Stage One – Elim Heights NSW July 6-11
Some volunteers arrived on Friday the 4th, while others arrived on Sunday morning to start a week of intensive, hard and challenging labour at Elim Heights Youth Camp. Some volunteers started their journey from interstate after they finished their work for the day and drove half of the night to get to Elim Heights to start working on one of the projects, “the amphitheatre”. The first day of work started at 6:30am with morning worship and breakfast. After breakfast we had a look at the site and thought this should not take too long to clear, mark and start the drilling of the holes for the posts to be concreted in for the retaining walls which form the terraces for the amphitheatre.
But unfortunately we were wrong. As soon as we set up the laser level, the site proved to require a lot more work than we first anticipated. While the professional volunteers – Madalin Duna and Gabriel Mandic – got in to mark up the levels and the shape of the amphitheatre designed by Jesse Ilic, Peter Szabo drove his car to pick up a 1.8t excavator hired and paid for by Amy and Benny Gules for the project. By the time the boys marked up the site, the excavator was on site and Gabriel enthusiastically got in to start the work of excavation straight away.
After scooping dirt a few times,we realised that we needed to excavate much more than we initially thought. Then the work became more challenging;we hit some huge rocks that the little 1.8t excavator struggled to even scratch let alone dig out. Then we started frantically searching for mobile signals in orderto make some phone calls in search of a much bigger and stronger excavator. Meanwhile Diana Szabo cooked up a delicious meal to help us regain strength for the work that proved to be more challenging than we anticipated.
After the first lunch we learned that Benny had organised a 5t excavator, Darko and Braidon Voncina graciously volunteered to bring it up on their truck after work. The second excavator arrived on site at around 10:00pm. Gabriel jumped straight in, to start digging out the huge rocks that the little excavator could not move, while Madalin kept digging and cutting with the small one. Jordan Chapman was in charge of making sure that the excavations followed the right levels. His university training gave him an upper hand to make sure the site levels were consistent all around. Finally the first day of work finished at around 11:30pm.
After a well-deserved short sleep, we started work at the same time as the first day with the same procedure. Three more volunteers arrived from Queensland – Monica, Daniela and Elisabeth Balarezo. With more man power on the ground, the work could start again in full strength. The cold of the day was only felt until we got to the site and started working. Soon the extra layers of clothing started peeling back. As soon as the excavation of the first two rows of terraces were completed, Madalin started drilling the holes. Soon we realised that even that job was not as easy as we initially imagined. After much time and combined effort – man and excavator power – we had drilled the first hole.
This tedious work continued on for the whole day. We only stopped for the much appreciated delicious meals and kept on going till 12:00pm midnight. Huge rocks were dug out, and a lot of dirt that was taken out of the terraces was collected at the bottom of the hill to form the stage. The rocks were used to create natural retaining walls where it was needed. A rock was found with the shape of the map of Australia and is now on the stage becoming part of one of the natural retaining walls. Darko and Braidon Voncina came up once again to take the 5t excavator away. The site finally took shape, and most of the 90 or so holes were drilled.
The third day the small excavator was due back to the hire place, so the day had to start again at 6:30am as usual with the same procedure. There was a lot of excavation that needed to be finished before the excavator was returned, so Gabriel worked really hard to clear all that work. Brother Robin Gordon was constantly carrying dirt away with the new backhoe tractor that was just purchased recently as part of the Fly & Build project. Some of the holes were in places where huge rocks were and had to be drilled by jackhammer. About nine or so holes were drilled this way.
All of the volunteers took their turn in jackhammering, but most of the holes were drilled by Domenic Polistina and Peter Szabo, while the others worked hard mixing concrete and pushing wheelbarrows full of concrete to the holes where all the steel posts were concreted in one by one. These posts needed to be at the right height, level and distance from each other, so this job was not an easy task either.
Because of the rocks under the surface, some of the holes drilled by the excavator shifted out of place during the drilling, so afterwards these needed to be rectified by hand and shovel. Girls and boys on their knees hurried to clean the holes of dirt and rocks before the concrete was poured into the holes. The volunteers all took turns mixing the concrete and pushing wheelbarrows. Different people were in charge of the two concrete mixers mainly the youngest volunteers, Roni and Rico Szabo and Nathan Boje. They worked really hard to make sure the concrete arrived to the holes in time and always mixed to the right ratio of ingredients. We nearly ran out of cement, and Benny and Amy Gules came and brought us 40 bags of cement in their truck, arriving on site around 8:30pm. The work could go on, and by the end of the day almost all the holes were filled with one post and a wheelbarrow full of concrete. The work continued all the way into the night again, till 11:00pm.
Madalin and Gabriel were supposed to be travelling home that night as they had another job on hold and other tradies were waiting on their return. They had left their families and children behind – some of them were fighting colds in their absence, but they could not leave while the work was not complete.
On Thursday morning Br Matthias Thiel also came to help. This was the big day when all the concrete sleepers were carried to the site. Pairs of workers carried them one by one and placed them in front of the steel posts. Madalin and Gabriel worked out the levels once again, spacers were cut to the right height and the concrete sleepers were placed in position. Brother Merv Southwell also helped out,with carrying the 50 kg concrete sleepers. We politely asked him not to consider himself young just this one time, and he reluctantly gave up that work, but he never stopped helping with other things.
In the end different individuals, wanting to show that the week’s hard work had given them extra muscle power, picked up and carried the 50kg concrete sleepers on their own. Jordan Chapman and David Dumaguit, who don’t work every day on construction sites, were extra pleased by this achievement. By evening the work was completed, and we could finallystop working at a decent time – 7:00pm. Gathering around the fire in the dining hall, nicely showered and ready for bed, signs of a long long week of hard labour started to show. People looked worn and exhausted but thankful to God for how much was achieved and pleased with their individual accomplishments. After evening worship, everyone was really eager to go to bed.
On Friday morning Br Peter Szabo and I finished installing the last few sleepers and straight away started discussing the plans for the second stage of the project. Originally we hoped to finish the project in one go, but unfortunately the difficulty of the job and the availability of our main volunteers forced us to split the project into two stages. Brother Robin, Br Peter and I started looking for timber for the seating. Not long after, we found a place where we found some good quality hardwood timber, and we ordered it straight away. They will finish cutting the timber within three weeks, and it will dry by the time the second stage commences sometime in September.
We would like to praise the Lord for the strength He blessed us all with and for keeping us safe as we worked. We cannot thank Him enough that He looked after us with great weather– no rain, snow or strong winds. We would also like to thank all the volunteers that helped us out in any way. There were many more volunteers than the number of people onsite and many who helped us financially. The cost of the amphitheatre in total will be somewhere around $15,000.00, but no money can buy the beauty of the place where it is situated and we trust, and hope that many blessed meetings will be enjoyed in this great location.
If you feel inspired to help out in stage two of the project, please check the YC Website – www.youthchallenger.org.au/fly-build – as we will post the dates there. You can also see more details and photos on this website. Ultimately you can become a YC Member, and we will e-mail you the info as it becomes available. Go to: www.youthchallenger.org.au/new-member-2 to become a YC Member. If you cannot help physically in stage two, your financial support is much appreciated. You can donate online at the above website or through your local treasury indicating Fly & Build on the tithe slip. Thank you for your help, and may God richly bless you.
~ Csongor Matyas
AUC Youth Department Director