During the depression my father worked at whatever jobs he could scrounge up. He eventually obtained work helping a building contractor.
One day his employer asked if he could read plans. Although his experience was very limited, he told him that he could. He handed my Dad a set of house plans and asked if he could build the house outlined thereon. "Sure," my Dad replied. Thus began my Dad's building career.
For several years he built houses for the other guy then he went out on his own. He would build one or two at a time and sell them.
He would then re-invest most of the proceeds in materials and build one or two more. He was able to support his wife and five sons, not lavishly by any means, but in relative comfort.
One day my father was approached by an elderly gentleman. "Jasper," he said, "I have been watching you. You're a good man and a conscientious builder. I have some land that needs someone like you to develop into a sub-division. With my financial backing and your building skills, I think we can initiate a highly profitable enterprise."
My father saw this as an opportunity to expand his career and his potential for success as a builder--he could become a developer. It was 1957 and the future was looking bright. Then the phone rang.
He was scheduled to meet with the leaders of his church. They asked if he would be willing to accept a mission call to take his family and move to Mexico where the church was growing very rapidly.
Meetinghouses were needed and men were needed to build them. He had been taught from his youth that when the Lord called, there was to be no hesitation. He accepted the call and in a few short weeks we found ourselves in Monterrey, Mexico.
There was drought in the land. In many places, Church members, along with many others, found themselves facing literal starvation as their land turned to dust and blew away.
The local church membership was to raise 20% of the cost of the buildings. Under the circumstances, this was an impossible task--unless some way could be found for the members to reach their goals without reaching too far into their pockets.
Young men were called as "Labor Missionaries" and the local members were charged with providing their meals and lodging. In this way they could "pay" their allotment.
Over a period of years more than 300 young men served in the capacity of "Labor Missionaries" and more than 30 modern churches and as many schools were built throughout the country.
The young missionaries were expected to get up early each morning for daily prayer and scripture study. They were to keep themselves and their sleeping quarters clean, neat and orderly. On Sundays, they attended and participated in church services.
These boys could choose an area in which to specialize. After a two year mission, they "graduated" as electricians, plumbers, carpenters or brick masons.
They no longer had to depend on the depleted soils of their rocky farms in order to subsist. Many of these men went on to become builders and building supervisors in their own right and raised families in a solid Christian environment.
When my father passed away this year at age 98, there was very little in the way of earthly goods that he left to his offspring.
One person commented that it was too bad that he had "wasted" his life as a missionary when he could have had all the world has to offer as a successful developer in the States.
I wondered at this. Suppose he had become a wealthy developer, which was very likely. When he departed this life, would he have been able to take any of it with him? I don't think so. What he took with him was a life of service.
My parents were happily married for 63 years. Their sons are not wealthy by earthly standards but we are all rich in offspring, experience and education, all of which we can take with us when it is our turn to go.
Was Dad successful? He was not one to brag but I think he would look back over his life and he would do it all over again.
As his son, I give thanks every day for the parents I had and the legacy of love and caring that they left to me. Occasionally we run into some people that were on the receiving end of my parents' service.
They express their love and appreciation for the hand up they received that has meant so much to them. Yup. I have to exclaim that he was, indeed, successful. Very successful.