By Robert Lucke
Philip Stafford is one of the Brethren. So he's been going around Havre doing good and not getting paid for it. That is his mission.
The 21-year-old is from the country close to Bradford, Ohio. After graduating from high school, he chose to do mission work for his church, the Church of the Brethren. That brought him to Havre, where he has worked for District 4 Human Resources Development Council, headquartered in Havre until this week.
"I did a three-week orientation workshop in California," he said. "Then we had to choose three places we would like to go. Havre was on the top of my list. They had been waiting quite a while for Brethren volunteers."
Stafford got to Havre in September of 2000. He joined one other Brethren volunteer, Ingrid Bockstahler.
The Church of the Brethren lists the Havre project in its project catalog. It is one of many projects all over the world. HRDC hoped that Brethren volunteers in this area could help out with the domestic violence shelter, provide home repair and weatherization, along with providing some family transition counseling.
Stafford mainly worked on houses for low-income families. He did a lot of remodeling, plumbing, fencing and the like for HRDC homes.
"I also pick up donations for HRDC," Stafford said. "If someone donates an old refrigerator to HRDC, I pick it up and deliver it where it is supposed to go."
Stafford worked on the new HRDC building, making it more usable for its needs.
And for that he got a grand total of an apartment, $60 a month spending money and $60 a month for his food. He started out getting a $50 a month spending money but got a $10-a-month raise after the first year.
This is definitely a calling, not a way of making ends meet. He said that thanks to the Havre food bank, he got along very well on $60 a month for food. Brethren volunteers get the use of an HRDC work pickup to get around town, and they can even go on a trip to Missoula once in a while if they can figure out how to get some gas money.
What about Stafford's parents? How did they like their young son working for literally peanuts in Montana?
"They support my decision," Stafford said. "Although my dad does want me to come back home and go to college."
His Havre work has been good for Stafford.
"I am fortunate to have an able body. I can do heavy work and I do like this kind of work," he added. "And you know I was definitely called here. I always felt that this is something that I should do. It is something that I was made for."
Life has not been all roses in the 17 months that Stafford has resided here.
"It has been tough for me, not being able to meet people my own age," he said. "I did get involved with the college radio station but my personality is not that outgoing. Before me there were four Brethren volunteers here. They were all about the same age and it was easier for them."
There are the good things too. Stafford smiled and said he will tell his children and grandchildren of this last weekend, when in the middle of a blizzard he was ice fishing on Beaver Creek Reservoir and caught an enormous pike.
On Thursday, his tour of duty in Montana over, Stafford boarded Amtrak and headed back home to Ohio. He thinks that he may go back to college for awhile anyway. But then he gets a glimmer in his eyes and describes Brethren projects overseas.
"There just happens to be one in Ireland," he said.