Keeping the seminary running is about so much more than simply maintaining a school building.
“I think of it as a small community or village,” says Curtis Wenthur, the seminary’s buildings and grounds director. He’s right.
Outside, the grounds crew keeps watch over 80 acres, which include two and a half miles of roads and 25 acres of turf, plus forested land, landscaped beds, trees, flowers, and bushes. To maintain all of this requires snow and leaf removal, weed control, tree maintenance, seeding and lawn care—as well as making sure street signs and lighting are adequate.
“Landscaping is a never-ending job,” says Wenthur. “It’s forever growing, dying, and coming back. Unwanted invasive species appear. Plus, there is storm and deer damage.”
The crew maintains the seminary’s main buildings. The original buildings, dedicated in 1929, include the dorm, dining hall, classrooms, and chapel. The library was built in 1968, and the auditorium in 1986.
“These all have heating and cooling plants, industrial hot water heaters, and slate roofs. We also maintain 981 windows, 43 bathroom areas, and hundreds of light fixtures,”
The team also maintains the 17 professors’ homes and two homes for world missionaries who are back in the States on furlough. This includes everything from gutter maintenance to remodeling and painting after profes- sors have moved out and before new families move in.
That’s just what you can see. Under- ground are miles of private water lines, sewer mains, storm drains, phone and internet cabling, and fiber optics.
Finally, the team works to make sure everything is set for over 25 special events held every year including symposiums, concerts, Mission and Ministry, Call Day, Graduation, and Summer Quarter. “It takes a lot of work keeping these 80 acres looking beautiful and maintaining the flavor and integrity of the architecture, while trying to modernize and keep up with the changing times,” says Wenthur.
The faculty and staff, students, and visitors to campus notice the effort. President Wendland recognizes that, for this crew, the daily work is much more than just a job. “I stand in awe over the people who work here,” he says. “They tend it as if it were the Garden of God. Everywhere you look, their love for the Word is on display.”
Student workers play a vital role, providing manpower for lawn cutting, tree removal, planting beds, early morning snow removal, or whatever else is needed. “Basically, if something needs to be done, they are the guys in the trenches getting it done,” says Dennis Sprenger, campus grounds supervisor. “We are the highway department and the forestry depart- ment, along with seasonal work that can be never ending. Prioritizing big projects along with daily maintenance is a constant juggling act.”
But not many of the student workers come with experience. “I spend a lot of time teaching them all these different tasks, but they are quick to learn. After they earn their badge, they end up working on their own. Whether it’s removing all the leaves from 25 acres or cutting 25 acres of lawn in a day and a half—they work so hard. To say I’m proud of them is an understatement.” Sprenger sees his work not just as a job. “This is a ministry to me,” he says.
Phil Loescher joined the crew in June 2017 and is one of those students who benefits from Sprenger’s experience and servant-leader attitude. “I’ve learned the joy of taking pride in my work,” he says. “Doing work efficiently and to the best of my ability is noticed. We’ve received many compliments from those who come to campus on a regular basis and from those who visit once every year.”
Still, the work isn’t easy. “The hardest project I’ve done—and the most rewarding—is the work we did at Prof. Robert Wendland’s house. We removed several trees and flower beds and put in soil and grass seed in their place.” He realizes that this hard work provides a short- and long-term service. “It looks really nice now and will be less of a headache for the professor and his family (and us) to keep up the property.”
Loescher, who graduated from the seminary in May 2018, sees how he will apply the lessons learned to his ministry. “I have gained a greater knowledge of grounds care, which will help in maintaining the church grounds and in being a leader for whatever maintenance crew we have,” he says. “My experience has also reinforced the importance of teamwork. In the ministry, as well as any area of life, it is important to utilize God’s gift of teamwork to accomplish a desired goal.”
Linda Buxa is the seminary’s communications coordinator.
BUILDINGS & GROUNDS STAFF
Curtis Wenthur, Building & Grounds Director, 32 years
Ted Saxe, Maintenance Supervisor, 13 years
Dennis Sprenger, Campus Grounds Supervisor, 3 years
Linda Wenthur, Campus Grounds, 21 years
Three student workers