Teens with the Ozark Mission Project were in Vilonia on Tuesday helping out at the Vilonia United Methodist Church, which was damaged by the April 27 tornado.
The nonprofit mission, known as OMP, is organized by the Arkansas Area United Methodist Church. Lana Gartner and Kisha Bumpers of Conway are co-directors of the Conway OMP Camp, which involves 65 people and reaches into Conway, Perry and Faulkner Counties. Those involved are spending the week at Conway’s First United Methodist Church.
Gartner said, "We find jobs ahead of time for them to do, like build wheelchair ramps or porches. We do yard work. We paint. We contacted Byron Mann, who is the disaster relief coordinator for the Arkansas United Methodist Church Conference and told him we’d be having a camp here. He got us several jobs to do."
Four teens from around the state teamed up to build a walking path between two temporary buildings on the church grounds. On Tuesday the group was at work driving rebar into wooden landscaping rails and spreading gravel along the path.
Gartner explained the need for the project.
"They have a temporary worship building, but they didn’t have classrooms for Sunday school, so they had this trailer brought in. They’re building a walkway from the temporary worship center to the temporary classrooms."
Nathan Kilbourne, pastor at Vilonia UMC, said the church is still working with its insurance company on rebuilding what was lost in the tornado.
"Things are going pretty well," he said. "None of our buildings are usable. Our insurance has helped us acquire this temporary space."
He said the congregation has been in the temporary buildings for four weeks, and before that they were meeting at Centerpoint Freewill Baptist Church.
"Life is kind of coming back to normal," he said. "We have an office now. We’re getting ready to have vacation Bible school. Logistically, that may be hard, but we’re looking forward to serving the community. Ministry goes on. It’s great to see our congregation respond. They were here serving food the day after the tornado hit even though their church was destroyed."
Kilbourne added, "We’re proud of these kids. They’re doing great."
Brooks Farrah, 13, of Fayetteville, said of the camp, "It’s been great. I love working here at the church. The pastor is great. He has lots of patience. My whole family group is great. Right from the beginning we just clicked. We have the best leader. We all have skill sets that work together. It’s like a well-oiled machine."
The other teens at the church on Tuesday were Kaleigh Fischer, 13, of Rogers, Sarah Harrod, 14, of Hamburg, and Chase Himschoot, 13, of Calico Rock.
Gartner said other volunteers with Conway OMP Camp have painted, built seven wheelchair ramps and two porches, put up barbed wire fencing and worked in yards.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)