You call that a "Vacation"?

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Blog entry by Mark A. DeCou posted 06-19-2007 01:26 AM 1355 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Wow, I’m not sure that I’ve ever been so tired after a two week vacation before. In fact, I know not.

In years past, I spent my vacation time aimlessly, without purpose, doing things like laying on a hot windy beach, skiing in blizzard conditions, looking at smelly animals in a zoo, getting drenched at a water park by rain, wringing seawater out of my souvenior t-shirt at Sea World, getting so sunburned while snokeling that I couldn’t sit for a week, standing in long lines at amusement parks, riding Harleys in hail and rain and wind, avoiding being mugged in downtown NY City, breathing second hand smoke in a stinky casino, looking at seemingly endless lines of other people’s Harley’s, and a whole host of other selfish things.

Often, eventhough I tried to have fun on vacation, I didn’t. Most of the time, I didn’t feel refreshed, or rested either.

This year I decided that I couldn’t really afford to go anywhere on vacation, and I can’t sing. How do the two work together? Read On.

I can’t sing, or haven’t, since 8th grade when I froze up at a music festival and couldn’t remember the second verse to the song I was solo-ing. The judge was not impressed. Since then, I only sing loud enough for God and me to hear. He understands.

Since I can’t sing, I wanted to use another talent I have for our church, namely, working in wood. Jesus of Nazareth was a worker of Wood. Some people call Him a “Carpenter,” but in today’s Amercanized English language, the original text is better translated into the word “woodworker.” I like that word, as I don’t like doing what “Carpenter’s” do, namely framing homes, in today’s language. Carpenter’s work is too hard, hot, and tiring for my liking. I’d rather “work in wood.”

So, I decided that if God has gifted me with the skill and love of woodworking, I would use this ability any time I could to help with the local, regional, and world-wide work of the Church. However, I don’t know where this decision will take me, or whether I will be used by God to do woodworking. In the meantime, I make as much dust as possible, the Days are short you know?

When I first made that decision 1996, I had no idea that a couple of years later I would be shutting down my business to teach woodworking at a camp/ranch for young men who were also trying to serve God. They didn’t have any vocational skills to get a job with, so that was my job, teaching them to work. That was back in 1998.

I quit the teaching job for the ministry called Morning Star Ranch in 2001, and, to be honest, have been reluctant to “open” myself up to whatever God had in mind for my woodworking since then. This reluctance was not because I am so scared of where it would lead, but rather, I am scared that He might suggest that I hang up my tools and do something else. That is not something I have wanted to do.

But, over time, I have come to conclude that living and working, even in wood, outside of God’s Will for my life is not something I want to do, at least not for long. I know that from experience.

So, a few months back I finally opened myself up again to do whatever God called me to do, again. That decision came after a long day of finding out that my daughter Rachel had a some sort of serious health problem. I figured it was a good time to Pray, and seek God’s will, and mercy for her and our family.

I have been sort of waiting for the other hammer to drop since that night in early March, but so far, so good. Rachel seems to get better, and more active every day, and I get to do more woodworking all the time.

So, I am still running hard to do “woodworking” for God. I suppose in some selfish context, I’m still trying to prove to Him that I am worthy of making a life in woodworking. I know He knows what is best for me, but I have been trying to prove myself to Him, to some extent.

To that end, I decided after watching last year’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) program do it’s thing, that I had to figure out a way to get more involved. They need folks that can teach kids and sing, neither of which I felt gifted to do. But, a wise man named Henry Blackaby once wrote some wise words that are pretty meaningful to me. To paraphrase him, “if you want to serve God, look at where He is at work, and join Him there…”

So, that is what I did, and I asked to be involved in VBS for this year. I asked the Children’s Ministry Director, Susie, a year ago if there was something I could do to help (other than sing), using woodworking. We brainstormed over the course of the year, but it all came down to doing the actual work the two weeks before the event was to start. How’s that for procrastination on my part? So, instead of fitting the VBS work in and around, my work schedule, I had to “schedule” two weeks of vacation to get it all done in time.

Susie and her team selected the “Avalanche Ranch” program and bought the materials for us to put on the program. The materials are great. This program is very Western in theme, sort of like an old Roy Rogers & Dale Evans movie, which fits our rural ranching community to a “tee”.

We don’t have a big enough building to hold a VBS program at our church, so we borrowed the Township’s old school building gym. Due to consolidation and budget cuts, the community lost the school, and all of the kids have been bussed 20+ miles to school for around 40 years now. How’s that for progress? Wonder why we have so much trouble with kids these days?

A movement among the community was started about 10 years ago to either tear down, or save the condemned building. Nobody could stand continuing to drive by it everyday and count the number of newly broken windows, and quietly watch it’s quickly declining condition.

All of the old school needed work, major work, expensive work. So, a few volunteers headed out looking for grants and donations first. Nothing much happened with gifts and grants, so the community tried to save just the gymnasium. The rest of the school was condemned due to asbestos and mold problems caused by a bad roof and river flooding over the years, but those optimistic folks held on hard to the old gym. As you might expect, local politics and politicians picked sides over the project, and so the community has been trying to overcome the bickering and naysayers. Some new elections, some hard work, and the Gym has been saved.

For the folks of the community to save the gymnasium, the first step was to put on a new roof to stop the rain water from coming in. Then, last year, they remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, and cleaned up the gym. So, our church asked if we could rent it for our VBS program. What a joy it has been to use this building, despite it’s lack of air conditioning. People lived for thousands of years without a/c, didn’t they?.

So, being musically limited, and a procrastinator, I worked hard for 10 days, calling it “vacation,” trying hard to do woodworking for God. My role was to help in the “background” by doing prop and scenery work, using my woodworking skills. We decided that we would sell the items at an auction at the end of the program to raise some funds for next year’s program.

I posted a blog a few weeks ago asking for advice on how to build a rustic fence out of posts, since that was an important part of the scenery. The lumberjock help was immediate, and varied, and the lumberjocks again offered advice to solve many technical problems I was facing with a new type of project work…...Rustic!

The bottom line:
I really didn’t take the time to sit here and type all of this verbiage for my own benefit. I already know my story. However, I’m hoping that my story of a fun “vacation” working in the background of VBS will inspire other lumberjocks to do some service oriented work in the near future.

Whether for a church, or another worthwhile cause, doing woodworking for God can be thrilling, fulfilling, fun, and tiring! Much better than a selfish vacation like my old days. Now, go make some dust!

Still woodworking,
Mark DeCou

P.S. I tried to post some photos of the VBS program and scenery I made, and as soon as is up and running again, I will post them.

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

9 comments so far

View markrules's profile


146 posts in 4082 days

#1 posted 06-19-2007 01:39 AM

Mark, I made some scenery pieces for a WyldLife camp this weekend. And I know how rewarding it is to share a passion that Jesus had, and then to use it to serve Him. One day I’ll have as much to show for that service as you do.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4213 days

#2 posted 06-19-2007 01:44 AM

Nice story Mark, you made a great point and left a good message. It’s still good to see some of your handy work about. mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 4372 days

#3 posted 06-19-2007 01:45 AM

wonderful news Markrules!

I have been amazed at how many passionate, spiritual people there are here in lumberjock land. I hope you have some time to blog your experience, I would enjoy reading some words about your work on the camp, and how God is working in your life,

the other “Mark”

-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View markrules's profile


146 posts in 4082 days

#4 posted 06-19-2007 01:51 AM

Not to derail your thread… but

I made a “book” of 1/2” MDF that holds two large flip pads. I routed out “The Story of God” on the cover. The book will sit on stage all week. On the last night of camp, the leaders will come forward to the now-opened book to write the names of those who have made professions of faith that week. Sort of cool.

And I HATE mdf. This “book” won’t last long, but luckily, it only has to last two weeks.

It’s certainly good to read how you’ve used your skills so that others will have a beautiful place to worship. I look forward to more stories from you.

View oscorner's profile


4563 posts in 4278 days

#5 posted 06-19-2007 01:59 AM

One explanation of what Jesus actually did, instead of carpentry, was that he actually was charged with clearing the lot before a house was built and afterward, thus he was a laborer according to this interpretation. In any light, Jesus was no stranger to hard work. I know what you mean about wanting to serve God, but affraid that he will ask us to do something other than what we feel we are best at. I, for one am not gifted with gathering souls for Christ.

I’m glad to hear that, Rachel is still improving. ;^)

Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts.

-- Jesus is Lord!

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4294 days

#6 posted 06-19-2007 02:34 AM

Rather than join the collegiate masses in FLA or Cancun some classmates of mine did the “alternative spring break” Habitat for humanity or some equivalent project. I always felt I had to work – gotta pay for school (and still eat and all that). If I were to do it all over again, I’d have done the Habitat deal every year.

I’ll bet you look back on this as one of your best vacations. So much more rewarding than standing in line at the souvenier shop for those places you barely remember.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4003 days

#7 posted 06-19-2007 05:00 AM

Great writeup Mark. Another really nice read.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Karson's profile


35111 posts in 4367 days

#8 posted 06-19-2007 05:27 AM

mark: I always feel great whenever I can do something for the church. When i was writing software i developed a lot of software for the church.

It is an enjoyable feeling when you can do that.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4281 days

#9 posted 06-19-2007 03:22 PM

I know the feeling. I just finished a set of cabinets for a non profit groups meeting space.

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