A Match Made in Heaven

nails beside wooden planks and hammers

What do you get when you combine spiritual giftedness and passion with natural abilities and honed skills? Seems it can truly become a “match made in heaven,” if you’ll allow me this pun.

Derrick Tapper, ministry coordinator for Jackson County Baptist Association on the coast of Mississippi, has blended giftedness and skills, helping lead countless volunteers to serve hundreds of families on the Gulf Coast and beyond.

Hurricane Katrina, which raked the coast in 2005, catapulted Tapper into this ministry. In the process, it also changed God’s original calling for this faithful servant. Having tackled his fixer-upper home in Vancouver, Tapper had already become quite the handyman by this time. In 2008, with $30,000 and 30 men from the Canadian church he served as pastor, he came to the Mississippi coast to help with the posthurricane rebuild.

In 9 days, the hard-working group rebuilt 2 houses. And a new passion was birthed in Tapper. “Basically, I fell in love with helping people after Katrina,” he recalled.

Already having experienced serving with Volunteers of America, he expanded this partnership, which is still moving full steam ahead today. He also works with volunteers from local churches and businesses. “I call it a synergy when 2 organizations come together,” Tapper related.

The ministry has evolved, now focusing mainly on the construction of wheelchair ramps. Over the years, ministry teams have built hundreds of ramps in response to requests from about a dozen area health-care agencies and entities serving seniors.

“On a regular basis for ramps, I have a list of about 13 to 16 volunteers,” Tapper said. He texts them the date and place, and available volunteers respond and show up. They’ve built ramps ranging from 20 feet or so to one that was 140 feet long with 5 landings, requiring 3 days to construct. The recipients are not charged but are given a “pay it forward” envelope containing information about the average cost and explaining how they can donate toward the next build if they so choose.

Tapper’s philosophy calls him to labor intently, not just as an avenue for gospel presentations but also “because it is the right thing to do.” He pointed out that Jesus came to redeem society, part of which includes meeting human needs. Opportunities to share and minister occur naturally and regularly. “People will weep when we tell them we are doing this in the name of Christ,” he related.

Create Your Own Ministry

“Any church can do this,” Tapper said. “You just need a skilled carpenter who knows the code.” Such undertakings can be done on a small scale, possibly led by a retired contractor who can train and oversee novices. And although men normally compose these teams, women can complement the ministry by purchasing inexpensive fire alarms to install if they are lacking at the residence. These alarms could be placed in a small gift bag, and a card identifying the donor church could be attached, along with a recent monthly calendar or weekly bulletin.

Tapper certainly displays the spiritual gift of administration. In similar outreaches, men and women carrying out such projects to assist the elderly or disabled may have the gift of serving, showing mercy, or evangelism. And projects of this magnitude require much funding. Tapper involves himself in fundraising efforts regularly but has a couple in Canada who help underwrite a considerable portion of the materials annually. This man and wife freely employ the spiritual gift of giving.

Melding spiritual gifts and passion with natural and learned abilities can create unique and life-changing missions and ministry opportunities. How has God equipped you? How can you and your fellow believers serve with His enabling?

Ann Maniscalco enjoys ministering to and with the senior adults in her south Mississippi church.

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