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Vestavia children build toy houses to help Mexicans build real onescomment (0)

July 24, 2003

By Lauren Brooks

It may take a village to raise a child but it only took 20 fifth-  and sixth-graders to build Bible town.

What started as a miniature building project to teach the books of the Bible to children in Sunday School at Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham turned into an event that raised $5,400 for building real homes in Mexico.

Julie Roller, one of the Sunday School teachers, said the children decorated 66 miniature houses, one for each of the books of the Bible, during this past school year.

“The class got enthused about the project and included other buildings, parks, lakes and streets in the town,” she said.

“We were teaching the kids to arrange the houses in the order that the books are organized in the Bible,” said Mindy Bodenhamer, another one of the Sunday School teachers.

“The project took a twist that none of us planned. Before we knew it we and the kids were discussing ways the properties could be used as a fund raiser, and it started snowballing,” she said.

The church has worked with missionaries in Los Mochis, Mexico, for several years, and the children decided to raise money specifically to build houses for the homeless in the area.

In the spring, the children advertised in the church publication and displayed Bible town on tables for everyone to see over a two-week period.

Bodenhamer said the children hoped to make more than $100 by selling their houses.

“The practical side of me was afraid the kids would be disappointed,” Bodenhamer said. “I could see they were dreaming — like how big their lemonade stand could be.”

However, the result exceeded everyone’s expectations.

“It was wonderful to see how a small project done by kids here could help families there so much,” Roller said. “It’s awesome what God can do with a little bit.”

Julie’s husband, Bob Roller, who also helps teach the Sunday School class, said when the kids explained how the money could specifically help families in Mexico, the donations for the Bible town houses began pouring in.

“Seventy-five dollars would be half of what it costs to build a small home for a family in Mexico, to get them off the street,” he said. “We had so many people wanting houses that we had to make extra.”

“The whole church embraced this project,” Bob Roller said. “They were so excited to see kids get excited. The excitement spread to everybody.”

Bob Lochamy and his wife, Billie, fellow church members, bought one of the buildings from Bible town.

“I saw what was happening and was amazed,” Lochamy said. “It was not just left as a teaching and learning experience. The children gained so many more benefits.”

The Roller family went to Los Mochis in June on the church’s annual missions trip to help with Vacation Bible School in the town.

“It brought it to life for our family to see the living conditions down there,” Bob Roller said. “Car hoods and refrigerator boxes were used for walls in homes.”

Roller said he took lots of photos and showed them to the fifth and sixth graders when he returned. “I got to see what the homes will look like once they're built,” he said. “It put feet to the project.”

While on the missions trip Julie Roller said it was particularly meaningful the day she taught the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Vacation Bible School.

“I saw that God did it again,” she said. “He turned these little houses into big houses.”

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