A match made in heaven

October 22, 2007

Winsted’s pastor recruits future Eagle Scout to create a mobile chapel

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Believing in the power of faith, Pastor Gerald Boldt of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Winsted, and Jason Koch, a senior at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, have been on a mission.

Their mission was to create a prototype for the First Response Mobile Chapel that can easily be moved to any location. It is designed to be used at a disaster site to establish an immediate Christian presence while providing an orderly and a safe environment to those in distress.

When Boldt had seen the devastation caused by a tornado in Kansas in May, he was thinking of the importance of having religious leaders available to immediately start reorganizing and providing support to those in need.

What was lacking in Kansas, and in so many other catastrophes, was a Christian presence at the site. In the case of Kansas, the entire city was leveled and there were no buildings left standing.

The idea came to him that a mobile unit would be a practical platform for a pastor, priest, or any religious leader and could just be driven to wherever it is needed.

With a prototype in mind, Boldt purchased a used U-haul van that required renovation. The next thing he needed was a place to store it and to work on it.

Not too far down the road from St. John’s is the old Mid America creamery building. One of its owners is Jim Koch of K-Way Express.

“I asked Jim if I could store the van and Jim said, ‘Sure! We will store it for you. By the way, my son Jason is looking for an Eagle Scout project,’” Boldt said.

“I think God had His hand in here. Things have come together since the beginning,” Boldt said. “Jason has been a key element in this whole project.”

Before the mobile chapel project began, Boldt and Jason did not know one another, but it became a match made in heaven. The two have been working side-by-side.

Jason has been a Boy Scout since he was 12 years old. He is currently ranked as a Life Scout.

He had been actively looking for a service project which he needed to become an Eagle Scout.

“So many people know what an Eagle Scout is,” Jason said. “My English teacher told me if I make Eagle Scout, you can put that on your resume.”

After talking with Boldt, Jason decided the mobile chapel was the perfect project for him.

It was the middle of June when Boldt and Jason talked over their ideas about the mobile chapel, both wanting it to be something that would really help others. Both were excited about the final product. Work began immediately.

By the time Jason had cleaned up the outside of the van and had it ready to paint, he already had put in the minimum 100 hours needed to become an Eagle Scout. He still needed to coordinate the wiring, painting, graphics, and complete the interior.

He lined up Tom Wiemiller and Craig Remer to do the electrical work, Cokato Paint and Body to do the painting, and Herald Journal did all of the graphics, both inside and out.

The First Response Mobile Chapel has its own lighting and air conditioner. There are generators in the event that there isn’t any power source available.

On the outside of the vehicle there is a notice board so people will have a place for lost and found flyers, information on meetings, and services being offered.

“If someone wants to use the First Response Mobile Chapel title and logo, they will have to go through the Boldt Christian Ministry (BCM),” Boldt said. “We want to be able to coordinate and at least have some control.”

“We would like to see it used by all Christian organizations throughout the nation,” Boldt said. “This is nationwide. Hopefully, we are going to be able to interest organizations to get one of these units to be available in the event of a disaster. They would also be able to drive it to other areas to help out, too.”

In addition to having Jason’s help, Boldt has not been short of volunteers to assist in this mission. Wally Paschke has been instrumental assisting Boldt throughout the project.

Mary Wiemiller, Holy Trinity parishioner, did much of the interior artwork. Wiemiller’s family home, where she had grown up, was in the flood of 1972 in Grand Rapids, S.D. She remembers several months after the flood there was such a need for the churches.

When Boldt asked her to help, Mary said she thought it was a cool idea. However, she said she would not have been as excited, if it wasn’t an interfaith chapel.

“If Christians can’t bring people hope in their time of need, what is their purpose?” Mary said.

Katie Rehmann, member of the Harvest Community Church, is helping with the mobile chapel by sharing some of her favorite scriptures of comfort.

Katie feels scriptures are very helpful. “A person who has been comforted by scripture is able to share that comfort, in turn, with others,” Katie said.

Louise Boldt has also been working on the project.

“I questioned it at first, but the more we talked about it, the more I thought of it as a good idea,” Louise said.

“Then, when the I-35W bridge collapsed and there were four clergymen there, and they needed to leave the scene because there was no place for them to remain, I realized that the chapel would have been perfect on the site.

“I also think it is great because there are different churches participating with all of the work,” Louise said.

Louise’s family home was in the flood of 1965 in Mankato and that has also made her better understand the need.

The prototype chapel was completed last week, when Mike Laxen finished the altar and lecturn. The chapel is ready to be used as needed.

Anyone wishing to contact Pastor Boldt through the Boldt Christian Ministry (BCM) for further information about First Response Mobile Chapel can write to PO Box 276, Winsted, MN 55395; or call (320) 485-2202. Information is also available at www.mobilechapel.org.