SOWERS Plants Retirees Where Help is Needed; ‘Anyone Interested Should Look into it’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

SOWERS 1Retired and still making a difference, left to right: Jim and Marilyn Proudfit and Marilyn and Sidney Postma.Before he retired in 2010 from Dermody Trucking's maintenance department, Caledonia resident Sidney Postma faced a sobering decision. Should he relax and while away his time or do something to make a difference in others' lives?

"If you just retire and sit home and rot, that's what would happen, Postma said of the post-work choice he did not go with.

Instead, Postma said he made the right decision — on behalf of the Lord and His people as a volunteer member of an interdenominational ministry that enlists the help of couples who travel the nation to work on a plethora of projects for Christian ministries.

And "Christian ministries" is an expansive term. It includes churches, conference centers, campgrounds, orphanages, schools, missionary retreats and training facilities, homes for abused children and recovery homes for adults.

Putting RVs to good use

Postma and his wife of 49 years, Marilyn, decided seven or eight years ago to volunteer for the Lindale, Texas based ministry known as Servants On Wheels Ever Ready (SOWERS).

SOWERS2Shop work at Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina.Founded in 1983 by Frank and Kathy Varga, SOWERS relies on around 750 couples who are retired or semi-retired who live in their recreational vehicles, trailers and fifth wheels a minimum of a month so they can work on construction, repair and maintenance projects on behalf of around 175 Christian ministries in the United States and Canada.

For the Postmas, who are members of the Dutton United Reformed Church, that means they have hauled their 27-foot long fifth-wheel to journey to youth camps and conference grounds in Michigan, North Carolina and Alabama where Sidney has helped repair vehicles and Marilyn has cleaned and painted and worked on sewing projects.

SOWERS projects are fulfilling when volunteers enlist to help with the right motives, said Marilyn.

"For me it's a servant's heart," said Marilyn. "You go there to serve, but you come away blessed."

Receive more than they giveJim and Marilyn Proudfit of Caledonia, members of Caledonia Christian Reformed Church, agree with the Postmas that volunteers receive more than those they help. They started their first project in January 2010. Since then, they are gone from their home an average of three months to work on SOWERS projects, mostly campgrounds, in Texas and Alabama. They'll work on a project for the first time in Arizona in 2017.

SOWERS3Ladies painting shelves at Camp Baldwin in Alabama.While helping to complete a SOWERS project, the Proudfits live in their 75-foot fifth wheel.

"When you leave there (from a project), you're more blessed than what they are," said Jim, a retired mechanical engineer. "We work but we have fun."

That's a key point, says Jim. There is a work-fun balance to SOWERS' projects.

Typically, a project starts on the first Monday of the month and lasts for three weeks. A workweek for SOWERS assignments equates to four days, Monday through Thursday with Fridays off; a workday is six hours long. Group devotions always start the workday.

The feedback they receive for their efforts is heartening, said Marilyn Proudfit.

"It's a blessing to volunteer and to hear what happens when these kids come to camp and know God in a whole new way," she said.

Both skilled and unskilled workers are needed, added Jim. Unskilled volunteers provide valuable help to those who are.

Can't imagine the blessings

"The people who have skills always need helpers," he said. "Anybody interested should look into it. Unless you try it and get into it, you can't imagine the blessings."

SOWERS 4 The work day always starts with devotions.Traveling to different SOWERS assignments is an eye-opening experience, too, because it gets a person out of their theological and cultural silos, said Marilyn Proudfit.

"Growing up in West Michigan, we are surrounded by Christians and churches and when you go (travel), you see the strong faith in these folks all around the United States," she said. "They might be different denominations but they're walking with the Lord. It's really great to rub elbows with them.

"When you work side-by-side with them everyday, you hear their stories and get to know them on a more personal level."

Projects made known through SOWERGRAM newsletter

SOWERS members learn of new projects through the ministry's monthly newsletter that's mailed to them called the SOWERGRAM. The publication includes a list of new projects, as well as progress reports on existing ones, as well as prayer requests and praises, and other informational items of interest to members.

Becoming a SOWER volunteer member is not a given. They must agree to a background check, receive a letter of recommendation from their pastor, write their personal testimony, affirm they are a Christian, and undergo a phone interview.

Better than playing bingo

It's worth the effort, affirms Marilyn Proudfit.

"It's great to be able to go to some place and feel like you are contributing," she said, "rather than go to some RV park and play bingo. With SOWERS you get to serve and fellowship with people and they're friends for the rest of your life even if you're not working with them. You become a family."

And there's a need for more couples to volunteer, added Marilyn Postma.

"Many of the SOWERS are in their 70s and 80s," she said. "SOWERS is always looking for new volunteers."

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http://www.sowerministry.org/

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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