Bob Wilder from Trinity Baptist Church in Trinity typifies many well-aging North Carolina Baptists reaching out to others in the name of Jesus. To help some of those in need, Wilder assembled a team – with an average age of 70 – from his church that specializes in spreading the love of Jesus with nail guns and miter saws.
All the men are retired, but none of them were professional builders. They learned the way most men do – from fathers, friends and from taking care of their own homes. “We’ve all built a playhouse and a chicken coup or two,” quips the 79-year-old Wilder.
Wilder’s team built two wheelchair ramps for Rampin’ Up! – an event sponsored by North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) and North Carolina Baptist Men. The event was held April 28 in conjunction with Operation Inasmuch, a one-day initiative that encourages churches across the state to participate in neighborhood service projects. Nearly 3,000 volunteers from around the state built a total of 327 wheelchair ramps during the record-setting event.
Wilder first learned of NCBAM when Debbie Pilson, the ministry’s central regional director spoke at his church. Wilder says, “NCBAM is a wonderful ministry. It gets down to where the rubber meets the road with the needs in the area. Sometimes needs can get lost, but with NCBAM you’ve got the organization. You just have to plug in and go.”
Wilder saw Rampin’ Up! as a catalyst for the men of his church.
Bob Wilder spends time each week helping people in his community. He and men from Trinity Baptist Church in Trinity built Dora Kale a wheelchair ramp as part of Rampin’ Up! The record-setting event held April 28 increased awareness of the need for wheelchair ramps and highlighted the great volunteer spirit of North Carolina Baptists.
“I’m optimistic that Rampin’ Up! changed things,” he said. “It opened another door. It showed me there are men ready and wanting to help.
“Before, I called on only one or two people, and I sometimes felt they were overburdened. Rampin’ Up! inspired people and gave the men a lot of enjoyment. One of their wives thanked me – saying that her husband was just so excited about it.”
In addition to helping older adults, one of the ramps Wilder’s team built was for 16-year-old Eric Workman of Denton. Because of a near-drowning incident when Workman was 2 years old, he is now confined to a stretcher wheelchair. For six years his mother, Lahoma Workman, desired a wheelchair ramp for her son.
Workman says the ramp made life better for the teenager.
“Eric loves to get outside,” she said. “This new, wider ramp has made it easier to get him on the porch and in the house. The men did a wonderful job.
“They built it offsite and installed it here. We don’t have to struggle anymore. It’s been a blessing.”
Wilder’s team also built a ramp for Dora Kale in Lexington.
Prior to an automobile accident in February, 70-year-old Kale had been very active – holding a part-time job and teaching aerobic classes six days a week at churches and senior centers.
Kale had been using a “make-do” system that friends put in place the day she was discharged from rehab.
“My ramp now is much safer and nicer. The men did a great job. I’m tickled with it!” she said.
Wilder is quick to confirm that it’s more blessed to give than receive.
“We worked hard all day but when we saw Ms. Kale’s face as she rolled onto her ramp – she was speechless and her face shone like a young girl’s. When you see something like that, it’s icing on the cake for everyone there.”
Wilder leads his church’s men to complete large projects like ramps, gutters and roofing problems, but he often handles small home repairs himself. Many aging adults in Wilder’s community cannot afford to pay for professional home repair estimates – let alone services. Wilder keeps a five-gallon bucket stocked with $35 worth of miscellaneous plumbing supplies that lasts him several months.
“Ninety-five percent of the time, I can use a 15-cent washer to fix a leaky faucet. When you stop the drip, they’re in awe. When you do something that’s beyond someone else’s ability, it’s hard to articulate how much joy that gives me.”
The joy that Wilder receives from ministry is evident in the good-natured friendliness he exudes.
It is clear Wilder is not one to repair a drippy spigot, tip his hat, and move on. He’s often been known to spend more time in conversation – something that many aging adults hunger for – than the time it takes him to fix a problem.
Wilder shares his testimony of God’s faithfulness with those struggling with uncertainty and loss. “People need to know that somebody believes in the guidance of the Lord. I try to reassure people that the Lord has a hand in all that goes on in our lives.”
Though Wilder receives dozens of calls each week from people in need, Wilder said he never tires of helping others.
“It’s not stressful; it’s a relief,” he said. “I worked a highly stressful job all my life. Void time is not something I handle very well. To see someone who I’ve helped just a little bit – to see their burden lifted – I just can’t imagine life any other way.”