Date published: 2/26/2011
By RUSTY DENNEN
The Bible has many references to God's provision for orphans.
There's this passage, for example, from the Book of James: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
One area congregation has taken that message to heart with an unusual project to supply a basic comfort of life--beds--to 160 orphans in Cambodia.
Last Sunday, the parking lot adjacent to Fairview at River Club was filled with the sounds of hammers, saws, drills and prayer. The site, on Tidewater Trail in Spotsylvania County, is a campus of Fairview Baptist Church in Fredericksburg.
Eighty wooden bunk beds were taking shape with assembly line precision.
"This is pretty amazing to see," said Julius George, a Fairview at River Club member who was coordinating the work.
One woman, George said, stopped by in the morning after reading about the project in The Free Lance-Star.
"She said, 'I have absolutely no talents as far as this goes.'" Someone handed her a belt sander and, soon, she was covered in sawdust.
Pieces for each bed were cut at various work stations--bunks, rails, supports and ladders--and gathered in unassembled kits, along with bags of hardware.
At each step, participants stopped to pray over their work.
George pointed toward one end of the parking lot, where bundles of finished kits were stacked on pallets.
"What's really kind of cool That team is putting a sticker on each bed, and they're praying specifically for the child who will get that bed."
Myrtle Campbell, who attends Fairview Baptist Church, said she and other women there are working on another component.
"We're going to make pillowcases," Campbell said. "The ladies can't hammer a nail, but they can sew."
The pallets of beds will be shipped to the West Coast, then on to Southeast Asia. A mission team will assemble the beds during a trip to Cambodia this summer.
Fairview at River Club Pastor Dee Whitten said churches must reach out to make a difference here and abroad.
"We've sent teams to Peru, supported some missions in Turkey and Ethiopia. We're sending some high school kids to New York City this summer, and we also want to do things in our own community."
George's daughter, Rachael, 21, a student at Liberty University, sparked the church's interest in bunk beds. She and a group of students went on a mission trip to Cambodia three years ago.
"We visited 10 orphanages there. I came home and told my dad about the amazing trip, but that there were 300 kids sleeping on the ground," she said.
Last year, she returned with her father. He met with a Christian relief agency there, New Hope for Orphans, and the bed-construction project was born.
"A few of the orphanages have mattresses, but a lot of [children] sleep on the ground, or on straw mats," she said.
The church provided Bibles to the orphans last year.
Julius George says political violence and disease have taken a toll on Cambodian children. In the 1970s, after the fall of Saigon in neighboring Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge regime killed more than 2 million people. Then AIDS and human trafficking left many more children without parents.
Beds like the ones going to Cambodia are filling a need locally, George said.
"We keep some on hand for programs right here in the Fredericksburg area--for people who have come upon hard times, or what have you."
Donors have been chipping in to fund the Cambodia project. The beds cost about $150 each to build; it costs $50 to $100 for shipping. It's unfeasible to build them in Cambodia because of a lack of suitable wood and hardware.
"For the economy to be as bad as it is, and for people to reach out to kids across the world, is phenomenal," Julius George said. "These kids have no mom, no dad, and no hope. The only hope they have is in Christ."
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431