Monday, January 24, 2011

Habitat for Humanity

A little over a year ago our church was given the opportunity to partner with other churches in the region to build a house as part of a Habitat for Humanity (HFH) project. I was asked to coordinate the volunteers with the Habitat organization. I felt there were many benefits to working with Habitat.

• People of the Longview-Kelso area see the EHA name somewhere out in the community away from the church building.
• A family in need gets help through the use of our talents
• God's will is accomplished here on earth through serving
• God's name is glorified instead of reviled
• A sense of community both inside and outside the church is created through a shared serving experience
• A person can learn how to repair or remodel a house in a non-threatening way.
• Getting to know other people in our church and outside of our church

As you can read there were many benefits working on a Habitat home. Even if a person had no experience, a warm welcome was extended and the person was made to feel that he or she was involved as much as anyone else. A typical day started around 8:30 a.m. and began with a gathering of all who were there for a quiet time/devotional followed by a review of all safety procedures. No one is asked to perform a task that is unsafe or makes a person feel uncomfortable. Afterwards the Habitat co-ordinator started describing and assigning tasks based usually on ability and experience. Inexperienced people are usually paired up with a more knowledgeable person who guides the task. Around the noon lunch time, other volunteers show up with a fantastic lunch already prepared so the workers take a break to eat but do not have to take time for food preparation or cleanup. Providing lunches is another option for volunteering for those who feel they have no construction skills. Our EHA group always had someone ready to step in and provide a great lunch. Usually the work started winding down around 3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. unless the day’s tasks were completed before that time.

The work is not always the "fun stuff". Many times there is menial work to be done, but the next big project cannot get started until the little stuff like preparation and clean up get done. But it is work that must be done. Menial work is well… menial, but many times this type of work provided for more time to interact with co-workers. Learning who had grandkids, where someone worked, or other little known facts about your co-workers can be a great menial job reliever. You find out that there is more to the someone when you spend an afternoon prepping window protection for upcoming texturing of the walls.

What if I make a mistake? Usually if you are not sure of what to do you will find a foreman and ask him or her. But mistakes still happen. On our project our team worked hard in the morning to prepare and install the trusses for the roof. Our goal was to get the trusses up and complete as much of the roof sheeting as possible. Our team was pumped and making good progress. But the truss installers noticed the measurements used to keep the trusses even were starting to vary from the expected measurements. The more trusses we installed, the larger the difference between actual and expected measurements. the installation stopped and the foreman was consulted. After 15 minutes of consultations and pouring over the blueprints, it was determined that the Habitat foreman made a mistake in the laying out of the truss measurements. Our team had to pull up 12 installed trusses (about half of what was to be installed) and start over with the corrected measurements. Our team could have complained and grumped and walked out. The team was frustrated and disappointed, but we did not feel as bad as the Habitat foreman. So we applied God’s grace, tried not to show our disappointment and reset the trusses with no grumbling. After all the hard work, we still were able to set all the trusses and get the first couple of sheets of roof underlayment on top of the trusses so the next crew could easily finish the roof. So our group had a great opportunity to practice God’s grace.

We are not involved as a church with a Habitat project at this point in time, but do not let that hold you back. The local Habitat organization is currently building a house in Kelso and is continually asking for volunteers to help in the construction. There are plans for another house in Longview probably starting next spring or summer, so there are current and future opportunities for ministry through Habitat. There have been inquiries into if EHA will be involved in another build. I cannot say one way or another at this point, but there may be some from the church involved on an informal basis.

I would definitely encourage you to consider working on a Habitat project if you have any inclination or feel God’s tug on your heart. There are so many ways to be involved that anyone can find a place to contribute. Feel free to ask me if have questions about Habitat or you are interested in becoming involved somehow.

--Jason Hoover

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