the Tri-State Gem and Mineral Society. "Brian said he had 200 sheets that had been taken from another job that he would be glad to give us."

Dahmen said that for five straight months he spent eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, and sometimes Saturdays, to complete the work.

Billings added that with all that hard work, it was simply Dahmen's goal to glorify God through the project.

The hard work may not be over yet, however. Billings said the next project will be to extend the biblical environment theme to inside the classrooms.

Billings said the project has been worthwhile. To prove it, he said, all anyone has to do is listen to the children.

"I always tell Marv that he needs to come and sit at the bottom of the stairs where the children come into their Sunday school and listen to their remarks," he said. "They often go, 'Oh, wow,' and 'Look at this.'"



Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@cableone.net.