Member Spotlight: Dave Williamson at CWCf builds disciples for Christ
Michael Miller · May 29, 2018
Construction Workers Christian Fellowship continues to build on its third purpose but faces a remodeling project with its first two.
Samaritan Ministries member Dave Williamson, president and CEO of CWCf, is honest as he talks about how the 48-year-old ministry based in Longview, Washington, is doing.
The first purpose of CWCf is to evangelize construction workers. The second is to disciple them. The third is to draw from that pool of workers to assist other ministries with construction and maintenance projects.
“Through the years we have ended up majoring on the third point and minoring on the other two, not by design,” Dave says. “We’re trying to figure out ways to reignite the first two purposes in the industry because, ironically, as workers have been evangelized and discipled, they have aged out and didn’t replace or propagate themselves. We lost a presence in the industry.”
Through the efforts of Dave and a dedicated staff, CWCf is trying to turn that around, most notably with two new projects:
- TOOLBOX™ Safety Cards, four-panel durable cards that include safety protocols, first-aid tips, devotional reading, and Scripture references. Using the tagline “Bringing Integrity and Safety to the Work Site,” they’re made to hand out at job sites and cost under a dollar apiece. Different subjects include “Beat the Heat,” “Hand Tool Safety,” “Reciprocating Saws,” “Scaffolds,” “Dust Masks,” and “Circular Saws.”
- Building in Youth, intended to “mentor youth to build godly character through construction training.” Dave says one of its aims is to help generations connect better in churches as skills and wisdom are passed from the older generation to the younger, and an understanding of today’s youth culture is passed in the other direction. One of Building in Youth’s focus is to train high school students to use power tools safely as they build wheelchair ramps for low-income seniors, veterans, and the disabled.
CWCf has faced challenges since it was founded by Jim Hodges. Jim and his wife, Jean, felt led to give their lives to missionary service in the mid-1960s. While they were finding out where that would lead them, Jim took on construction jobs as an electrician, working during the day and attending Bible school at night. Looking out from a roof he was working on one day, he felt the Lord telling him that he was seeing his mission field. “Promoting Christ in Construction—Home and Abroad” became the motto of the new mission agency God led him to start.
“In those early days, the men on the job site with Jim gathered around him, and the group became known as Hard Hats for Christ,” Dave says.
Dave himself studied Building Construction and Design at John Brown University, the only Christian university in the nation that offered a construction degree in the early 1970s. He worked in a variety of construction management roles through the years, including building a mission hospital in Nepal. But it was in the early 2000s that Jim Hodges contacted him and asked him to fly back to the States for an interview. Dave joined CWCf in 2002.
“I’m the chief cook and bottle washer,” Dave says, making sure the ministry keeps running. “What comes through the door and goes out, I’m responsible for it in one form or another. I try to keep us on an even keel financially, and assist our board in strategic planning. I have an excellent support staff.”
CWCf also has an excellent practice of supporting churches and other types of ministries with construction projects through its RV’ers for Christ ministry, with RV’ers standing for “Ready Volunteers.” Two to three dozen projects a year involve between 50 and 100 volunteers, with about six full-time construction missionaries.
Churches, camps, or other types of ministries may submit a request for help on a construction or maintenance project, or an RV’er for Christ may come across one and submit it as a possible project.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to come together,” he says. A location might have a certain need but the worker/missionaries with the necessary skills aren’t available for that time frame.
“Then you turn around twice and people are available for another job,” Dave says. “We know if the Lord wants to help this particular ministry through us, it will work out. It’s Holy Ghost serendipity.”
Labor is provided at no charge, but the ministry that’s helped out is asked to consider supporting one or some of the missionary workers or CWCf in general, in one way or another.
Even so, it would take some kind of support to equal the dollar value that RV’ers for Christ provide in labor. In one recent six-month period, Dave says, RV’ers logged close to 7,000 hours of work. Calculating that using the Seattle, Washington, minimum wage of $15 an hour—and, let’s face it, construction workers usually get paid more than that—would result in more than $100,000 contributed in construction labor.
“So we feel good about that,” he says. “Our crying need is for more workers. We’re aging out and need replacements, and that’s true across the missionary world. We have a couple of guys in their 80s still active with us, also in their 70s, 60s, and 50s. But that’s a big prayer need for us, for the Lord to raise up more, especially effective team leaders, and to open doors for us into the construction industry.”
The construction industry is a “hard one to crack,” Dave says.
“When it comes to the bigger jobs, industrial type jobs—pipelines and power plants—those guys are highly skilled but they tend to be transient. It’s hard on the family, and there’s the whole macho stereotype of the American-independent-tough-guy construction worker, hard-living, hard-drinking. Guys often don’t realize that Jesus himself was a construction man. He hung out with blue collar workers and party-goers. He can relate to them.”
So CWCf is praying for more and new inroads to the industry.
“We’re really before the Lord,” Dave says, “asking Him, ‘Show us a key to the 21st-century method of reaching the construction industry for Christ.’”