Porter Ridge student builds outdoor worship center for Eagle Scout project

Mark Turner has always loved the outdoors, so building an outdoor worship center for his Eagle Scout project came naturally for the 16-year-old Porter Ridge High School junior.

Mark Turner stands beside the completed outdoor worship center he built for his Eagle Scout project.

Amidst the snow that fell Saturday, March 2, Mark and a group of friends, fellow Scouts and church members completed work on the center, located on property behind his church, Idlewild Baptist in Mint Hill. The center is complete with wooden benches, a fire pit and gravel spread across the ground.

Mark joined Cub Scouts in early elementary school. Having loved the outdoorsy Scouting activities, Mark decided to stick with Scouts and eventually strive to become an Eagle Scout – the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve.

The outdoor worship center wasn’t the first project Mark planned to do. He originally hoped to construct a bandstand for his school, but plans fell through. Back to the drawing board, Mark began to consider other ideas and realized his church needed a place to hold outdoor worship services.

“I saw a need within the church for a place where we can go do things like (a) sunrise service,” he said. “I also saw … if I built something like that, it’d be used a lot by different Sunday school classes (and) if I built a fire pit, I knew that we would use it for tons of stuff between the youth group and other groups.”

For inspiration, Mark studied an outdoor worship center in Brevard – his family’s hometown – and got the idea for the benches. But as far as the layout was concerned, Mark pretty much based his project on what “looked good” to him.

Mark spent three months planning the worship center, which involved an extensive draft outlining construction steps, the tools he needed and how he planned to come up with the funds to cover the project. Once he finished his draft, he submitted it to church officials, who quickly approved it.

Prospective Eagle Scouts also are required to submit their draft to a council of Scout masters for a more intensive examination. The council looks at the plans in detail and either approves or rejects the project, depending on whether the outline covers all bases.

Mark was surprised to learn his first draft was approved, with no revisions required. He attributes his success in part to the support of his troop members, who read it and helped with editing.

Once the plan was approved, work began. The church contributed some money toward the project and several local companies donated wood, gravel and materials for the fire pit.

In January, Mark held the first of three workdays. He and a group of friends and fellow Scouts spent about seven hours setting the posts for the benches, which they finished on a second workday in February. On the final workday, Mark and his crew of workers set landscaping timbers, laid the gravel and built the fire pit.

Now that the center has been built, Mark is enjoying the satisfaction of a job well done.

“The best part is just seeing it after it was completed and seeing it after all the work was put into it and just knowing how cool it was that God worked it out that I got all the materials basically for free,” he said. “Being able to have the people I needed come out and help me, it’s kinda cool just seeing God work in that.”

Now that he’s finished his Eagle Scout project and earned enough merit badges – 22 total, with his favorite being the rifle-shooting badge – Mark soon will officially receive his Eagle rank. Having gained leadership skills and knowledge from the project, he hopes to serve as a mentor to younger Scouts within his troop, Troop 140, which meets at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Matthews.

“I want to do my best to stay very involved in Scouting and try to give some guidance to the younger leaders within the troop,” he said.

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