Work That Refreshes
THE sign on the jobsite in the Atlanta, Georgia, suburb of Dunwoody announced the Kingdom Hall construction date: “23 and 24.” This double date ignited the remark: “Can’t they make up their minds whether to start on the 23rd or 24th?” People just could not comprehend that the sign meant: The Kingdom Hall will be started on the 23rd and finished on the 24th. Nevertheless, what have come to be called two-day miracles are happening about every month in all parts of the United States.
In the early dawn of Saturday in Dunwoody, piles of building materials were strategically placed on the 4,200-square-foot concrete slab that had been previously poured. Ben Kelley, who had supervised the pouring of this slab, pointed out that every item was precisely located for quick use when needed. “Notice the Sheetrock,” he said. “It’s stacked right in the middle of where the auditorium will be. We’ll build around and over it, but when the time comes it will be exactly where the sheetrockers need it.”
While he was talking the field kitchen was serving breakfast—at 6 a.m.—to three hundred volunteer workers.
Walls Up in Minutes
At five minutes to seven work began. All the workers ringed the concrete foundation as one consolidated crew, all wall builders. Hammers started whanging. Walls materialized out of precut studs. In a few minutes Wall One was raised. Then Wall Two. Then Three. And Four. The perimeter of the hall had risen in minutes, and its 2 by 6 studs were soon clothed with plywood panels and black insulating board. The banging of hammers subsided as bodies of workers disengaged themselves from wall raising to re-form as smaller crews—electricians, cabinetmakers, plumbers, masons, landscapers and others. Each crew was directed by a work leader who responded to a walkie-talkie on his hip.
A crew of insulators, mostly women, was packing the inside walls with glass-wool batts. Strong-armed men were wrestling flip-floppy roof trusses toward one end. Partition walls were rising. Foyer, rest rooms, library, literature rooms, stage and the large half-oval auditorium itself—all were taking shape. Somehow the different crews sifted through one another as they performed their operations, none seriously impeding the work of the others.
“This is where we get down to what makes the system work,” Stanley Peck explained. Peck, a builder and a minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses, had developed the method with the help of a corps of Midwest Witness builders. “In the first place,” he said, “the system takes advantage of our having plenty of volunteer help and enough talented craftsmen and managers to use this unlimited help.” Yet how do you coordinate three hundred workers on a single jobsite? “People are always asking us that,” Peck replied. “Maybe a hive of bees can do it. Or a colony of ants. But humans? Not unless they are Jehovah’s dedicated workers. Real craftsmen are in charge of every crew and every crew is directed by supervisors. It’s like in the Christian congregation, where God equips some with ‘abilities to direct and some with abilities to perform helpful services.’”—1 Corinthians 12:28.
It should be added that putting up such a meeting hall so quickly could not be done anywhere and everywhere. As can be seen, it takes more than willing hands. It requires the availability of skilled tradesmen experienced in the type of planning, preparation and coordination necessary for such a building to take shape. And good cooperation from communal authorities and building inspectors is necessary.
“It Looks Like a Busy Anthill!”
The skeleton of the hall was rising so fast on its two-acre setting that by midmorning astonished passersby began to understand the meaning of the two-day construction date. Masons were setting up scaffolding; support crews were getting bricks and mortar ready. Carpenters and roofers were swarming all around them. The masons accommodated themselves to working around and under them and, sometimes, between the legs of finishers boxing in the overhangs. Meanwhile air-conditioning workers were threading power lines through the midst of all the other crews. Nearly a hundred workers were on the roof, laying down decking, unfurling rolls of felt, carrying and locating heavy bundles of shingles.
On the ground even more were scurrying about. Some were carrying building materials to where they were needed. Fencing crews were busy. Landscapers were transforming the grounds into sodded lawns, shrubbery and flower beds. Batteries of youngsters and oldsters moved about constantly to pick up every bit of trash—bent nails, discarded containers, odd pieces of lumber. Nothing was allowed to litter or impede anybody’s progress. And from the beginning a mobile refreshment department—pairs of girls and boys—circulated throughout the project with snacks and cold drinks. One observer remarked: “It looks like a busy anthill!”
Day One is considered successful if, by late in the day, the sheetrockers and drywallers can take over. These workers have to wait for studded and insulated walls and raftered ceilings. Then they work into the evening nailing up the heavy plaster sheets. These surfaces must be spackled with a quick-set compound, sanded, and painted or papered before noon of Day Two. At that time all work stops and the congregation holds its first meeting in the new Kingdom Hall. At Dunwoody the carpet had not yet been laid, so three hundred people sat on the concrete floor and two hundred others settled down outside the building to attend the weekly Watchtower study.
“We have visitors from Virginia and Florida,” remarked Charles Leibensperger, secretary of the building committee. “Some of them are planning to build halls. They want to see how it is done. Now that Stan Peck has come and got us organized, we can begin planning to help them.” Peck explained: “We have an arrangement whereby anyone who is experienced goes over their plans and their personnel preparations. Then arrangements are made to have two or more job veterans work with their building committee to organize everything and check the list of building materials; and one or more of us arranges to be present during the two days of construction.” No one is paid for any of this work.
As Day Two ended in Dunwoody and a group stood outside and looked at the hall where none had been early the day before, one of the Witnesses commented: “This is how Jehovah’s spirit operates to accomplish work like this. It’s simple. His people are responsive to his spirit. They cooperate for a common cause. They’re doing everything not for personal gain but out of love for their brother and their God. Are these not the two great commandments of Mark 12:28-31, to ‘love Jehovah your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself’?”
[Picture on page 9]
With a crew like this a Kingdom Hall can be built in two days