‘Built on a foundation of prayer’: Habitat for Humanity meets with local faith leaders
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Nevada County chapter of Habitat for Humanity welcomed 23 leaders in the faith community to a special gathering at Grass Valley United Methodist Church Thursday for a presentation discussing how the organizations can unite and help qualifying families experience home ownership, many for the first time.
Habitat for Humanity is a faith based international nonprofit organization with chapters spanning the globe. To date they have built homes for more than 26 million people internationally and have constructed 39 homes within western Nevada County.
Applicants for the program must meet strict qualifications – such as proof of some type of income – and understand that the houses are not gifts, but rather an alternative lending solution.
“Home owners put in 500 hours of ‘sweat’ equity, with a zero percent interest mortgage,” said Jim Phelps, Fund Development Manager for Nevada County Habitat for Humanity. “That’s right out of the book of Deuteronomy. That makes the difference.”
“We would not have built our first homes if it were not for the faith community,” said Phelps. “We want to reconnect with the faith community in a much bigger way to celebrate the faith tradition of Habitat for Humanity but also (to get) back to our roots. The churches have always been there for us but we want to do a community outreach that connects them with the local Habitat mission.”
Attendees of Thursday’s luncheon learned more about that mission and met a successful Habitat for Humanity home owner.
‘GOD BLESSED US WITH A HOME’
Eight years ago, Martine Beals and her husband Mike were parents to a three-year-old son and longed to own a home even though they knew they couldn’t afford it. Family members encouraged them to research Habitat for Humanity and after a lengthy but rewarding application and building process, the Beals’ received the key to their brand new home.
“Through Habitat God blessed us with a home,” said Martine Beals. “He has blessed us with safety and also ownership in our community and we are really grateful for that. We might not have stayed in Nevada County if it hadn’t been for Habitat.”
Beals’ son Corbin is now going on thirteen years old. Recently he took it upon himself and with help of a friend built a lending library in his community, a neighborhood of houses all built by Habitat for Humanity. Corbin’s mother believes that the camaraderie and team work between volunteers, friend and community members while building their home has fueled Corbin’s faith.
“He wanted to build (the lending library) so he could unify our community,” said Beals. “I think this desire was encouraged by the people who volunteered their time to build our community and the spirit of Habitat for Humanity.”
Becky Goodwin, pastor of Grass Valley United Methodist Church, spoke during Thursday’s luncheon of the rewarding experiences her own congregation have had while working with Habitat for Humanity.
“We have hosted the ministry by having their office spaces here and expanding as the years go by,” Goodwin said. “We’ve been on construction teams, we have helped with applications and orientations and mentoring and maintenance and fundraising.
“In our community here we are very grateful for God’s love and blessings to us and our sense of gratitude is to give any way we can of our time, our talent, our money. Our understanding of the gospel is that it should be transformative to people’s lives, not just spiritually but should have a physical impact.”
Habitat’s executive director Lorraine Larson explained that the current housing crisis in California is making home ownership unrealistic for many young families. By collaborating with churches and faith based communities within Nevada County, her organization is more able to fulfill its goal of putting God’s love into action.
“The roots of a good family life, the roots of a neighborhood, the roots of a community are in home ownership,” Larson told the crowd. “Habitat’s roots are in the faith community. Most of our houses have been built in partnership with faith institutions so we really appreciate what you all do.”
Leaders of the faith community are being called upon by Habitat for Humanity to help expand the organization’s mission by helping build houses, offering resources and support, and helping spread the word of the group’s dedication to assisting others.
“Our homes are built on a foundation of prayer,” said Phelps. “Our first set of homes would not have been created without the faith community. We need to come together more than ever before.”
Jennifer Nobles is a freelance writer based in Grass Valley. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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