Building faith

Last night I found out that there will be a Habitat for Humanity Faith Build in 2019. We have had a couple of faith builds in the past, and we currently have a faith build going this year. The concept is pretty simple. A group of churches decided to partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a house. Each church contributes what it is able in terms of financial support and volunteer hours and somehow the home gets built.

In a sense, every Habitat for Humanity house is a faith build. People have faith that a construction company that sells homes at no profit and makes mortgages at no interest will be sustainable. People believe that others deserve home ownership and that having simple, decent housing is essential to family security and stability. Habitat for Humanity International has become an enormous enterprise. From a single house, built in San Antonio, Texas, and a small cluster of homes in Zaire in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has become the world’s largest not-for-profit builder in the world. In 2013, the 800,000th home was dedicated. Every year approximately two million volunteers help with Habitat for Humanity home construction. Here in Rapid City, Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity has been building homes for 28 years and last spring we dedicated our 100th house. I was blessed to be able to speak at that dedication.

Our affiliate is a complex organization with many committees and dozens of employees. We have a retail Re-Store and professional builders who lead teams of volunteers. But Habitat for Humanity is really a very simple concept. Millard Fuller used to call it the finances of Jesus. The Bible is very clear in its instruction not to charge interest of those who are impoverished. Habitat for Humanity helps families get into home ownership for a price that is less expensive than renting substandard housing by selling homes at no profit and financing the purchases at no interest. For each home we build, we raise the necessary funds so all expenses are paid up front. Then when the mortgage is paid, the funds are reinvested in building more homes. In that first partnership project in the community of Bokotola in Zaire, they started with a single house and within three years had built 120 houses.

I think of a faith build in a completely different manner, however. I know that fail will build houses. I know it takes faith to start a house when not all of the money is raised. I know that the faith of volunteers and donors makes it possible. I know that faith is built into the home and transferred in the dedication of the home.

But I think that building Habitat for Humanity houses also helps those who participate to grow in faith. A mature faith is a lifelong challenge. We all can benefit from opportunities to grow in faith. A faith build project builds faith in the people who participate.

I remember when our congregation decided to sponsor a Habitat for Humanity house to celebrate our 125th anniversary. When we had the congregational meeting to launch the project, our finances had taken a downturn. Pledge income had fallen about $20,000 behind expenses in the first six months of the year. Although we had reserves to keep the church running, we were worried about our financial state. Then we decided to ask the congregation to approve a $40,000 project to build a home as an expression of our gratitude to the community that had provided us a home for 125 years. Each year we had benefitted from police and fire protection and a stable city government with reliable services. Each year we had occupied land within the city that was exempt from property taxes. It make sense to give back and pay forward by building a Habitat for Humanity House. However, we were already falling behind in our fund raising. Adding another big financial commitment was counter-intuitive. It might have been argued that it would make better sense to launch the Habitat for Humanity home after we got our own finances in order. Nonetheless, the congregation voted to proceed. The funds for the Habitat House were raised. The home was built. The congregational vote was held in May and the family was in their home for Christmas that year. And while we were raising money for the house and recruiting volunteers to build we didn’t have much time to worry about our own finances, which recovered and we ended the year in the black.

Despite what some people will tell you about asking too many times or the need to be timid in financial decisions, the truth is that generosity begets generosity. Giving begets giving. When the church as an institution practices generosity, its people lear from the example.

So we still have a bit of money to raise to complete this year’s Faith Build. We did a good job of recruiting volunteers and engaging congregations in the plan, but we didn’t raise as much money as we intended. There is work that remains to be done. And we will be asked to make a commitment to next year’s faith build as well.

It is an opportunity to build our faith.

One of the great sources of inspiration for me for more than a decade has been a young woman who as a high school student raised a lot of money for Habitat for Humanity. She and her sister astounded and inspired us with their dedication, resourcefulness, and faith. One night when I was serving as emcee for A South Dakota Acoustic Christmas, I invited them to join me on the stage to celebrate their dedication and faithfulness to Habitat for Humanity. That young woman is now 28 years old. In a tragic and unforeseen accident, she was injured on the job site of the faith build this summer. It wasn’t just a little accident. Her injuries were permanent and life-altering. In just two months, she has made an incredible and inspiring recovery. I got to see some pictures of her playing basketball from her wheelchair. She had already invested heavily in Habitat for Humanity. Now she has literally poured her life into home building in partnership with those in need. Her faith is incredible.

Were we to show less faith or to be willing to sacrifice less, it would be understood and forgiven by God. But perhaps her faithfulness and sacrifice can be an inspiration for us to be more generous and more giving. I pray that this is so. Now I need to turn my prayers into action. It is how faith is built.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!