The Early Days
By Bobbie Zakary
We started construction on the Chapel in May of 2005. Actually, you may say to yourself, “What a blah statement is that!” But, really there is much more to the story than just ‘we started construction on the Chapel in May of 2005’.
In the Fall of 2004 — the year we bought and moved to The Wilderness — a group of ladies from Rainbow City, Alabama came up for a weekend retreat. As I was showing them around the property I happened to mention some of our future plans and that our first order of business was to build a tiny chapel. One of the ladies happened to say, “Oh, our husbands build chapels all over the world, maybe they could build your chapel.” I said, “Oh, that would be fantastic.” Inside though, I’m thinking, ‘That kind of thing doesn’t happen in real life — certainly not for me — it only happens in stories.’ Oh ye of little faith.
Early the next year we got a call from the group saying they had had a construction project that they were supposed to work on that Spring, but that particular project was already too far along, and they wouldn’t be able to work on it. They had solicited another project, but that second group wouldn’t be able to have the foundation poured and cured in time. So, they wanted to know if we could have a foundation poured, cured and all of the construction materials on site by their first day of work – which was maybe a month away.
Little did we know what all that would entail. I still remember that day, all six of us (parents and the four kids) heading out to the site of the future chapel and manually pulling the barbed wire off of the fence posts, cutting brush, pulling things up to get ready for our new chapel.
We didn’t know how to clear the land, level it off, set the forms, fill with gravel, order, pour and finish concrete. Oh yeah, don’t forget to rough in the plumbing, too. So, even there, Jack, Ronnie and Dan came to our rescue. At first they gave us instructions as to what we needed to do, then as the time grew closer they came up and helped us get to the starting line. Thanks! Many thanks!
That Memorial week of 2005 they brought about 40 workers: men, women and young adults to work for a week getting the Chapel “dried in.” We learned a lot of new vocabulary, too: dried in, leave the line, rough in, footers, etc.
The guys also recommended that we build the building as large as we could afford, because people always run out of room and wish they had gone bigger.
Well, bright and early the first morning everyone circled around on the concrete pad and we worshiped and prayed, then got to work. It still amazes us how they worked as a well-oiled team, putting up walls, then rafters, then the second floor, and the walls. Everyone knew their job.
Oh, here’s a funny one: every hour or so I would go out to the bonfire and take a picture of their progress. At one point I thought I would also get a long shot from way out at the pond. So I went out toward the pond, turned around and put the camera up to position the frame. Something was wrong. I didn’t really understand what I saw in the camera,
so I pulled the camera down and saw that the upstairs framing was wrong. The bathrooms were on the left of the bunkhouse, but the way they framed it, they were on the right side. I went up to Bonnie and asked her what I should do. She said to go speak with Jack and tell him. Well, they had a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting upstairs in the corner.
Turned out okay, though because they decided to just cut the wall in two and turn it around.
We laugh now at how much work was done but also how much work remained whey they drove away, and how much still remains today. I guess we thought that getting a building dried in would be about forty percent of the work. Now I think that it is maybe ten percent. You still have to get water, electricity, heating/cooling, siding, paint, trim, landscaping, furniture and in our case commercial kitchen equipment.
A few of the brave guys climb up on top to put on the metal roof. Amazingly, there were no major injuries. Maybe some skinned knuckles, or thumbs hit with a hammer, but nothing terribly bad.
We are still not completely done with the Chapel/Bunkhouse. But we do have windows, doors, stairs, heating and cooling, electricity, plumbing, some trim work. We still need a ceiling downstairs, but that doesn’t keep us from having youth groups in.