Five years ago, Bob Haifley said, God spoke to him.
And God told him to build a life-size figure of Jesus using toothpicks.
"I was in my work truck on Lone Hill and Cienega avenues in San Dimas when God told me to do it," he said. "I said, 'Gee, I can't do that. You're asking me to undertake a task that will take 10 years.' "
But, equipped with tweezers, glue and boxes of sandwich, flat, square and round toothpicks, Haifley began. Last week, after 2,500 hours and 65,000 toothpicks, Haifley, of Covina, finished "The Gift." The Lord gave him that name, he said.
The detailed sculpture of the crucified Christ is suspended by wire in front of a black background in Haifley's garage on Starcrest Drive, with a spotlight shining on it.
"It looks real," said Henry Ramos Jr., 31, sitting outside his home across the street. "From a distance, the face looks like it's going to say something to you. The hands and head are neat. All it needs is skin."
Cesar Guzman, 16, who lives next door to Haifley, said he had seen his neighbor at work but still was amazed when he saw the finished product. "I said, 'Whoa,' " Guzman said.
Haifley, 40, began building the figure in 1986 after he suffered nerve damage in his left hand while operating a jackhammer for Southern California Water Co., a San Dimas water distribution company. He finished more quickly than he expected after he lost his job as a water supervisor with the city of Covina last month.
Haifley said the statue will remain in his garage for now, though he would like to put it on public display.
Haifley, a divorced father of two teen-age girls, said he has never had formal art training.
He labored over each finger for an average of 12 hours, Haifley said. He saved the pointed ends of toothpicks to make the beard.
"For five years, I never knew how to do the hair," he said. "About two weeks ago I was sitting . . . looking at it, and I was frustrated and I said, 'Lord, I've worked on this thing five years, how am I going do the hair?' I had a thin, flat toothpick and a thought came to me to bend it and lay it on the head.
"I think I know what (God's) doing," Haifley said. "He wants to inspire people."