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Review

More Than Paint and Pliers

by Cathy Ketcher


Drip, drip, drip. 

 

With every dripping sound, the pastor’s discouragement grew. For five years the parsonage roof leaked every time it rained. The small congregation on Arizona’s Gila River reservation saw the need, but there was never enough money to cover the cost to repair it. 

 

The pastor tried not to be disheartened, but after five years it was hard not to grow weary. How he wished someone could come alongside the church and lend a helping hand.

 

At about the same time, a group of 10 people in Pennsylvania volunteered to assist in a building project hundreds of miles away in Arizona. Although they knew no one on the Gila River reservation, they were more than willing to do what they could. Equipped with tools, supplies, and more, help was on the way!

 

TRANSFORMED CHURCHES

 

Every year this scene is repeated multiple times among RV volunteers and church teams through Church Mobilization, a window of U.S. Missions. Teams of varying sizes travel across the country to renovate buildings, construct new facilities, volunteer at camps, or do a variety of other needed tasks. With paint, pliers, saws, and hammers, they work with one goal: to bless and encourage pastors and congregations in reaching their communities with the gospel.

 

Chris Trombetta, U.S. missionary with Church Mobilization and RV Volunteers representative for Arizona since 2022, can attest to the benefit of these teams and their ministry. 

 

“These servants volunteer their time and resources to benefit the body of Christ,” he says. “Along with free labor, they also bring funds to help pay for materials. What a blessing it is to see a building that is falling apart transformed for the glory of God.”

 

TRANSFORMED MINISTRIES

 

Chris knows a lot about transformation. 

 

Before he accepted Christ, drugs and alcohol were part of his life. He dabbled in various religions and was attracted to the practices of Native American spiritism. 

 

“I was very ashamed of my past because of all the evil I was involved in,” Chris recalls. “But God assured me He would even use my past for His glory if I would trust Him.”

 

While sitting in a church service in a small Massachusetts town, Chris sensed God calling him to missions, though the details of that call remained unclear. He went on to study at Zion Bible Institute (now Northpoint Bible College) and then began serving as a youth and children’s pastor on the East Coast. 

 

When a visiting missionary to Native Americans invited Chris to spend a couple of weeks on a short-term missions trip to North Dakota, Chris’ missions call came into focus. The missionary asked him to speak at a church on a Sioux reservation, but when he arrived, he discovered that no one was attending services. 

 

On the way home, Chris spent time praying that God would raise up a pastor for that needy Sioux community. The more he prayed, the more he knew God was calling him to answer his own prayer. Within two months he and his family had moved to North Dakota to pastor the struggling church. In addition to ministry, he supplemented his income by working in the building trade.

 

As the family settled into their new surroundings, Chris started visiting nearby communities and holding evangelistic services. He was dismayed when he saw the condition of many of the church buildings and the struggles pastors faced. He began dreaming of ways to lead construction teams to help restore the churches and assist with community outreaches. 

 

As Chris dreamed, he pressed on in ministry. In the process, he learned the Native American culture and the best way to address spiritual and physical needs on the reservation. Twenty years passed, but his dream never faded. Then one day, during a time of prayer, God let Chris know the dream would become a reality.

 

“He told me He was opening the door for my wife, Peggy, and me to reach more Native Americans than we had to that point,” Chris said. “I felt specifically that I should call the Arizona Ministry Network and talk to the director of Native American Ministries. I didn’t know when I called, but the district leaders in Arizona had been praying for someone to help them — someone who knew the building trade and understood missions in the Native American culture.”

 

At that point the pieces fell quickly into place. In 2022 the Trombettas were asked to move to Arizona to lead building and renovation projects on reservations across Arizona. A few months later Chris was named U.S. Missions RV Volunteers representative for churches and ministries across the Arizona Ministry Network.

 

With 27 Native American tribes living on 21 reservations in Arizona, as well as a variety of projects with local churches and ministries, there are plenty of opportunities for RV volunteers and church teams to make a difference.

 

“Our biggest challenge is finding enough teams to meet all the needs,” Chris says. “Arizona is unique because teams can come during any season of the year. RV volunteers like to come in the winter because of the warm climate in the south. But we can also host projects in the summer in the high elevations where the weather is cooler. We are always looking for RV volunteers and church teams to come and help us!”

 

TRANSFORMED LIVES

 

As teams come to build and restore churches, they find their work goes far beyond paint and pliers. They also breathe new life into the people who attend them. 

 

When the Pennsylvania team came to repair the Gila River church parsonage, they left an indelible impression. Not only did they take care of the leaky roof, but they also replaced windows and painted the outside of the house. 

 

At the end of the project, the church members treated the team to a meal of Indian tacos, followed by a time of worship and prayer. God moved in a powerful way, and many of the locals came forward for prayer. Both the pastor and the congregation felt encouraged and loved.

 

According to Chris, Spirit-led teamwork is the goal of every RV volunteer and church team project.

 

“Our hope is not only to build churches but also to build the body of Christ,” he says. “We see these projects as opportunities to be engaged in evangelism — to reach the lost and broken in our communities. Our heart’s desire is to see people transformed into faith-filled children of God.”
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