Craft Reaches Russia

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Most preachers do their work behind pulpits, but one former pastor is getting behind some power tools to help a program that’s close to his heart. See how this retiree’s woodworking skills are making a difference in the former Soviet Union. Reed Galin reports.   

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(Locator: Brenham, Texas)

The Reverend Sam Duree’s passion is building birdhouses, but they’re not just for the birds.

The Reverend Sam Duree: “I had one man that called up and said, ‘I want to complain, there are no birds in my birdhouse.’ He said, ‘Do you think it’s because it’s sitting on my mantle?’”

Every day, Duree spends three to four hours in the garage of his home in Brenham, Texas turning cedar fence pickets into works of art. The 77-year-old retired United Methodist pastor builds many of his birdhouses to look like churches, or Noah’s ark.

The Reverend Sam Duree: “And this is my Gothic church, with stained glass windows.”

But all this effort isn’t just to satisfy Duree’s artistic side. He sells the birdhouses at craft shows.

Shopper looks at birdhouse: “This is beautiful.”

The money from sales goes to a seminary that trains United Methodist pastors in Moscow. Over the last eight years, Duree has built and sold about 3,000 bird houses, raising 85,000 dollars for the Russian seminary.

The Rev. Sam Duree: “When the Soviet Union collapsed, there were no Methodist churches in Russia. Now there is 120 plus.”

Duree has visited the former Soviet Union 14 times, and believes it’s important to reach out to a global community.

The Rev. Sam Duree: “Isolationism is something that not only was out of step in World War II, it’s even more out of step now. Somebody in the Middle East does something, and suddenly my car is more expensive to run.”

Sometimes a simple hobby becomes something that can make a difference.

Gloria Alvarado, Birdhouse Buyer: “They’re going to make a wonderful gift. And the fact that it’s going to a ministry, it’s like a double gift.”

The Rev. Sam Duree: “I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. The good Lord has plans for us, and I’m doing what I can to carry it out.”


Sam Duree says he may not make any more journeys to Russia because the trips are becoming exhausting. But he thinks he can keep making birdhouses in his garage for another 10 years or so, and continue helping the seminary.

For more information on how to support the Russia United Methodist Theological Seminary, you can contact Dr. Donald E. Messer at 303-765-3102 or Suzanne Calvin at 303-765-3109. You can reach The Rev. Sam Duree at 979-277-0946.

Also, see: Pastor’s hobby raises $85,000 for Moscow seminary