JOPLIN, Mo. —
Bob Mitchell, a retired engineer with a university degree in physics, will tell you he meets the requirements of a volunteer with World Mission Builders.
However, those requirements have nothing to do with his previous experience in life.
Mitchell, a native of Iowa who now lives in rural Anderson, is a good fit for the group when it comes to the four T's of building churches and chapels through the 38-year-old ministry. He has the time, talent, tithes and, as a result of the first three, testimony.
It was eight years ago that he was introduced to World Mission Builders, which was founded by Ed Thomas in Baxter Springs, Kan. Mitchell was working in Houston, Texas, where he attended a church that supported the group, when a couple invited him to go with them on a mission to South Dakota.
Two months after that, he retired from his engineering job in Houston, eventually relocating, with his wife, Liz, on Indian Creek near Anderson.
It wasn't long after the move that he spent two weeks as a volunteer helping to build a new Racine Christian Church, where he and Liz now attend.
The latest volunteer outreach for Mitchell has to do with prisons -- specifically, building 15 chapels for state prisons primarily in Oklahoma. That endeavor began four years ago when the group entered into a partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections for construction of the chapels.
"When we go to the prisons to build chapels, the prisoners often ask how much we are getting paid," he said. "I reply, 'Paid? We are paying to come and do this, and their attitude changes a lot.'"
Volunteers pay their own way to and from the work sites and all other expenses, such as meals and housing, if those are not provided by churches. Volunteers from a variety of states join Mitchell on each two-week project, during which they install floors, walls, rafters, windows and doors, then leave the remainder of the construction to follow-up crews.
Needless to say, the volunteers save the prisons a lot of money. But the group also has another driving force through its nonprofit ministry.
The first year following the completion of a prison chapel near Taft, Okla., nearly 200 prisoners were baptized.
"Most churches do not baptize 200 people a year," Mitchell said. "It is a real good outreach for the money and the time spent."
World Mission Builders has built more than 230 churches or chapels, which are basically small churches, around the world since 1975. Mitchell played a part in the stateside building process and also overseas, going to the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email richbrown@ cableone.net.