Eighteen year old Blake Botzum, now an Academy for G.O.D. graduate, wanted his senior project to be connected to ethical building. Blake interviewed several builders within the GOD community to learn what that meant, and what he found was one common motivation: to help someone who could not help themselves in a way that could be modeled by others. Therefore, instead of focusing on what kind of building project he would enjoy doing, Blake first considered who he wanted his senior project to benefit. “I want to serve those who are on God’s heart and I thought about a verse in the book of James that my Mom had me memorize years ago: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” He went on: “God emphasizes caring for children and widows. So that is what I would do. I wanted my offer my services to a widow in our neighborhood and that’s when I met Mrs. Frances.”
Denise Bennecker, manager of G.O.D.’s Widow and Elderly Care program, introduced Blake to Mrs. Frances, and pointed him to a biblical precedent for caring for widows in 1 Timothy 5. It may come as a surprise that the Bible gives standards for which widows should be helped, but when dealing with a large number of widows, the text is very helpful. After Blake’s time with Mrs. Frances, he agreed that she was one of the “true widows” that the text describes: “at least sixty years old ... well attested for her good works, one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the saints’ feet, helped the afflicted and devoted herself to doing good in every way,” (5:9-10). Blake recounted: “She spent her life serving the children at her church and in her neighborhood. She describes herself as the neighborhood’s grandmother and that fits her perfectly. It was so easy for me to talk to her and before long I discovered how I could help her.”
Mrs. Frances has always worked in her yard whether planting or maintaining her shrubs and flowers. However, at this time in her life, she expressed that there were things she needed or wanted to do but she was no longer able. Blake asked, “What can I do for you?” and Mrs. Frances was ready with an answer. “I need a step with a rail built so I can get in and out of my shed and I would really enjoy having an arbor built right here.” The “right here” is the spot where Mrs. Frances could look out her back door and see the greenery covering her arbor.
So Blake got to work. The Academy at G.O.D. provided all the materials and Blake provided the labor (Blake’s dad helped him with planning, design and a little hands-on work). Blake intentionally paced himself so that the job took the full five weeks that the project was termed. I asked him why he didn’t just get it done. “I could have, of course, especially if I asked my dad to help more. But I wanted to show consistency and have time to build a relationship. Even though I love building, I loved serving Mrs. Frances more.” Blake isn’t interested just in building but ethical building which means he cares so much about the person on the other side of a building project that their needs are incorporated into the actual project plans. In considering Mrs. Frances’ needs more significant than his own, Blake committed himself to a longer period of time than was actually required to finish the project but not without effort. “It takes longer to get something done when you stop and consider the person you are serving. I am such a task-oriented person and I wasn’t sure I could get over that.”
I asked Blake how he will go forward from this project. “I’m maintaining my relationship with Mrs. Frances by visiting her and helping her in any way I can.” He smiled and said, “I offered to fill her car tire and she offered to bake me some cookies.” The service, it seems, goes both ways.
In the end, Blake expressed how thankful he is that God showed him that he works well with the elderly and he said he will be getting involved with our Widow and Elderly Program. In a more sober but hopeful tone, Blake commented about this grandmother who lives out of town: “My Grandma is also like the 1 Timothy widow. I hope the church back home is taking care of her in a similar way.”
Honor widows who are really widows...The real widow, left alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayer night and day (1 Tim. 5:3,5).