The home should be the treasure chest of living.
Home is the most popular, and will be the most enduring of all earthly establishments.
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?
Ok, so maybe I overdid the home quotes above but that’s only because when I think of home so many wonderful images come to mind. Home taken in its essence may not better be defined as how we feel rather than where we are. I lovingly remember spending an extended vacation in an ancient little village in Hungary where the roosters broke dawn silence right outside the shuttered windows of my thatched roof cottage; where my neighbor lady cooked, slept and washed in her kitchen with her tenant milk cow, an adopted fawn and her dog, and where a mélange of goats, chickens and children vied for attention and food in the inner courtyard. Never have I felt more at home. It was heaven. It’s that I felt at home.
Which is why when Cindy approached me about doing an article about Orange County Habitat for Humanity (OCHFH) I felt a sense of obligation and benevolence. So just what is HFH and why is it important to you?
It’s hard to believe but every day in Orange County, low-income, hard-working families struggle to find affordable places to live. High rents and lack of affordable options forces these families to live in unsafe, unhealthy and crowded conditions. Often, these families move once or twice a year in search of rents that are within their reach. Because of this, children often have to transfer from school to school, affecting their learning. The American dream of homeownership is seen as simply impossible and unattainable.
Our work is to generate home ownership opportunities and to benefit our community by building simple, decent, affordable homes in partnership with these families. We believe in this mission, because we’ve seen first- hand how affordable home ownership can impact families, children, and communities.”
It was her statement “in partnership” that caught my attention. “You need to understand,” said Cindy, “that we don’t simply give away homes. Our carefully screened applicants, besides having to prove a steady source of income and down payment, must show manageable debt and be cleared through several home visits and must agree to at least 150 hours of actual hands-on labor either with their home or other projects. It provides a truer appreciation of what home ownership is all about. Nothing is given away.”
Volunteers make it possible. “When I think about Habitat for Humanity, I certainly think of all the wonderful volunteers that have made this housing ministry a mission in their lives. At OCHH we are all volunteers. There are volunteers who search for affordable land, volunteers who do the selection of qualified families, who mentor, who work with families on their sweat equity. There are volunteers who spend countless hours doing fundraising, and putting articles in the paper or producing a newsletter. There are also volunteers who wield hammers and help us with the physical work of building a house. Many times we need willing volunteers, not necessarily skilled workers. Sometimes we need very skilled workers, like masons, plumbers, electricians, roofers, heating people. Anything OCHFH does, it’s done by a volunteer!”
“We also tithe. Of course, that’s the Biblical concept of giving 10% back to God. Our tithe goes to help folks in other countries around the world to also have decent shelter. For us, community is not necessarily defined by geography. We are linked to other places by the common need for decent shelter. In many poor countries, a decent shelter can be built for $1,000-2,000, so our small tithe goes a long way. And although we may never meet, we hope & pray that families in those countries will know the love of God because of the caring of strangers who are their neighbors in the world.”
As we were working on this article Cindy’s deep personal commitment was ever present. “Here’s a quote you can use from a Habitat house dedication,” she said, “What you see here is a miracle. It’s a miracle of love. We were suffering in this house with eleven leaks, no insulation–and no money to fix anything. Then you folks came to help us. We worked together and made a miracle.” I especially like that worked together part because it exemplifies the Habitat model of personal cooperation and involvement.
To support the Orange County Habitat for Humanity please contact Cindy above. You may be able to provide a day of construction work, or masonry, painting or drywall; or help with roofing. Skilled help is always greatly needed and appreciated. Whatever you provide will go toward allowing a family the joy and security of their own home. It’s a very good thing.
Millard Fuller, who founded Habitat for Humanity, believed in something he called the “theology of the hammer.” It means that we can disagree on all sorts of things (religion, politics, etc), but we can all agree on the idea of building with God’s people in need. God’s love leaves nobody out, and our love shouldn’t either.