Just as Jesus sent out the 12 disciples to serve in his name, 12 churches are working together to build a house for a family in need in Oakland Park in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity of Broward’s Apostles Build program.
Reaching across denominational lines for a common goal, the twelve churches building together include Living Word Open Bible Church, Parkridge Baptist Church, St. Anthony Catholic Church, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Church of the Holy Spirit Song, Christ Church United Methodist, Christ the Rock Community Church, First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Plantation United Methodist Church, Real Life Church in Coconut Creek, Parkway Christian Church and West Pines Community Church.
The Apostles Build program enables churches to “come together and raise funds to help build a home, while providing labor and prayer support for a local family,” said Bill Feinberg, Habitat Broward Board Chair. By mobilizing church members, it’s expected that more than 200 volunteers will work on the home, located at 340 N.E. 32nd St. on multiple Saturday mornings over a four month period. Jointly, the churches will contribute $70,000 toward construction of the home, provide labor and prayer support for the family.
Matt Mashburn, executive pastor of West Pines Community Church, said “This is a great opportunity to reach beyond our walls and cast vision for our people… Jesus modeled that in order to get the opportunity to share the gospel with people you have to meet their physical needs and this is one way to do that,” he added.
“We were looking for projects stateside that our men’s ministries could adopt,” said Pastor Billy Cole, of Real Life Church in Coconut Creek. “While we do give money to foreign missions, we wanted to contribute right here as well, and we found that men like the physical stuff. During the last Saturday build day, 12 volunteers did framing. This week it’s painting the interior and in July they’ll need 20 volunteers for landscaping.”
Art Applegate, who attends Christ Church, has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for more than six years. In fact, he met his wife, Kathleen, while working on the roof of a Habitat House. “I enjoy working outside, so it’s a good fit,” he said. “I tell people it’s a free gym membership because you get a good workout. It can be a dating service, and it’s a lot of fun because you meet a bunch of people and feel good about helping people get into a home where they can thrive, prosper and become a family. For most homeowners this will be their first real investment in their future. And the homeowners tend to live there a long time, pay off their mortgage and have an asset for their family.”
Lashawnda Williams and her husband Dewayne are working side-by-side with volunteers on the house that will be their home. She applied for the program three years ago when her son was 11 years old. “I was tired of renting….and wanted to leave something for my son, to give him some stability.” Now Williams also has a one-year-old daughter and they are planning to adopt her 6-year-old goddaughter. She was introduced to Habitat for Humanity by a friend who owns a Habitat home and has lived there for 20 years.
“There is nothing more of a blessing than to be able to walk into your own home and say I was a part of building this from the ground up, and it’s a blessing to have an organization to help you. I am very appreciative of those people. They could be doing anything else on a Saturday morning and the ones I’ve met are genuinely nice and happy.”
The Williams had to complete a number of steps in order to qualify for a Habitat Home. Homeowners must fall between 50 – 80 percent of the area’s median income and be living in substandard conditions with a demonstrated need. They are required to put $1500 in escrow for the build and contribute 300 sweat equity hours on construction of their own home and those of other families. And because Habitat Houses are built using donations of land, material and labor, mortgage payments are kept affordable for the homeowners who receive an interest-free loan.
“I really appreciate how Habitat operates,” said Pastor Cole. “They are efficient, don’t waste time and as a steward of what we do, I can see what the finances go to. They have integrity and operate well.”
Fawn Mikel, community outreach pastor at Christ Church said she also appreciates the relationships the church members are able to build with Habitat families. “It’s easy to do good works, but it’s better to walk with somebody for a while and share life with them.”
Upon completion of the home, Habitat hosts a dedication ceremony with the volunteers and family in which the church prays for the family and they are given the keys to their new home. On a previous build, Christ Church members went a step farther and showered the family with gift cards and cash donations as a housewarming gift.
“A Habitat House is more of a hand up than a hand out,” said Applegate. “After you help these people, you can drive by and see them living in that house as a family, so you’ve helped to rejuvenate that community.”