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By Nathan Pace
Southsider Voice correspondent
Construction on a new church on Greenwood’s Southeastside is nearing completion, and Pastor John Stelljes has had plenty of support in the endeavor. Volunteers from his congregation and helpers from all over the country have assisted in building the permanent home for Light of Life Lutheran Church.
“We’re going to serve people better just because of proximity,” Stelljes said. “We’re getting closer to where people live.”
Light of Life members have been meeting in a storefront at 350 S. Madison Ave. in Downtown Greenwood. The church of more than 100 members has long outgrown its humble space and will move to its new building at 2234 Sheek Road in September.
Helping the project stay on schedule has been roughly 35 volunteers from Builders for Christ. The volunteers, who come from all walks of life, are mainly retirees from Wisconsin and Michigan, but they come from as far as Georgia and Nevada. Martin Leyrer oversees them.
“Last year Leyrer posted to the Builders for Christ website the need for helpers from drywall to painting. Most of the volunteers have assisted in specific phases of the construction and rotated out upon completion. Eight have been here since May; they arrived in RVs and stay with church members or at a hotel.
Whiteland resident Robin Campbell, whose construction firm was hired to work on the church, says the volunteers from Builders for Christ have been easy to work with.
“It has run really well,” Campbell said. “They are as good as most subcontractors are at looking ahead and planning their stuff.”
For Leyrer, this is among 40 church projects he has been a part of. Between the Builders for Christ and the Light of Life congregation, more than 8,000 volunteer hours have gone into the church.
“Since we’ve started I’ve never had to worry about having volunteers to do things,” Stelljes said. “Our congregation members take hold of everything and just go with it and run with it. It is the body of Christ doing what the body of Christ does.”
The dedicated members have made church growth easy for Stelljes, despite not having a permanent home.
“Our congregation has really just grown through talking and inviting,” Stelljes said. “There’s no magic bullet. What I try to instill in my people is to just do something. The tendency that happens is that the thing that we do doesn’t often bear much fruit, but as long as we’re doing something the Lord tends to just bring people in.”
Once finished, Light of Life will have a sanctuary that can hold 150 people. The building will also have four classrooms, a kitchen, a fellowship area and offices for church staff. The church hopes ministries like vacation bible school and summer theater camp will become more visible in the community.
“We always strive to be flexible and adaptable,” Stelljes said. “People see that and say, ‘When I come into this congregation I don’t have to be pigeon-holed into something that’s already established but there’s room for growth in ministry and ideas.’ I think that’s really helpful.”