Nathan Harden is a carpenter on mission to help churches across our two states

By Karen L. Willoughby

Nathan, Amber, and Faith Harden work with local volunteers replacing a roof in Monticello, UT

SALMON, Idaho – Nathan Harden works at no cost on church buildings and the occasional pastor’s home across the Intermountain West.

He’s been volunteering full-time for 24 years.

“I just felt like the Lord was calling me to do something; I didn’t know what,” Harden told UI Connections. “He freed me up from debt and stuff in my life and I think he did it so I’d be free to come out here.”

That was in the year 2000. Harden had traveled from his home near Memphis, Tenn., on a two-week mission trip to Bountiful, Utah, with others from Tennessee.

“Bountiful is where the Lord said, ‘This is where I want you to come back to,’” Harden said.

Harden, a Southern Baptist “before he was born,” he said, had worked for 11 years as a service technician for Verizon communications company in the Memphis area when he determined God wanted him in the West. One of those people with a gift for “fixing things,” he was a natural for a construction mission trip.

Nathan recently remodeled the baptistry of Redeemer Church in Grangeville, ID

Harden, then 35, traveled from Bountiful to Salmon, Idaho, to help work on an expansion of Salmon Valley Baptist Church’s building for a couple weeks before returning to Bountiful, and then back to Salmon.

“The Lord kept calling me back,” Harden said. “They had plenty of work to do.”

In the years since, Harden has been as far south as American Samoa and as far north as Calgary, Alberta, in Canada. He’s also worked for the Lord in Colorado, Montana, California, and Wyoming. 

“We do a lot of remodel and repair, more so than new buildings,” Harden said. “Cornerstone [Church,] the old First Southern [in Salt Lake City] was a remodel (the church now is named Gospel Light in Salt Lake City, a part of the Gospel Family of Churches). They had started demolition on the sanctuary interior. We took it from that demolished state and redid the entire sanctuary. 

“At Crossroads [Church] in Sandy, they had a house that had been converted into a church,” Harden continued. “We remodeled their Sunday School [classrooms,] bathrooms, and entry points.”

He ramrodded the construction in 2012 of a new church building for Lemhi River Cowboy Church in Tendoy, Idaho, a mission of Salmon Valley Baptist Church.

“They wanted simple, a 30×80 [foot] building,” Harden said. “It was all mission teams that built it. I was kinda the foreman, oversaw it all, got material and did the finish work.

“We were worshipping in it before finishing, four weeks after we started,” Harden continued. “It took seven or eight months to get it all completed. A lot of people from Salmon helped, some on a daily basis. We got help from all over the place.” 

Harden guestimates he’s worked on at least 80 churches, mostly in Utah and Idaho. He’s never had a major injury. “Mostly stitches, that’s the main thing,” Harden said. “I gave myself a black eye once with a crowbar.”

   Harden met, worked with and ultimately married Amber Watkins in 2006. “The Lord grew us together,” Harden said. The couple have two daughters.

“I felt a call to missions even before I met him,” Amber Harden told UI Connections. “I help with construction, homeschool and whatever needs to be done.”

Before their firstborn, Kelly, married, she “liked to roof, but mostly she loves loves loves meeting people,” Harden said. “She’s got friends all over Utah and Idaho.”

Faith, now 13, “loves to help roof and sometimes she likes to help with flooring,” Harden said. “She’ll paint. She’s getting to do a little bit of everything. She likes it for the most part.”

The Harden family is booked solid for June and July, but August still has some space. He works as a volunteer, but churches need to supply the materials. 

“Rob Lee [executive director of the Utah Idaho Southern Baptist Convention] is good about letting me know what’s going on, and people just call me, and sometimes I hear about a project and call them up,” Harden said.

The state convention fundraised the money in 2008 for Harden to purchase a new Jayco Eagle fifth-wheel trailer, which he uses in his ministry. It has two bedrooms and one bath.

“It just provides all our needs,” Amber Harden said. 

Nathan and Amber Harden in 2010 became Mission Service Corps (MSC) self-funded missionaries endorsed by the North American Mission Board. The designation allows their donors who send them money through NAMB to receive a tax credit for their support of the ministry, which is not limited to construction.   

“We help in VBS, camps, and cook for the Southeast Idaho Rodeo Bible Camp three weekends out of the year,” Harden said. That’s in Downey the last week in June, Rigby the last week in July, and Labor Day weekend in Jerome, Idaho.

“We also do work on pastors’ homes, and that’s mostly remodel and repair,” Harden continued. “We’ll work with mission teams on community projects like handicap ramps, and well, so many different things.”

Harden works year-round, in construction on everything – framing, drywall, siding, roofing, flooring, paint, finish carpentry, concrete – except plumbing and electrical since he’s not licensed for them. 

“I’m going to keep doing what the Lord tells me to do,” Harden said. “I’m not going to change until He tells me to change.”

If you would like to follow the ministry of the Harden family, or financially support his ministry through a tax deductible gift, visit his blog at A Carprenter for Christ 


Karen Willoughby

National correspondent for Baptist Press

and other state Baptist newspapers