...for several months about what might be next for our ministry. A couple of years ago, we had "landed" in Livingston, Texas, for no reason other than "...it just felt like the right place to be...." And we had been blessed by new friends and a great church in the Livingston community. But a part of us felt guilty for leaving Livingston six months each year to serve in other parts of the country with SOWERs.
God responded. Upon our return from our 2018 SOWER travels, Ken was surprised by an offer to fill the position of Executive Director for the Habitat for Humanity team located in Livingston. Deb and I had a feeling that 2019 would be something different for us, and it turns out that God did, too. In November (2018), Ken accepted the offer. A new chapter begins.
Habitat for Humanity of Polk County 600 South Washington Avenue Livingston, Texas 77351 (936)328-8529
In April 2018, the Habitat office moved into a new location (where the red paddle is on the map). I was fortunate to attend the ribbon cutting and meet a lot of the team. This was just a few weeks before we left town for our summer mission trip. Hmmm...
2019 lone star summit
Each year, thirty-one states host an annual Habitat for Humanity summit as an opportunity to share, network, and train Habitat affiliate staff and Board members. Everyone is invited, and Deb and I decided that attending the Lone Star Summit would be a worthwhile investment.
The Texas' Summit this year would be in Waco, home to Baylor University, Dr Pepper (the first "soda pop"), and other famous names (George and Laura Bush live, "...just spitten-distance down the road," as they say).
Clint Harp, Joanna Gaines "go to" craftsman on HGTV's "Fixer Upper" TV show was the keynote speaker at the Summit. In a colloquial, tongue-in-cheek-style unique to Clint Harp, he shared part of his faith testimony. He was engaging, entertaining, and inspirational, to say the least.
During a period of his and Kelly's early marriage when they were both unemployed and he was "searching for purpose," Clint volunteered on the build team of a Habitat project in Waco. He didn't know it at the time, but this relationship with Habitat was going to change his life.
As Clint explained it, at a particularly low point in his life, their car had had out of gas, they had no money, and they found themselves being blessed by the gift of gas money from a complete stranger. The stranger's name was Chip Gaines. And from that chance meeting, Chip ended up not only paying for Clint's gas, but also offering him a job.
But Clint had no shop to build what Chip wanted. He had the woodworking tools in storage that his grandfather had given him, but not even an electric outlet to plug them in.
He searched and searched for a shop, an empty garage, even a field with an electric outlet on a pole would work -- but he found nothing that he could afford. Until he mentioned his need to the staff at Habitat for Humanity.
"Gee, Clint," the Waco Director said, "All I have is a teeny, old warehouse that we built and used for a while, but now it's abandoned and needs work." No matter, Clint thought, he knew he couldn't afford to buy it or lease it.
The Executive Director continued, "I guess I could rent it to you for $25 a month. Will that work for you?"
habitat for humanity builds more than houses
The ministry at Habitat for Humanity reaches far beyond the foundation of a home for a needful family. And on that day, Clint learned this as he agreed to rent the old space.
Though Clint and his team of carpenters have recently moved to a much larger shop down Fifteenth Street, that old "Habitat" shop still stands and a thriving business is the result. It's almost ten years later and Harp Design Company now produces hand-made, custom tables, chairs, and wood accent pieces that are distributed throughout the world. It all started as an indirect result of his volunteer time with Habitat for Humanity and a timely encounter with a generous stranger at a gas station.
Habitat for Humanity loves its volunteers, and church mission groups are a personal favorite. This group of 43 junior- and senior-high schoolers came to us all the way from Denham Springs, Louisiana.
This team really came to work! We divided them into three squads and challenged them with reorganization of the building materials sections of our ReStore. They moved our door and window inventory from one part of the store to another -- EVERY door was sorted and placed in the proper rack. Likewise, EVERY window was organized by type and size.
For this "Colorado Boy," the heat/humidity on this late June day just about did me in. It did not phase this eager group, however. As lifelong Southerners they simply considered all the dedicated sweating to be "normal."
This is the beginning of the process for hopeful, future Habitat homeowners -- the beginning of the Assessment Phase. Does the hopeful homeowner meet eligibility requirements? What kinds of needs are assessed? What does the timeline look like? What is the next step? How many homes will we be building?
These are all topics that we explain to those in our communities who are wishing for a new home, or a home rejuvenation, or repairs to their existing home.
In April, I gave a talk at the local Presbyterian church. The comments afterwards were favorable, except that they think that I talk too much with my hands . No way, I say!
What do you think?
In early February about 30 HFH affiliate leaders joined together at the Texas state capitol in Austin. Our agenda was threefold: to raise awareness of poverty housing, to introduce a forthcoming State Bill that would provide more funding for Habitat for Humanity houses, and to meet with as many State Representatives and Senators as we could about setting new property tax limitations. What an educational experience it was!
After we met with each elected official we invited them down to one of the capitol's rotundas where another team of "Habitarians" were actually building the walls of a home for a family in Victoria, Texas (the family's prior home had been destroyed by Hurricane Harvey). It was refreshing to see so many politicians "get it" and come down (in their suits, even) to the rotunda to hammer nails and frame walls. On the finished walls they were invited to write messages of encouragement and bible verses -- and they all did!
i love this team!
On Saturday, 19 January, twenty wonderful young ladies from First Baptist Church came to help us re-arrange our Habitat retail store in Livingston. They moved merchandise, cleaned, arranged, set up shelving, stocked product, and moved furniture for us. Wow! What a great help they were to our store team -- so much work, fun, and energy joined us that day!
becoming the mentee
Ken meets his HFH mentor, Susan Robertson, at a new home build site in Lufkin, Texas, on 10 December. Susan has spent an entire career of servantude in non-profit management. After spending just one day with her, my brain was already full!
blessing the home
Filling the walls of a HFH home withscripture is common practice. As we learn more about the family that will live in the home, we add verses specific to the mom, dad, and kids. Blessed as you come, blessed as you pass, and blessed as you go....
Ken and Ray Gering, founder of Habitat for Humanity of Polk County, talk with visitors at Polk County's Trade Days event in November 2018.