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From the bottle to building missions

The memorial service for Christian layman S. O. Easterling on Thursday, March 26 was an experience of sadness and rejoicing for hundreds of men in Chilton County and many outside the borders of Alabama. The sadness, of course, related to how much he will be missed. The rejoicing relates to the spiritual and positive impact he had upon the lives of men and churches.

“S. O.,” as he was called, was a skilled carpenter and had the gifts of taking the lead and delegating responsibility. But a negative thing in his life was that he became an alcoholic. He would often give a Christian testimony before men and would frankly admit that he had been an alcoholic and that the Lord Jesus Christ had delivered him from the demon of alcohol and had saved him to become a faithful member of one of God’s churches. At least four of his former pastors vouch for his post-conversion faithfulness.

Following his conversion he participated in a building mission to Wyoming composed of a few men in 1983. He experienced how God could use a layperson’s skills and gifts in physical labor as well as using pastors, preachers and teachers. His commitment and vision would never be the same again. He committed himself to participate in an annual building mission, and within a couple of years he was made Construction Director of the Chilton Baptist Builders. Under his leadership, the Builders committed to the mindset that “God is Able” and faith goals and faith actions became a reality. The number of persons on the missions grew from 10 to 20 to 50 to 90 and to as high as 142 workers on one project in Omaha, Neb. The results grew from a few men building some cabinets and doing repair work to the experience of beginning on a prepared concrete foundation and leaving behind a sanctuary and educational space in one week, leaving only the inside “finishing work” and landscaping to be done. This group sought out congregations in other states that had desperate building needs and could not build without significant help from outside the congregation.

Some accomplishments of the Builders under S. O.’s leadership and the leadership of those he inspired are as follows. There have been 25 building missions in 15 different states. They have assisted in building churches of different denominations in Chilton County and built their own association headquarters building.

Another observation is that at least six men who served with S. O. have answered God’s call to preach. Today two of these are pastors, one a full time foreign missionary, one a director of missions and two are assistant pastors.

“From the Bottle to Building Missions” is a true summary of S. O. Easterling’s life. You might use the same words or change the words to summarize your life or maybe summarize what God is waiting to do for you. There is a passage in the Bible that tells the story of Mr. Easterling and it can be true or become true of you.

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God.? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (2 Corinthians 6:9-11). Mr. Easterling knew what it was to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.” He knew what it was to be justified (accepted by God as if he had never sinned) and to be sanctified (set apart for God’s use). This was all “in the Name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

Capable, faithful and dedicated men (and women) continue to lead and to follow in the Chilton Builders ministry, remembering the example of S. O. Easterling, their former leader.