Upon arrival at BLF in Marpent, France, we were given 3 literature projects and 6 construction projects they hoped our team could accomplish. The major construction project was to finish building the brick wall on the street side of the warehouse. Our team had started it last year, a team from Lille had built another section, and we hoped to complete it this year.
However, May is the month that construction workers in the U.S. are tackling their major projects, so it is difficult for them to take a 10-day break at that point. Russ was the only man on this year’s team. We asked two friends from Belgium if they could come and work with Russ and they accepted, but they both came only the last two days of the work week. Because of the bus stop shelter and the telephone box for Marpent, both of which were built just a few inches from the wall, much of the brick-laying on this part of the wall had to be done from the inside. Russ realized that a steel beam was necessary to give that part of the wall stability. His first accomplishments were to clean the area on the inside, buy a steel beam and weld it in place.
One morning two men came from Belgium to help Russ. They first had to take down the wooden slats that were the wall, then make mortar. Neither had laid bricks before, so Russ taught them how to follow the string and lay them in a straight line. One layer was 15 ft. long. By the end of the day, they had laid 5 layers. The following day they were able to lay more so that in all, they completed about half of the area that still needed to be completed. At least now the wall provides security from thieves. It is possible that BLF will hire someone to finish the job before winter. Two local men who volunteer at BLF also helped on the last day.
New lights have been purchased to be installed in the “old offices” which have now been refurbished. However, we didn’t have an electrician nor the time to tackle that job. There are 4 other small projects that still need to be done.
The women began immediately to work on the literature projects. The buyer for the Catholics had ordered 1500 sets of the Manga books for this year. BLF had only 1300 boxes left to be filled with a copy of each of the 5 Manga books. The book of Revelation should be available soon so there will be 6 Manga books in a set. BLF is designing a new box for the set, but the 1300 boxes needed to be filled. We were to insert a bookmark advertising Pilgrim’s Progress in Manga art in each of the books. The women worked constantly, inserting the bookmarks and making up the sets. Gavin’s wife Nicola came one day and helped. By the end of the week, they had completed the 1300 sets which filled 8 pallets. Claire Miller, the intern, was shrink-wrapping them and packing them in cartons ready to be shipped. By the end of the week, at least one pallet had been shipped, 3 more were ready to go, and all the others were ready for shrink-wrapping.
A woman from Colmar, Alsace, had written a book that BLF published and was due to arrive from the printer the week after we left. She will be speaking in 25 churches in Alsace this summer. BLF was to send each church a package of 40 posters and 200 flyers announcing her meeting in that church. This project was to be done asap after the team arrived. Accomplished!
The final literature project was to put together 25 sets of Sunday School material to send to Pastor Jonas, a Congolese pastor from the area where Kroekers ministered. Also the BLFUSA office doesn’t have a complete set of the materials. Mary Ann put together 3 more sets and brought them back in our luggage for the office. Now there is another order for 10 sets, again for Congo, but we didn’t have time to prepare it for shipping.
We are grateful for the help of Nathan and Annie Phillips. Nathan was available to help Russ when needed and Annie shopped for groceries and cooked the main dish for the team’s dinner meal each day. We appreciated their help and encouragement.
The last Saturday we took the day and drove up to Ypres/Flanders Field. We learned a great deal about WW I and enjoyed the beautiful day and the Flanders Field Museum.
We praise God for His help and would like to thank all who supported us both in prayer and in financial gifts. Projects like these require both for them to occur. Thank you once again from each of the team members for your part in making possible these construction and literature projects.
Sincerely, Russ & Mary Ann Miller