Hammering Out the Gospel
“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use a hammer if necessary.” I would love to attribute that quotation to Saint Francis. The poor man of Assisi was a church builder at the practical, building-a-building level before he set out to rebuild the church in a larger sense, so perhaps he won’t mind that I have changed his words.
The actual saying, often attributed to Saint Francis is, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” I changed the quote to using a hammer, for I know by experience that picking up a hammer to build a house with Habitat for Humanity is a great way to preach the Gospel without words.
Habitat for Humanity is an unashamedly Christian organization which helps alleviate the problem of substandard housing following the example of the carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth. One does not have to be a Christian in order to be selected as a Habitat for Humanity family. And anyone may work with Habitat regardless of religious beliefs. Yet the organization itself is clear that in partnering with a family to build a Habitat House, they are doing so to live out the Good News of Jesus.
Sometimes, a family can get more than a house in the bargain. The most recent family to move into a Habitat House forged a partnership with First Baptist Church in Kingsland during the build. As the two by fours and sheetrock came together, so did the families’ faith. Before the house was completed, the parents were baptized and welcomed into the household of God. Appropriately enough, the build, called The House of Faith, was sponsored by the churches of Camden County.
While the goal is not evangelism, faith finds a way of being shared naturally as people work alongside each other week after week living out the Gospel rather than preaching it with words.
Habitat uses the term partner, for its relationship with families as no one has a house built for them. Habitat builds a house with the family. Every adult is expected to give 150 hours of their time to working on their house or the house of another Habitat family. For those with disabilities, which would prohibit working with actual construction, other volunteer opportunities qualify.
Also, Habitat families are not given their homes. They are given a no-down-payment, no-interest loan in order to make quality housing affordable. Over 20 years, the family pays off the home, with their payments going to help fund more Habitat houses along the way. By using volunteer labor and having many materials donated, Habitat can meet its goal of providing affordable housing that is safe and decent.
The problem of substandard housing is so large that it would seem there would be nothing any of us could do to lessen it. But the track record of Habitat is amazing. On July 29 of this year, Habitat for Humanity International raised walls on its 200,000 house in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the 200,001 house, in Kanyakumari, India. A new Habitat house is completed every 26 minutes worldwide. In the process, Habitat has placed the issues of housing before millions while giving tens of thousands of volunteers something constructive to do about the problem.
Even if you can’t build, you can still partner with Habitat to do something constructive about the problem of substandard housing here in Camden County. First and foremost, your can commit to pray for Habitat, its volunteers and especially its families. Churches and other groups are also encouraged to provide a lunch for volunteers at the Habitat build site. And yes, you can also give monetarily to support the work of this non-profit, non-denominational community builder. To find out more, contact Habitat for Humanity of Camden County at (912) 673-1266 or visit them online at www.hfhcamden.org.
Building with Habitat is a way to put your faith into action. Work becomes a form of worship and a way to preach the Gospel with a hammer. While you should, of course, worship God with prayer, song, and praise, you can also worship God in action, making God’s love real in Camden County.
Or to put it in words that I think Saint Francis of Assisi would agree with “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use a hammer if necessary.”
King of Peace Episcopal Church + P.O. Box 2526 + Kingsland, Georgia 31548-2526