Terry Vandivoort believes in helping neighbors, even if they live a hemisphere away.
Vandivoort, 31, a general contractor in Wentzville, recently returned from a job that took him and two other volunteers 7,700 miles to West Africa. They built a Bible school dormitory in Bouna, a small town in the Ivory Coast.
Vandivoort is a member of the First Free Will Baptist Church of O'Fallon, Mo. He shut down his business for three weeks in April and will probably forgo his usual July vacation to catch up.
Roger Drennen, also a member of the O'Fallon church, took vacation time from his millwright job. The other team member was Billy Carroll, a retired millwright from a sister church in Wabash, Ind.
All three belong to Masters Men, a Free Will Baptist group of skilled professionals who volunteer to help church members here and abroad.
"I know the trip helped our spiritual lives," Vandivoort said. "It opened our eyes to the fact that these people have a very solid faith of their own and that we shouldn't try to Americanize them in our ways of worship."
The new Bible school will be used to train native Africans as clergy, he said. "This is important because now they can have their own ministers and we won't have to send so many missionaries. We want to work ourselves out of a job over there."
In their two weeks in Bouna, the Americans worked daily, except Sundays, with African church volunteers.
The official language in Ivory Coast is French, but most natives speak Lobi, which has 11 dialects. …