TAKEN BY SURPRISE
By Gary Fletcher
Observer Staff Writer
WALLOWA The people of Wallowa had a difficult time believing what they were seeing this week. It was unlike anything they were used to.
What was hard for the residents to accept was that they were approached by volunteers who wanted to do a job for them, but did not want any pay for their work, said John Jeffries, pastor of the Wallowa Assembly of God Church.
More than three dozen youth and adults repaired and stained decks at a foster care home, painted a grocery store wall, washed post office windows, weeded the senior center flower beds, split wood and weeded around the hardware store and senior citizens' homes.
Then, if that wasn't enough, the volunteers conducted a free car wash Thursday for any and all comers.
Local youth teamed up with 21 students, ages 15-18 and a dozen adult leaders from Assembly of God churches in Winston and Lebanon to "bless the community." Group members paid their own expenses to get to Wallowa.
Two to three communities selected each year
Earlier this year, Jeffries started planning for the group's stay.
The statewide Oregon District of Assembly of God Churches selects two to three communities each year to help in this way.
Jeffries said at first, Wallowa residents "didn't know how to take it that a group would come in and paint a store or do yard work."
Jeffries' wife, Danyel, agreed that the community was taken by surprise.
"It was a wonderful response," she said. "The people were impressed that they came all the way to Wallowa to do this."
Mornings were spent conducting a vacation Bible school for children, and in the evening the volunteers held rallies for young people and families.
"The services were well attended every night," Pastor Jeffries said. "We had about 80 people attending."
The group stayed overnight in the church, using pads and sleeping bags. The church also had access to a trailer and motor home.
"We just stacked them in," Jeffries said.
The congregation provided meals for the team on Saturday evening and on Sunday.
The group brought along a cook and prepared its own meals the remainder of the week.
Jeffries said many projects were accomplished in the community. Twelve projects were accomplished on Wednesday alone.
"No, you can't pay us," the volunteers told flabbergasted folks. Any donations that do happen to come in will be applied to church missions.
Thursday was the last day.
"We hated to see them go," Danyel Jeffries said.
Dave Stave of The Observer staff in La Grande contributed to this story.