HARVARD — When Frank VanCampen built a custom barn wood casket for a woman in Haxtun, Colorado, the piece got plenty of attention.
The woman attended the Berean Bible Church in Haxtun, where VanCampen filled the pulpit as pastor for 15 months.
“We built it, put it in the back of the pickup to haul it out there,” he said. “I’ll tell you what, we got stares on the way out.”
Frank and Luana VanCampen are used to their work getting attention.
The couple lives in Harvard, where they make furniture from repurposed wood and sell it out of their Dutchman’s Woodshop downtown.
The Dutchman’s Woodshop has been in its current location, on the 200 block of North Clay Avenue, since summer 2020. The storefront is known by its stained-glass door.
The VanCampens began opening their shop to the public on the second Saturday of each month, in November 2020.
The repurposed wood often comes from old barns Frank took down himself, sometimes with some assistance from friends.
Frank, who grew up in Broken Bow, has as much history building as he does serving the Lord.
His grandfather was a carpenter, and his father was good with his hands.
Frank worked in construction while in college and served as the general contractor for two construction projects at churches where he was pastor.
The VanCampens built two of their own houses, including in Malcolm where Frank was pastor at the Northwest Community Church for 12 years.
For around the last 10 years he served in interim pastoral roles in and around Nebraska as pastor at large for the Berean Fellowship.
It was around that time the VanCampens moved to Harvard.
They wanted a house they could pay for with cash and looked in every town from Malcolm to North Platte.
They checked out the house they wound up buying while Frank was serving in Central City.
“The house we live in was very well built,” he said.
The builders lived there for several decades.
“It was a house we could afford. It was well built,” he said. “That’s why we landed here.”
While Frank no longer serves in interim pastoral roles, he still fills pulpits when he is called.
“It’s pretty easy to get anywhere from here,” Luana said of Harvard.
When he isn’t preaching, the couple attends the Hastings Berean Bible Church.
Frank took down his first barn about eight years ago in Harvard.
“We just decided to build some things and we needed to get rid of them, so we started going to shows,” Luana said. “People asked us to build things for them.”
Taking down that barn was followed by other old structures in the Ayr and Trumbull areas.
“We thought we had quite a bit of lumber, but we kept building stuff and found out we didn’t have a lot of lumber,” Frank said. “It takes quite a lot when you start turning it into furniture.”
Dutchman’s Woodshop furniture made from wood from barns Frank had a hand in taking down include a card with a picture of the barn and history of the homestead.
“We do have a story with everything we build,” Frank said.
They’ve also made furniture from old fencing salvaged by someone else from Lincoln and Chadron.
Many of the pieces also repurpose items such as a wooden file cabinet or old wagon.
“We try to find things we can incorporate that are a bit unusual,” Luana said.
Each of Frank’s seven stints as interim pastor occupied about a year. He was on site in the town where he preached for three or four weeks and then home for part of a week.
Not having that long-term commitment any longer has allowed the VanCampens to sell their wares at woodworking shows, which they have been doing about the last three years.
Normally they have seven or eight shows each year.
They had 12 lined up in 2020, all of which were canceled due to the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
They attended a couple shows in the first few months of 2021.
“This year it seems, at least at the two shows we went to, we did really well,” Frank said. “People are wanting to get out and spend some money.”
Attending shows has been one of the most employable aspects of woodworking, they said.
“We have enjoyed going to the shows because we get to meet lots of really cool people and get to know other vendors and people that run the shows,” Luana said.
People who have bought stuff from from in the past look for them at shows.
“We pray every time we go that God would use us to be an encouragement and a blessing to other people — that we’ll be able to share the love of Jesus with people we come into contact with,” Luana said. “We don’t look at it as just a way to fill time in our dotage, or even to earn money, but also to make it worthwhile.”
Frank said they see the shows as opportunities to drop “gospel bombs.”
“We’re always on mission, no matter who we are, where we are,” he said. “How well we do with the mission is another matter. He’s given us the ability to interact with people and make people feel comfortable and make friends.”