In the fall of 2015, Willie Hale, a member of the Dickinson Church in Dickinson, North Dakota, saw a picture of an igloo someone built out of blocks of ice. An idea formed in his mind of involving the church family in a similar project. It turned out to be a fun day for the church family, and The Dickinson Press featured the colorful igloo in the paper.

In the spring of 2016, Hale began thinking about what shape this project might take in the future. The idea of making something out of ice that would have more meaning—a replica of the biblical sanctuary—caught his imagination. He knew it would take a considerably greater number of ice chunks to accomplish the task, so he put the word out with the church family that he had bigger and better plans in store and asked everyone to save their half-gallon milk cartons for this purpose. It seems the almond milk industry has a loyal following in western North Dakota as Hale collected almost 1,000 cartons, most of them almond milk.

When the weather turned cold enough, Willie and his wife, Briana, along with their friends, Jarod and Frankie Fields, began filling the cartons with water and a few drops of food coloring. At the end of January, the date was set for building the sanctuary.

It was a cold and windy day on Invitation Hill, the site of Dickinson’s new school and church facility, but Willie, Briana and those recruited to make ice hauled the cartons to the building site where, with help from the students, construction began. Teacher Janna Wright and students Tandish and Ebnay Kuzvuinswa; Fortune and Fortunate Majada; Autumn Hale; Zack Sarge; and Kolter, Boen, Roper and Hazy Karges rotated in and out of the building warming up their fingers and toes.

It’s not an altogether pleasant task to have one hand in a slushy mix of water and snow (the mortar) and the other hand clasping the frozen brick while the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees and the wind is whipping and whistling about. Yet a faithful few stuck with the project for hours until the sanctuary was finished—complete with two compartments, the ark of the covenant, the seven-branched candlestick, altar of incense and table of showbread, as well as the laver and altar of burnt offering outside the igloo sanctuary. Hale says that ultimately it was “a fun exercise to do with the kids in working together and completing a project.”

Janna Wright is the head teacher at Dickinson Adventist Christian Elementary in Dickinson, North Dakota. She has 10 students in grades 1-7.