A Richland church, The Bridge, is sporting a new coat of exterior paint because a homeless man dropped by earlier this year.
The man took one look at the faded, peeling paint on the building at 1916 Jadwin Ave., decided the church had no money and left.
"That's exactly what he told me," said Wes Lindseth, chuckling.
Lindseth is the pastor at Life Church 7 in Richland, where the man eventually ended up.
He is one of four pastors who meet once a week to pray together. The others are Steve Watson of The Bridge, Dan Keller of Island View Worship Center and Jon Brandstetter of Columbia Foursquare Church, all in Richland.
"I told Steve what the man said and we all agreed the church building needed to be painted," Lindseth said. "Steve guessed it was last done some 20 years ago, but said there was no money to pay for it."
Watson told his fellow pastors he'd been praying that God would show him a way to make it happen.
"It got us thinking. Why not come together and find the money and volunteers to do the work? Churches work best when churches work together rather than in competition," Lindseth said.
Keller, Lindseth and Brandstetter talked to their congregations, asking if they'd be willing to help. They all responded generously, some with their wallets, some with their time and expertise.
Watson estimates the entire project cost about $16,000.
"It's hard to tell. We kept having to buy more caulking, more paint and we ran into some rot that had to be repaired," Watson said.
Donations from the three other churches paid about 80 percent of the bills, with the rest coming out of The Bridge's budget.
Work began in March with a target of having it completed by Easter.
"It's all but done. There's just some touchup work left and our sign. It had rotted so we're getting a new one made," Watson said Friday.
The project began with the removal and pruning of the overgrown trees and bushes around the building.
"We took out nine pickup loads," Watson said.
For six weeks there were always a minimum of four men, sometimes as many as 12 working on the building.
Every time there was a need, God sent help, Watson said.
A member of Watson's congregation, Rick Janeke, who recently retired from his job as a project manager for a Hanford contractor, coordinated the project.
A member of Lindseth's congregation is an out-of-work painting contractor.
"He spent many, many hours at The Bridge," Lindseth said.
Watson said there are at least 1,500 hours invested in the project. They went through 15 cases of caulking and 40-plus 5-gallon buckets of paint and primer.
"We had estimated what we'd need but had to buy more because the weathered wood kept absorbing the paint," Watson said.
Keller has been involved in many, many volunteer projects over the years and they always seem to drag out, to lose momentum, especially when the finances don't come in, he said.
"That didn't happen on this one," Keller said. "I know their congregation will be excited. A project like this breathes new life into a church."
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org