The Craftsmen for Christ (CFC) ministry began in 1986 as a friendship between two neighbors, Bob Ouzts and John Willhoff. Bob was a pipe fitter at UC Davis, and John was an auto parts store manager. Bob had just purchased a home next door to John, and as he drove up to move in his family, his truck’s clutch failed. John, an excellent mechanic, just happened to have an identical model truck, and a spare clutch. John quickly offered to help his new neighbor, but Bob’s pride refused John’s help.
After their first encounter that Sunday, Bob returned to work the next day. While he was at work, John personally introduced himself to Bob’s wife, Terry. He convinced her to let him repair the truck free of charge. After arriving home from work and finding his truck repaired, Bob’s heart began to crack open, at the age of 32 and for the first time in his life, Bob received the gift of unconditional love from a complete stranger.
Their friendship grew as they each raised two sons of similar age. Bob & Terry reared Jake and Justin, while John and Kathy brought up Rich and Steven. The two families spent much time together and Bob learned about John’s generous spirit. In hindsight, God wanted something more for these men than just their kinship, He wanted their hearts.
John was an insulin dependent diabetic who rarely shared his plight with others, yet John told Bob and Terry about his condition to the surprise of John’s wife. As the years passed Johns health declined and he tired easily. Bob was confused and had no idea how to help his friend.
At the same time, Terry lived the Christian faith and attended services regularly with their sons, while Bob ignored the faith. Although introduced to Christianity in his youth, Bob didn’t willingly serve God much after beginning his relationship with Terry, and never committed completely. John too tasted faith as a child, but lost it when his father died when he was only five. John was unwilling to talk to or about the Lord, blamed God for his father’s early demise, and turned away from his Savior. John’s belief and faith were crushed when his father passed in his sleep from an aneurism. Despite all this, John never failed to quickly give his love away, as he made his other neighbors smile, and fixed their cars never asking for a thing in return. Bob remained introverted and kept ignoring God’s spirit and embrace.
John’s health worsened and Bob struggled with how to help his friend, knowing it was his turn to give, but not knowing how. Bob asked his wife’s advice when John’s sight began failing in one eye, and Terry told him to pray for direction. But Bob confessed to her that he didn’t know how. Terry insisted Bob attend the men’s prayer meetings at her church, yet he refused. Finally, as a 30th birthday gift, Bob agreed to attend one of the prayer meetings. Bob rekindled his dormant faith as he listened to ordinary men, much like himself, discuss their own spiritual needs. Without hesitation, these complete strangers agreed to help Bob pray for John, and embark on a new spiritual journey of discovery. Bob was convinced he needed to share this with John.
John’s wife Kathy saw Bob’s change, and expressed concern that this might strain his friendship with John, especially with regard to John’s continual unresolved pain over the early death of his father. Bob convinced Kathy that his new found love for God only gave him reason to express his love for John, and, how God would never interfere with or threaten their strong friendship.
In just three months John became blind in both eyes. More determined than ever, Bob asked John if he could come over and read the Bible. Amazingly, John agreed, and from then on, Bob spent one hour, four days a week, reading to, and praying with John. Both men’s faithless hearts opened wider each day, and their lives were knit together by the hand of God. As Kathy watched, she saw that John embraced both his faith and his deepening friendship with Bob. At the end of one April 1990 session, John asked Bob to pray for him and ask the Lord to allow him to live long enough to see his youngest son Steven turn six. Because John and Steven shared the same birthday, John wanted Steven to know him for a whole year longer than John knew his own father.
John explained to Bob that he didn’t want Steven to be angry with and turn away from God like John did when his own father died.
In July John’s kidneys failed at the age of 35, requiring frequent hospitalizations, and dialysis treatments three times each week. Bob and John kept up the bible reading, and each week Bob prayed that God would keep John alive to see Steven turn six. As the summer heat in Northern California soared, so did the Lord’s sprit in both men. Everyone who visited John remarked how astonished they were to see a man so full of life while on the brink of death.
July 24, 1990 was an unseasonably cool day, and with all of their family and friends present, John and Steven celebrated this most special day. Birthday cake was brought into the front room where John reclined resting from a particularly rough dialysis treatment. All the guests sang Happy Birthday while John blew out 36 candles on his side of the cake and Steven blew out the six on his side. Immediately, although blind, John turned and faced Bob and said, “Bob, God answered our prayer”.
Shortly after midnight, on July 25, 1990, John left this earth to be reunited at home with both of his Fathers, earthly and heavenly. Bob’s faith was forever strengthened, and he vowed to love God and each of his neighbors just as John did when he repaired Bob’s truck clutch. A few weeks after John’s death, Bob returned to Kathy and John’s home with 20 men from UC Davis, some Christian and some not. Together, they constructed a fort for the two boys, and made numerous home repairs for Kathy. This was the beginning of Craftsmen For Christ, which through today has grown to 12 chapters in 3 states, and continues to grow. Each chapter is diligent to give away their love unconditionally.
Ephesians Chapter 2 verse 10,
We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works. Which God has prepared for us in advance, for us to do.
As his trademark, John always strategically inserted an allen bolt on every car he repaired, and called it his signature. Every time Bob visits John’ grave, he leaves behind a stainless steel allen bolt commemorating all the Work that God does through Craftsmen For Christ.