By Alan Sorensen
ROCKY BOY If you thought the construction would end when the outdoor chapel and the new sanctuary at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church at Rocky Boy were complete, you thought wrong.
This summer volunteers have been arriving from across the country and the state to help put up four 10-bedroom cabins, a chow hall and a pair of garages. They've also been helping to convert the parish office building into a youth group home and orphanage capable of handling 12 to 15 kids ages birth to 12.
"This is intended to give the congregation a means to be more self-sufficient," Pastor Joe Bailey said.
The cabins will be available year around for groups that want to hold retreats. The cabins are all clustered behind the group home, old church and new church and will be able to handle children's, women's, men's or mixed groups. Each cabin has two toilets, sinks and showers, and the chow hall will have seating for 50.
"Bill Baltrusch donated a ton of concrete so we're naming the chow hall the Bill Baltrusch Center," Bailey said. "He sent out a crane to set the beams for our new church and when I called up to ask how much we owed for the crane and driver, he acted like he didn't know what I was talking about."
Bailey said the slang name for the chow hall is "meet and eat" right now because it will double as a meeting hall.
The church has been blessed with hundreds of selfless people, both on and off the reservation, who have contributed their time, money or other resources to the improvements.
A crew from Zion Lutheran Church in Bristol, Ind. helped cabin construction foreman Mike Ley and his crew this past week. other crews of varying sizes have come from Billings, Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, Texas, Illinois and other Montana locations. A total of 350 people are expected to help out this summer.
Leon Sutherland is supervising the group home remodeling. In the end, there will be several rooms with skylights in the attic and three bedrooms in the basement. There is a crib room upstairs, too.
A living room and dining room will occupy the east side of the main floor, and a study room and offices will be on the west side. The kitchen will stay where it is in the back of the main floor.
Outside and inside stairways lead to the attic and there are two sets of stairs into the basement. Showers and baths are being installed on each floor.
Bailey said the group home, which will be called Open Skies Lutheran Orphanage, was the idea of Church Council Vice President John Mitchell. While the project is expensive (more than $20,000 was spent on the electrical work in the attic alone), it will provide housing and nurturing for children who really need it, Bailey said. Plans are already in the works to provide day treatment at the facility and there will be study rooms and computers available to the kids.
Bailey said elders have already begun offering to come tutor the children and to sit with them.
There is still plenty of work to be done on the cabins and the group home. There is also the matter of having $30,000 in the bank before opening the group home. That account is required by law to ensure that the home can meet its expenses for the first year or so.
The old church, where the congregation meets once a month, will be a prayer chapel and little museum.