The counselor cannot say to the maintenance worker, “I have no need of you,” nor again the meal server to the case manager, “I have no need of you.” – UGM adaptation of I Corinthians 12:21
At 29, Robbie Bremer is already a renaissance man: He loves playing the drums, serving at his church and fabricating metal parts. All of those skills have become valuable assets as he works on the UGM maintenance and facilities staff.
And without folks like Robbie on staff, UGM simply couldn’t offer food, shelter and recovery services to the most desperately needy people in our community; our facilities would literally fall apart.
Robbie solves emergency plumbing problems, constructs custom tools, sets up sound and video equipment and plays drums for UGM worship and graduation ceremonies. Sometimes he brings his young family along – and his two young boys get to watch Dad serve Jesus by stringing cords and keeping the beat.
As you might be able to tell, Robbie enjoys staying busy doing things – not talking about them. But he graciously agreed to take a break to sit down with me recently and describe his heart for ministering for Christ by giving out of your unique talents – or random stuff you have lying around.
Here – a little condensed – is that conversation:
Lynn: Tell us about yourself.
Robbie: I'm married, I have two boys: one's almost three and one's 9 months now. David is the oldest and Dexton is the younger one. My wife is Elizabeth. We've been married four years now. At church we serve a ton.
Lynn: Which church?
Robbie: Covenant Church. It's over in the Shadle area.
Lynn: Are you from Spokane?
Robbie: Born and raised in Medical Lake – live in Spokane now. I've always been around here. I oversee audio and media and help do worship and stuff at church. I spent a year on the road, touring as a musician. Played drums and drove and did all that kind of stuff.
Lynn: So you played in the band and did all the sound and stuff?
Robbie: Yeah, and audio and lighting.
Lynn: When did you do that?
Robbie: Five years ago now, before I got married, when I was single and crazy.
Lynn: What brought you to UGM?
Robbie: Chris Kent was a program graduate and worked in the maintenance department. We'd go to church together and he called me one day and -- I hated what I was doing -- and he said, "We're hiring."
Lynn: What were you doing?
Robbie: Fabrication. But it was a toxic environment and we were always behind, never caught up. I learned a lot. But he called me and said, "I guarantee they'll hire you if you put your application in." Ministry is the goal for me, so I did, and now I'm here.
Lynn: I see the remodeling you're doing in the back of the building at UGM Motors. What does a typical day look like in your work?
Robbie: There is no real typical day. We go from – this is a big project, obviously – when we're not doing projects, we do maintenance, you know, solving the world's problems. (smiles) Averting crisis.
Lynn: What's the most recent crisis?
Robbie: We pulled off of here to dig a giant hole at the Valley Thrift Store and pour concrete so they could drive their forklift in and out of their building. The asphalt had turned into a mud puddle.
Another time, we were told there was a "small drip," and we walked into Anna Ogden Hall and the boiler room was flooded and spraying hot water. Then we were told "flooded" and we came in and it was dripping.
Lynn: So you're like a fireman, taking care of emergencies.
Robbie: We just run all over the place. We're all kind of specialized, I guess, in maintenance. So if it's plumbing or electrical or fabrication, I get the call. If it's woodwork, it's John. If it's painting, it's Todd. I do the most general, broad spectrum.
Lynn: Had you done plumbing before, or did you learn it here?
Robbie: Yeah, I've done a little bit of everything before I got here, but definitely exciting adventures here. (smiles) I love working here.
Lynn: What do you think would surprise people the most about what you do here?
Robbie: That we actually do work. We get asked, like, "What do you guys do?" "We work, we're always busy." I think that surprises a lot of people, that we are busy. We're not watching movies in the shop or anything.
But we get to take time and interact with people more often than people think. Even though we all are big "doers," when we do talk to someone else, we interact. We're not mean.
Lynn: What kinds of interactions do you have with the residents of UGM?
Robbie: We're either the hero or the villain. There's really no in between. We've either fixed something that has been bugging them or we haven't. It's either the shower head's broken or it's the wrong one. If we somehow get the right one, then we're heroes. That's kind of our interaction with residents and staff alike, I think.
Lynn: Do you ever get to talking about other things or are you pretty much too busy with the work?
Robbie: We have the ability to just stop working and minister and pray, and the flexibility is there.
I saw a guy who had stopped smoking, and I saw him smoking again. We stopped and went and talked to him: "What's going on, man?" So it was cool. He was like, "Don't judge me," and we weren't. We were just curious. We want to encourage the guys and women alike to continue in recovery.
Lynn: What do you like to do outside of work, like with the family?
Robbie: Definitely love spending time with the boys. Our oldest is getting into music. We've purposely kind of directed him that way because I've always been in music growing up. We always are playing instruments and singing and dancing. The littlest one is very interested as well. So that's exciting.
Plus we're at church a lot. My wife teaches at the Christian school there and we serve all over the place. So definitely building the local church as a family and committed to serving and helping people.
Our boys love being at church, running around, and there's always music going. So music and church is about what we do.
Lynn: Do you have a scripture passage that is something you rely on every day?
Robbie: It's always changing, I feel like. On the road, it was a passage out of I Corinthians: "No eye has seen nor ear heard nor has entered the heart of any man the things which God has prepared for us." And that seemed very fitting for that season, the doors opening.
And I'm a drummer, so always, like, make a joyful noise, anything with praise. I'm learning more about the complexity of praise.
Lynn: What would you say your favorite thing is about what you do here?
Robbie: I like being able to use the gifts that God has given me to advance his kingdom. So maybe just see the lives that are touched through the ministry, and I get to do what I do best in serving the cause. I get to do a lot of fabrication, metal work. I love creating.
Lynn: If you don't have the part you need, you just make it?
Robbie: We've made mattress racks for the Thrift Stores. We've also fixed different tools and are building new parts. We built a bench for the new shower room. We get creative liberty: Here's the need, what can we do?
Lynn: Do you ever bring your family into UGM?
Robbie: They enjoy coming and having lunch with dad. David talks about it all the time. There's always brownies and cake pops. He's always asking for cake pops – "Dad, bring me a cake pop from work."
Lynn: Oh, the Starbucks ones.
Robbie: Yeah. Also, the big graduation ceremony. I helped with the worship team for that, so the family came with us for that. And I'll be doing tech stuff for the Gatherings this year.
Lynn: So you bring a lot of those skills to whatever comes up.
Robbie: Whatever I need to go and do.
Lynn: Is there anything you would tell our donors and supporters about UGM that they may not know or you think is really important?
Robbie: From my experience, things that may seem totally abstract as donations are sometimes our greatest needs. I've seen that more than once. "Man, it sure would be nice to have this or that" – like we had an air compressor donated to the back dock the week after we had an air compressor die. It's not a coincidence, I think it's God-directed. Or at the stores we get donations from Jensen Distributing and we save thousands of dollars on tools, just random stuff. Definitely the maintenance department puts that stuff to use: gloves and hats and hammers and caulk guns.
Lynn: Which is actually a ministry donation.
Robbie: Totally. It blows me away the amount of stuff that's donated that gets used. Encouragement to people who donate to UGM: It goes a long way, a lot further than we can do with purchasing stuff.
We needed a box of nails – a $100 box of nails – and it came in the back dock the next day.
Lynn: Wow. Who in the world has a bunch of nails sitting around?
Robbie: Right. And on this Motors project we've used paint that was donated. We did a whole shower room at the men's building with tile that was donated. All the walls – it was like $4,000 worth of tile. And then the leftovers went to our campand they used it in the kitchen. It's like truly, even if it's junk to one person ... The donations just blow me away.
Lynn: So, just give what you have. God figures out what is needed.
Lynn: Anything else you wanted to say?
Robbie: I don't know. I don't talk a whole lot. I'm a doer.
Interested in using your unique skills to help the poor and homeless? Check out a few of our ideas in the booklet below.