Recently, Teri, my writing partner, and I spent one of our writing sessions walking around the farm and visiting some of the buildings that have been a big part of the ministry of Wellspring. One of those spots was in the secluded hard wood forests north-west of the farm-house. Visiting that spot brought back warm memories of past years. I could almost see the faces and hear the voices of those young men so many years ago as they erected this unusual building dubbed “The Prayer Chapel.” Although it is in dire need of repair today, through the years it has been a place of dedication, tears, lamentations, heart-cries to God, and rejoicing. But its story began many years ago.
I am not sure what the neighbors thought as they watched that old pick-up truck make its way slowly down Kitten Creek Road loaded to the top of the cab with wooden ammunition boxes. I am sure we were creating some interesting conversations. These crazy Californians seem to be very busy over there at that Fritz farm. Lots of activity goin’ on. Can we trust them? And now they are bringin’ in a truck load of ammunition.
New neighbors were not a regular occurrence on Kitten Creek Road, and most of the neighbors were kin. Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers all seemed to settle around the old farmsteads where they had grown up.
We were strangers from California and under suspicion here until we could prove ourselves. Bringing in a truckload of ammunition boxes did not help.
The truth was a lot less dramatic. Lowell had won the bid for these empty wooden boxes at an auction at Fort Riley. When he and Judd unloaded them in the barn, there was some discussion as to how we could actually use them. We would find a way.
Cheap, free. Those were our criteria for building a ministry at that time. God supplied, and we trusted that he would give us the creativity to put them to use. These particular “possibilities” became rustic seats and cupboards; some of the wooden lids became the backdrop for painted artwork.
In fact, we had a hard time passing up any treasures that had potential, and the wooden ammunition boxes were only the beginning. Windows scored quite big on our list of acquisitions. Dave and Suzanne Osbourne had attended the L’Abri conference and were members of our church, Grace Baptist. Dave owned The Osbourne Construction Company, and when he won the bid to renovate an elementary school in Manhattan, he donated all of the old windows and the slate from the black boards to Wellspring.
We would find a way to eventually use most of the school windows in various projects. Over the years the slate became black boards, fire-proof backing for wood stoves, and tile for the entrance to the old farm-house.
“A prayer chapel. That should be the first official Wellspring building project. A place where there is silence, nature, and an invitation for solitude or for group worship.” I am not sure who introduced the idea, but our focus on this project became a focus of the whole group.
Looking at the supplies that we had on hand, we decided those old windows from the elementary school would be a perfect fit. Creativity and imagination reigned in those days.
A committee scoured the land looking for the ideal spot to put a prayer chapel. Along with Lowell, who became the architect on the project, the group found that spot beside a small ravine back in the hard wood forest.
I secretly believe the guys took great delight in the building of that chapel. It rises high into the top of the trees. Those men used ropes and scaffolding to get that creative circular center and shingled roof put into place. Man-work. Railroad ties (another scavenged commodity), the Osbourne windows, rocks, sand, muscle, creativity, danger, and fun went into building that rustic edifice.
In the end, a charming chapel was erected: a six-sided building that reaches to the tree-tops. Four of the sides are built from the windows; two sides are open, allowing pure nature from the secluded forest to enter the chapel uninhibited by any man-made objects.
I am sure Mr. Fritz, the original owner of that property, never imagined a prayer sanctuary would grow out of that forest where he had probably hunted, trapped, or looked for lost calves. It was not useable, fertile ground, just a wooded acreage that had grown in a useless ravine.
Crazy? No. Inspired? Yes. One more gift where His presence is unwrapped in a very simple and “mundane” location on this farm on Kitten Creek Road.