The following story was written by Carl Carlson, a past member and lay leader of Good Shepherd. Carl wrote several stories about the building of the current sanctuary, which was completed in spring of 2001, and with which he was heavily involved. The stories not only share a glimmer of Good Shepherd’s history, but also connect faith and life in real, humorous and touching ways.
The old house located at the rear of the church parking lot harbored two potential treasures. Wormy chestnut panels had been used in many of the interior rooms and three large black walnut trees covered the backyard with walnuts each year. It would have been easier to bring in the bulldozers and chalk up the losses as inevitable, but the building Committee, recognizing our responsibilities to be good stewards, decided to pursue another path.
The wormy chestnut panels in the house would be salvaged and sold to the highest bidder. Wormy chestnut trees died out in the early 1900’s and the lumber is treasured by furniture makers and builders of high-end homes. There were a few downsides. A few years ago, a well-intended church work party decided to spruce up the place by painting the paneling. Fortunately, the paneling could be milled to remove the paint. Removing the paneling without splitting the wood was dirty, tedious, and painstaking work. As the church work parties removed the paneling, we were surprised to discover that even the two-by-four studs were also wormy chestnut. Removing the studs was sort of like “Russian Roulette,” since, with fewer and fewer studs remaining, the likelihood of the roof collapsing increased. Finding a buyer for the wood was not easy, but eventually it was sold for over $1500 to a construction firm who planned to use it in the staircase of a new home.
Our plan was to use the lumber from the walnut trees for some of the furnishings in our new sanctuary. Once again, what seemed like a straight-forward idea, was much more complicated than we realized. We discovered that the lumber from black walnut trees is very valuable, but not from “backyard” trees, only those growing in the forest primeval. Lumber mills use extremely expensive saw blades to cut trees into veneering sheets, and the risk of damaging the blades on nails which may have been driven into “backyard” trees over the years is not worth it. So, on to Plan B.
It happened that Leroy Richter owned saw mill equipment. So one Saturday the three walnut trees were cut down, the large trunk sections were saved for lumber for Leroy’s saw mill, the large limbs were given to local woodworkers, and the walnuts were used by various ladies in the congregation for those delicious Christmas cookies! So far Plan B was working, until something called “moisture content” entered the picture. You see, you just don’t cut trees into lumber willy-nilly. The wood has to have the correct moisture content and this takes time and/or a kiln to dry the wood. Despite Leroy’s best efforts, the walnut wood was not dry enough by the time the furniture maker needed it to begin crafting our new sanctuary furnishings. So . . .on to Plan C. Leroy generously offered to purchase the walnut trees for future projects and we applied the funds towards the purchase of oak wood to be used for the sanctuary furniture and suspended cross.
Whether it be wormy chestnut and walnuts, or God’s gifts to each one of us, good stewardship is not necessarily straight-forward. It is sometimes difficult to recognize and acknowledge our gifts from God. Sometimes, they are hidden under a personal “paint” veneer of false modesty or convenient excuses – “I don’t have any special gifts” or “I don’t have time.” At other times our efforts to be good stewards meet with frustration, unexpected obstacles and different results than we anticipated. We must avoid the temptation of bringing in the bulldozers to trash our treasures. As Christians, we are called to be good stewards of God’s gifts to us – we are not called to be miracle workers. God will take care of that.
Now you know the “inside” story . . . . . . Carl Carlson