Missions Construction Team Powered by Women
Maybe it’s the sparkle of her rings, the glimmering of her polished nails, or perhaps the bangles on her wrist, but whatever it is, some people can’t help but express a bit of surprise when 64-year-old Linda Webb, the Potomac Ministry Network Women’s director, is introduced as the lead for a missions construction team!
What’s more, the construction teams Webb leads to multiple sites around the world to build churches and other projects, are made up of all women!
Webb, who pastors with her husband, Don, at Hedgesville (West Virginia) Church (AG), explains that at first, she just joined in the church’s missions teams and helped as she could. Not content to be regulated to “food service” or painting walls, Webb observed, learned, and developed construction skills through her trips, as did other women.
“I’ve learned a lot through the missions trips, from the simple stuff like digging and using a wheelbarrow to how to lay and wire rebar, roof buildings, and construct cinderblock walls,” says Webb, who admits to being a bit on the “foo-foo” (frilly) side and very much a “girly girl” in everyday life.
However, she is quick to credit the construction guys who taught her the craft. “They put things in terms I understood,” she says. “For example, they would tell me to use my trowel like I was icing a cake — that was something I could relate to and it worked!”
Having now led all-women construction teams for the past eight or nine years, Webb and her women have experienced all kinds of receptions. Laughing, she recalls that in the Dominican Republic, people literally lined up to watch them build a security wall around a church.
“They had this stereotype image that American women don’t do any kind of manual labor — that we’re all pampered, movie-star types,” Webb laughs. “We later learned that they were also amazed that we worked together and never fought, instead we seemed to be happy all the time.”
The novelty — and testimony — of working American women who treated each other so well impacted the community to such a point that the townspeople came together and unexpectedly threw the group a party to thank them for their work!
AG Missionary Brad Foltz, who’s on special assignment with Builder’s International, says Webb and her teams of women workers have not only completed a number of projects, but have built a strong reputation in the process.
“They do good work,” Foltz says. “What I’ve noticed in working with them is that although they may have to break some loads up into lighter amounts, they never stop working.”
Webb laughs in agreement. She explains that her groups take full advantage of sunlight (as electricity isn’t always guaranteed), starting at sun-up and concluding at sundown.
“We typically break for lunch on the worksite — pb&j, chips, water, and Gatorade,” Webb says. “On some of our trips, we’ll also conduct VBS (Vacation Bible School) with the children, do health classes with the women, or teach the women a craft that they can make and sell at the market to help support their families.”
As to the quality of work her teams do, a recent disaster shed some light. Webb says that when a powerful magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Ecuador in April, the epicenter of the quake was very near Bahía de Caráquez, the coastal city her team had constructed a cistern for in 2011. “One of the missionaries called us and said the cistern we had built was one of the very few that made it through the earthquake and still held water.”
Foltz, who is helping to conclude the Honduras 100 Project, where Builders International and U.S. construction teams partner with 100 new Honduran congregations to build a tabernacle, says that Builder’s International has been trying to do away with the stigma of construction teams being “men’s only” groups and show that women can build.
“Linda’s teams have repeatedly shown that construction is not a men’s-only ministry,” Foltz says. “In fact, Linda and her all-woman team have been selected to come build the capstone 100th church for the Honduras 100 Project at the end of this month in the city of Omoa.”
Yet, to add just a twist to the story, Foltz explains that Webb’s husband, Don, had led a team from their church last year to build church 96. And this year, Linda was coming in and staying for two weeks. The first week to build the 100th church in Omoa along the coast; the second week, another women’s team is coming to join Webb in helping build the 101st church in the small, mountain village of Pena Blanca.
Webb admits that some of the women on her team have a long history of missions-trip involvement, with some joining her on every construction trip she’s done over the past decade. But there are “newbies” too, who learn as they go.
“On this trip, there will be women ages 18 to 79 joining us,” Webb says. “College students, teachers, nurses, a pharmacist — women from all walks of life will be joining us. And the 79-year-old, she grew up on a farm . . . the younger women are ready to stop and she’s saying, ‘Come on, we can finish this tonight!’”
According to Ryan Moore, director of Builders International, there is a certain type of person he believes makes the perfect Builders International team member: “You’re looking for people that have a willingness to serve; it’s that simple. They are people who are interested in serving somewhere around the world, regardless of their skillset — from highly skilled labor to totally unskilled labor — who are willing to work alongside others and serve as needed.”
For Linda Webb and her teams of all-women labor, that definition fits.