Construction Trades

The room, if you could call it a room (it was more of a long hallway), was always dark and had a musty smell. It was only used for storage, so on the rare occasion that it was frequented, it involved either organizing or getting something that was rarely needed. It was our cellar underneath the front porch.  What set it apart from all the other rooms in the house, and particularly the basement, was that the walls were left quite untouched from when the house was first built. I remember looking at the strange square thin metal objects with a ¾ inch hole punched in the middle of them sticking out of the concrete walls and wondering what they were there for.

I had other questions that came to me from time to time, which were a little more pertinent to what lie before me in life. What am I going to do for work after I get out of high school? Should I continue in the way of education and go to college? How am I going to provide for a family that God may graciously give to me? Little did I know at the time, but these questions were slowly being answered through God’s providential care. He opened some doors, closed others, and also gave direction through the way of examples, instruction, and interests.

Watching my dad fix things around the house gave me a desire to have that same knowledge of how things worked. Hearing my mom encourage me to look into work that required hand/ eye coordination gave me pause as to what gifts I had been given (or not given) and how to use them. Working at my first job on a farm in all types of weather shaped a desire in me to continue in a vocation that would allow me to work in God’s open creation. This interest in working outdoors was laid aside for a time when I had the chance to work at Steelcase (an office furniture manufacturer) on the second shift, a job that I also enjoyed. I found many of these aspects coming together in the trades involved in construction.  Due to a layoff from Steelcase and a job opportunity where my newly-wedded wife was from, I moved to Colorado.

Since moving to Colorado in September of 2001, I have been working for Walrite LLC building and pouring residential foundations. Walrite is a partnership in which we as a group have bound ourselves together as self-employed people to work under one company.  After all the monthly expenses are paid out and long-term goals are addressed we split up the remaining profits as our monthly income. The company consists of roughly 9 men (depending on the time of year, i.e. summer help) and an office manager.

Our company is made up entirely of men from our congregation here in Loveland. This is truly a joy and blessing. That was made quite plain to me a few years back when we had the opportunity to complete the basement and other concrete work on the new addition to our church. I am thankful to work with others of like faith who share the same work ethic and desire to work as pleasers of God and not of man. Having a God-centered work ethic as a whole is important to the running of the company as we must rely on each other to fulfill our responsibilities to complete a job in a timely and profitable way.

The requirements of this work are best seen when we look at the various duties we have on any given day. The day usually starts with all members meeting at our shop and going over the schedule of the day and noting what needs to be scheduled for the coming day(s) such as inspections, concrete pumps, and concrete. The manager of the company, Craig Poortinga, has bid on many upcoming jobs, put them on the schedule, and coordinated material to be delivered to the jobsite at the appropriate time.

With the day’s tasks laid before them, the company then splits into two groups: those who will take panels off a wall, move the forms over to another job, set them up, and pour another foundation; and those who will go and strip a footing, build and pour another footing, and get that job prepared to build and pour at a later date. Other responsibilities include maintaining tools and vehicles, recording what materials were used for each job, billing, and purchasing necessities for the general running of the business. There exists a need for good communication with the builders/customers, honesty, clear thinking and decision-making, and knowledge of how best to work with the others of the company to get the job done right and efficiently.

There are unique realities of working in this type of trade. The hours worked can vary depending on what the economy is doing at any given time. When we are very busy, there is the pressure of getting a certain amount of work done every day. With this comes the pressure to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us by the builders and to use them in the best possible way. Then there can come times when we don’t have so much work and there are still the needs of our families and the church. The bids for work and calls to schedule foundations don’t come in. Even the work on equipment (which costs money) dries up and there is simply nothing left to do. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum in my eleven years of working with Walrite and am thankful that God is in control over all. Besides the fluctuations of the market come the changing conditions we work in every season and even from job to job. Sometimes we have to work side by side with some very ungodly, crass people who do not take rebuke too kindly. All of these realities set the environment in which we work and can be taken with a positive or a negative point of view.

I have only scratched the surface of what we do in this trade, but I can say that there are many benefits I see to the job God has given me. Some are rather trivial, like the long hot shower after a lengthy and cold day outside in the snow or rain; or the cool drink of water on a hot summer day. Even the pleasure derived from a job completed in an efficient and timely manner would fall under the trivial pleasures of the work. Other joys have a more lasting value, like growing in understanding of how people interact in different ways as the pieces of the puzzle come together in the building of a house. Or seeing ideas develop and come to fruition to better the process of what our company does. Even seeing and feeling God’s might on display in a coming violent storm that could never be experienced from inside an office leaves a lasting impression.

I would be remiss in not listing some of the difficulties that come along with this trade. It can and often is very physically demanding. The aluminum forms that we have weigh around 100 lbs. apiece, and they don’t seem to get any lighter as I get older. Along with this is the fact that our company has a certain customer base. When all those customers are busy trying to build houses, you become very busy and have the obligation to meet the customer’s need. If these customers are not busy, you need to go and find other customers, or even other types of work to continue to pay the bills (I also see this as a blessing in disguise, for when work is slow, you quickly are reminded of how dependent you are on God for the work he provides, and can then be thankful even when you are overly busy).

To sum it all up is to say that no matter what profession God sets before you to do, you’ll find that he gives you grace to see the joys in your labors, and gives you strength to patiently bear with the afflictions and work them for your profit. As young people, look to your parents and trusted adults for advice as to what strengths and weaknesses you have while making decisions for which job you will pursue. Our prayer as working adults and parents is that God grant to the youth of his church knowledge and wisdom as they seek to know how best to serve him in their labors here upon this earth.

This past Friday a few of us were eating our lunches in a completed foundation we had done last month. As we were eating, one noticed and commented to another how he had missed breaking a few of the wall ties when they had stripped off the panels. These wall ties are those same “strange square thin metal objects with a ¾ inch hole punched in the middle of them” that I wondered about as a child. My childhood question has been answered.