For twenty people connected to First Congregational Church, the answer will be “I helped people!” They are participants in our mission work trip for Habitat for Humanity, travelling to Pine Grove, West Virginia for the week, helping to build houses there. There were large work groups from here that went to the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi in 2010 (adults) and 2011 (youth and adults). Over the years there have been several Habitat mission groups, more recently to work with Tompkins-Cortland Habitat for Humanity in 2012 and 2013.
Habitat is one of the country’s most impressive, long-running self-development and community-building programs. Quoting the material, “Habitat for Humanity’s goal is that all God’s children have a decent place in which to live. Habitat is working toward eliminating poverty housing one house at a time. At the heart of this ministry are volunteers, who give of their time and energy and sweat in order to make a difference in the lives of others. While volunteers build houses, they also build something just as important, hope. May this summer’s work camp be one small part of bringing hope to those who are in need of a simple, decent place in which to live.”
Habitat grew out of Koinonia Farm in Americus, GA in the 1970s under the leadership of Millard and Linda Fuller. Its goal is to provide decent, safe housing, and it works from a Christian perspective. One of its more famous features is the “build,” with hundreds of volunteers scrambling to construct a new, simple home or to renovate an existing structure under the supervision of professional builders. Families are chosen carefully, offered ethical mortgages, and expected to invest their own “sweat equity” into their own and others’ houses. Habitat also salvages materials from homes and renovations and uses those materials in Habitat builds and sells them at their “ReStores.” There is a ReStore nearby in Corning you can support.
While Habitat is most known for their on-site “stick-built” homes, Habitat in Corning and Painted Post have a different process. Volunteers in the Southern Tier construct “Houses in a Box.” During the winter they fabricate panelized homes that can be trucked to a site and assembled very quickly. It is a technique used elsewhere in the world but not as much around here. However, work can continue all year in a large warehouse in Painted Post. That “factory” is a popular service project for college students in the area during the school year. Little did I know when I was interim in Corning working with congregation members devoted to Habitat who were supervising many Cornell and Ithaca College students that I would end up on this end of their commute to build a better world!
So, here’s this week’s encouragement: surround the twenty souls with strong backs and arms and giving hearts as they are commissioned at the beginning of worship on Sunday, July 5, on their way to West Virginia. And I mean “at the beginning of worship!” Shortly after the call to worship we will have the commissioning litany, and then they will really walk out of the sanctuary and into the parking lot and get in the vans and start their pilgrimage to WV. It’s a long trip, and they need to get on the road right away! But we truly want to bless them on their way. What did you do this weekend? Let’s see them off with our best wishes and our prayers…. See you Sunday!
Texts for Sunday
From the Epistles 2 Corinthians 12:2-10
From the Gospels Mark 6:1-13