Birdhouses for Mission
By Elliott Wright
New York, NY, March 17, 2009--The Rev. Sam Duree is a man with a mission cause: supporting the United Methodist Theological Seminary in Russia. His mission means: birdhouses--$100,000 worth of birdhouses, designed, built, and sold with proceeds going to the school in Moscow.
The latest check of $15,000 from the retired Texas pastor was presented during an early March meeting of the United Methodist Russia Mission Initiative in San Diego, California. Over nine years, he has built and sold 4,000 birdhouses in 35 designs. The usual selling prices are in the $25 to $35 range. Many resemble churches; some are shaped like Noah's ark or other Biblical images. The birdhouses have clean lines and bespeak careful craftsmanship.
The Moscow seminary currently has 48 students in residential and extension courses and is the major provider of theological education for The United Methodist Church's almost totally indigenous pastoral leadership in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. A new campus has also been opened in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Mr. Duree, now 78, has along with his wife, Beverly, championed the Russia Initiative since it got under way in the early 1990s, becoming one of its major advocates within his conference. He served as pastor and district superintendent for more than 40 years, retiring in 1996.
The resident of Brenham, Texas, 70 miles northwest of Houston, uses his garage as his workshop. He builds with various kinds of lumber. "The houses out of old wood seem to sell best," he said. "So far, I have paid for the materials myself, but with the price of lumber going up, I may have to start deducting some of the costs." His first market was a church parking lot; today, he sells mostly at craft shows.
Symbols of Global Connection
At the consultation in San Diego, Mr. Duree was one of three recipients of special citations of appreciation from Global Ministries for outstanding contributions to the Russia Initiative, one of more than a dozen such efforts sponsored by the international mission agency.
In his remarks, Mr. Duree said he had brought only two birdhouses with him from Texas, thinking he would give one each to two key speakers. "But a woman in the hallway saw the birdhouses and just had to have one, so I sold it to her. She insisted on giving me $100. Now I have only one left, and instead of giving it away, I decided to auction it."
Auction it he did, with the skill of a fast-tongued auctioneer at a livestock sale. It went for $350, but the purchaser later insisted on paying $600!
Elliott Wright is the information officer of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Date posted: Mar 17, 2009