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Master craftsman, spiritual apprentice

Bernie Todd and the dresser he's building for his wife. Photo by Ken Cunningham

Master craftsman, spiritual apprentice

In his book No Little People, Francis Schaeffer wrote that “in God's sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us, at each moment.”For four years during the 1990s WORLD annually ran a set of features with specific examples of Christians who were doing God-glorifying things out of love and obedience but without recognition. We continue that tradition in this new series on people who glorify God by serving others without getting any money or publicity in the process. —Marvin Olasky

Retired drywall contractor Bernie Todd, 76, delights in crafting pieces of raw wood into a polished dresser or chair but does not keep anything he creates. He gives away every piece to family members and friends because he believes God told him to share his work. “It’s the greatest joy to make something and give it away rather than keep it for yourself,” said Todd, who has learned to give more than furniture away to others.

A painfully shy boy from a family of southern Virginia farmers, Todd apprenticed with a plasterer in 1955 to earn money while volunteering at a fire department. He has always lived in southern Virginia, where he married the girl across the street. They had three daughters.

Though Todd always believed in God, he was critical of churchgoers. Then the Todds literally got tangled up with a church. Their babies’ diapers tangled one day in the pulleys of an apartment clothesline with diapers belonging to another couple, who invited the Todds to church. Todd, then 21, raised his hand at the end of the service and became a Christian.

The Todds joined a vibrant Baptist church in the 1970s, where Bernie learned to overcome his shyness and talk about Jesus with strangers. He felt a growing desire to develop a relationship with his Creator: “I want to know God. That has been my goal and it has never really stopped.”

As he learned more, he experienced one of the toughest challenges of his life. He and a church friend started a drywall contracting business that crumbled when the partner began stealing most of the profits. Todd was left with a large debt.

Furious, Todd had no idea how to handle the situation. Driving down an interstate, he heard a radio sermon about loving others. “Lord, okay,” he said, “I know what you’re doing. You want me to love this man.” He immediately forgave his partner. “That vehicle was filled with God’s love,” he said.

It took six years to pay off his debt, but God blessed Todd with contracting bids he never expected to win. Psalm 1 became God’s promise to him: His business would become like a flourishing tree if he followed God’s ways.

Todd ran his business with integrity and helped others as well. Once, he spoke with a Maryland salesman about God and marriage. Halfway through the conversation, tears began to roll down the salesman’s cheeks. He had decided that day to divorce his wife, but Todd changed his mind.

“God has performed so many miracles in my life,” Todd said.

Todd long ago moved from apprentice to master drywaller, but he’s never ceased his spiritual apprenticeship. After 30 years, he’s passing down his business to one of his daughters and continuing to pursue both faith and furniture. He’s currently crafting a triple dresser for his wife.

Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette Rikki is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD contributor.

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