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Attempting Community Transformation

As a nonprofit, ministry or church team, have you ever embarked on a new endeavor so big that you had no idea how it would turn out? Maybe you had a vision to help the homeless get integrated back into society, or to be a catalyst to help raise school test scores in under-resourced areas. Recently, we began to attempt something like this ourselves, by starting a new inner-city and urban Atlanta focused service area (what we call a Hub; you'll see why in a minute) to meet the need for critical home repairs for low-income homeowners and people who typically can't make repairs themselves - widows, single mothers, the elderly and those with mobility challenges.

We want to not just serve individual homeowners, but to help transform the community to collectively impact more people than we ever could alone by showing and sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ to those we serve.

Have you ever attempted something like that? What has been your experience? I hope that you'll share your learnings by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post.

We act like A HubHere's our model for attempting this. We've used it in our northeast-Atlanta suburban Hub. Much like the Hub of a wheel with many “spokes”, our new inner-city Hub Director Andre will connect disadvantaged homeowners with the following organizations or groups:

Spoke 1) Churches - HRM helps churches start or grow their own home repair teams to serve their congregations and communities. We also coordinate and rally volunteers from churches on projects we lead.

Spoke 2) Other nonprofits and agencies - We receive referrals, often pre-screened, from other community service organizations, and if there’s a need a homeowner has that we can’t meet, we try to return the favor by referring them to nonprofits and agencies we have a relationship with. HRM also makes it a priority to serve these organizations that help the hurting, with repairs or upgrades, so that they can serve more people, better. The community, and people with needs, win!

Spoke 3) Businesses - Community-minded businesses sometimes offer materials discounts (on occasion donations), grants and financial support.

Spoke 4) Individual financial supporters - Donors provide the "gas in the tank" that lets us go. Although they may not directly meet the many people we serve, donors enable us to do the work we do to make their homes safe and accessible!

This model has helped us complete over 120 projects two straight years, in the suburbs, and it’s one reason we’re so excited about the new Hub. Of course, nothing is ever certain in a new venture and area. If we need to make adjustments, we will! As we mentioned above, please let us know how your adventures have gone in serving the community by leaving a comment!



Practical Love - Serving People with Mobility Needs

If you have read our newsletter for very long, you have likely seen articles about wheelchair ramps, lifts, track systems, walkways, widened doorways, grab bars, loose railings, and other ways to address people’s mobility needs.

Elderly Homeowner Gets Access to Her Home BackWhile the means to the end can vary wildly, the end always remains the same - showing and sharing Christ’s love with people in a highly practical way, helping them gain more use of their homes and independence while improving their quality of life. That is loving our neighbors as ourselves and thanking the Father who demonstrated His love to us in the person of Jesus.

Want to know what a difference mobility can make in someone's life? Here are some real-life examples we have encountered:

  • People in unsafe situations and facing their homes being condemned, which could result in institutionalization, stayed in their home because repairs were made.
  • Others, released from rehab centers, could go home because it was made accessible. They also now had a way out in the face of a fire or other emergency.
  • Bathrooms were adapted to allow people to get in and out on their own, preserving dignity and independence.
  • Home repairs were made that enabled caregivers to physically move their loved ones in, out and within the home and prevented lifting injuries to both the caregiver and receiver.

So what do you say? Do you have a couple handy guys in your church who could make life a little easier for someone with a disability? Sometimes the homeowner can pay for the materials and sometimes they can't. There are other creative ways to pay for projects like this that we have posted on our website for churches that register for the site (it's free!).

Or, can you help people with disabilities by supporting HRM's work to make homes more accessible? Partner with HRM



Valentine Day God's Way

Valentine's Day affords us an opportunity to consider how we are viewed by the Author of Love. Consider what Jesus’ love compelled him to do.

Crown of Thorns

Image Provided By FreeImages.com/Patrizio Martorana

The abuse before the cross was horrific and the cross itself among the worst tortures ever devised by men. But there was something far more terrible. Having to face the righteous wrath of God for our sin. My sin and yours. He suffered wrath enough to pay for every person’s sin who has ever lived. Across all time… All the pain, murder, hate, greed, lust, and more put on one man in one moment. All so that anyone who puts their trust in Him, as Savior and Lord, might be forgiven of their sins and have a right relationship with God. Or, as the Bible puts it, “...so that he (Jesus) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27, ESV). Truly, we are loved beyond comprehension. So let love overflow to those around us as exemplified by Christ himself — all year long.



Categories: Devotionals, Salvation, The Gospel Tags:

Unity - Why We Serve with Many Denominations

You may have noticed that Home Repairs Ministries (HRM) seems to put a high value on getting the Body of Christ together. Some of that is based on this passage from Ephesians chapter 4: 1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (English Standard Version)

The passage has a mind-boggling number of possible applications and mis-applications but here is what jumps out to me.

Serving TogetherVerse 2 addresses our attitude toward other believers (I read denominations, persuasions, etc.). It states that there is a unity of the Spirit. Gathering to serve is not the basis of unity, but is a result of it. We are to walk in a manner that maintains oneness and we should do it eagerly. Do you find joy in crossing the lines drawn between Christians? I have finally begun crossing lines after repenting for years of drawing lines.

The basis of the unity is the fact that Christians share the same:

  • Lord (Jesus) through faith in Him
  • Baptism through which we are identified with Him.
  • God and Father, the omnipresent Ruler who lives in His children through the Holy Spirit

That should be more than enough to maintain unity.

Churches serving togetherWhat about questions where we may disagree, such as when and how we baptize? Rather than disputing about ideas which are important, but which are not vital to our relationship with God, can’t we find our deep commonality in the cross of Christ? With that connectedness, we can move to the “Do’s” and find that God has called us to “...do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” Micah 6:8. Those three phrases certainly draw us together, especially when we are humble with one another and with God.



Categories: Churches Serving Together Tags:

Serving the Hurting - Meet Thelma

When we met Thelma, she was a 72-years-old, and also a grandmother and a strong Christian. She had rescued her six- and seven-year-old grandchildren from the foster care system in New York. One of these children tested positive for prenatal crack cocaine exposure, and she thinks that the other one was exposed, as well. She was working to adopt them, and had already paid a large sum in attorneys' fees. She also had been hit with a large, unbudgeted repair for her septic tank drain field. So, when a sliding glass door rotted and fell off the track, she did the only thing that she could think of - jam it closed from the outside with a wooden wedge. Now she had an inoperative door, no rear exit from the house (a significant safety issue), no budget and no idea where to turn for help. This is just the sort of scenario that we love to get involved with!

First, HRM talked her through enrolling as a client of Gwinnett County Senior Services. They authorized the funds for a replacement door. We often talk about the importance of partnering with other nonprofits and agencies, and this situation shows why - together we can do much more than we could separately and make a bigger impact on the community! HRM installed the new door at no cost, and was helped by a young man serving mandatory community service hours.

Thelma is thankful to God for providing HRM and meeting her many challenges. Your support help us to invest the time, skill and sometimes money for materials (though we often find someone to make the purchase or deeply discount the price), that homeowners like Thelma need.

These stories are not possible without the generous support of many people. As the year draws to a close, will you prayerfully consider a year-end gift to HRM to help us continue the work of serving homeowners in distress and showing them the love of Christ? Thank you and God bless you!

Make a Year-End Gift to Help People Like Thelma


Interesting Ways to Build Threshold Ramps

I was walking through a DIY home store and asking myself what material to use for a threshold ramp. I received an idea, and got some PVC 1x4, cut it to length, countersunk a couple of screws deep into the PVC and into a board beneath, then took a power planer and cut the ramp with a series of passes until it was the needed shape. No rot, no curl, white (no paint), etc. I built something similar with ironwood (Ipe) at a beach house, where we wanted to remove the threshold for sweeping so sand could be swept straight out without catching it in a dustpan.

Another idea came to memory where a guy took some aluminum and made a removable threshold ramp to be used only when needed. I like that.

Either of these would be removable. I’ll bet you could even use hot glue, for a more temporary ramp, to hold it down, if you didn’t want to screw it into tile or sheet vinyl.


Categories: How-to Tags:

A Day in the Life, Part 2

In Part One of this blog series, we took a look behind-the-scenes at some of the work and networking that takes place for the ministry's work to get done. Today, we'll look at a service project day.

Day 1 - Project Day


Serving HomeownersToday is Saturday and it's our usual project day (if you live in metro-Atlanta, and are interested, please join us on a project. We need you!). I wake up early, pray, read some Scripture and think about today’s devotional for the crew.

I grab the pile of tools, boxes, compressors and hoses, extension cords and the cooler with drinks and load the truck. I am out the door by 7:30 a.m.

On site, I greet volunteers as they arrive, get waivers signed by the new ones, explain how the project should go and find out who is comfortable going up on a ladder. We have a devotional and a prayer with the homeowner and volunteers and the work begins. I always try to finish by early afternoon, if possible.

We found rotten studs behind the drywall we are patching. Sometimes projects grow in scope right before your eyes. I arrive home late, due to the surprise with the studs. I rest for a bit, then unload everything I can’t lock up in the truck. It’s been a tiring but rewarding day! Thank you, Lord!


A Day in the Life, Part 1

November 2012 Roof Project 2As I'm sure is true in many of your jobs, it can be challenging to nail down an "average day". Since we're a small organization, at least in terms of staff, we do what we have to to get the job done. We hope that you can get a sense for what running your own nonprofit, or home repair ministry (in a church), can be (it certainly doesn't need to include all of the things listed here!), and maybe stoke some ideas. Part 1 will be more focused on running a service nonprofit, and Part 2 will be show you things that happen on a project day (which will be of special interest to churches). Nevertheless, to give you a bit of an idea what we do and how we operate, here is an attempt. Please note that this average day is representational, designed to show you some of the many things that are done to run a home repair ministry.

Day 1 - Preparing for Projects and Running the Ministry


Today is a Wednesday, so Jim Eschenberg, our Director of Communications and Development, and I have staff prayer time in the morning.

I ask several team leaders from churches, serving a widow, to recruit a few people each so we can blitz the roof project and get it done in one day. We have relationships with churches all over our area, each with people that love to serve God, with tools, by helping under-resourced people.

It’s time to see what emails have come in since last night:

  • Jim requests information on a donor and copy for a newsletter.
  • Several volunteers report the results of projects and another asks for some advice on how attach a grab bar in a tiled shower.
  • A reply from a pastor indicates that he would like to meet about organizing some handy people in his church for outreach.
  • I’m reminded to make a reservation for a networking opportunity.
  • A home health agency calls about a client who had a stroke and now can’t climb stairs. A trip to the site shows me what he needs (a wheelchair ramp) and his financial situation. Now I can start thinking about design, estimate materials needed, set a budget, consider funding sources, and see whether we can get materials discounted or at cost.

  • With a quick call to a ministry in urban Atlanta, we set up a time to meet about a problem on their building that we might be able to tackle with volunteers.
    With time left, I return phone calls.
    Please come back next Wednesday for Part 2!


    Loving Your Neighbor Through Home Repair

    Helping Hurting HomeownersPeople with a high view of scriptural authority have often been strong in word ministry but "not so strong" in deed ministry. This has often bothered me, because our example, Jesus, was mighty in word and deed (Luke 24:19). So, that is why we think a church with the capacity and with interested people should be out there helping hurting people stay in their homes.

    Coming from the other direction, just fixing houses isn't enough. If the work does not address a person's greatest need, redemption from sin, we haven't "loved our neighbor as ourselves". One reason I like home repairs is that people are inviting us into their homes. We're not selling anything, and by the way, "Do you understand why were are helping you? We're telling God, 'Thank you', for redeeming us from sin through Christ, alone".

    Isaiah 58 talks about ending religious posturing and getting practical enough to help real people in real need. Verse 10 says, "if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday." Our world desperately needs such light.

    How about you? Does your church have someone who loves to fix things and could start a team (it can start very small)? Our ministry exists, in part, to help you start or grow your team. You'll find a wealth of information in the resource center and ministry library. Sign up now at no cost!



    How You Can Engage Your Community - Part 4

    This blog continues the series on how churches, outreach teams and service ministries can impact their communities.

    Community PartershipsThe last way we'll discuss to serve your communities (although far from the last way to do it!) is to form strategic community partnerships. Done right, partnering with other nonprofits and agencies has the potential to have the greatest impact on the community. Let's look at why that is.

    1) Leveraging broader skill/labor pools - An agency, nonprofit or church probably won't have all of the skills needed to have maximum impact or effectiveness in the community. What's true for a local church is also true for the broader Church (see 1 Corinthians 12) - we function better, and more optimally, when we're sharing skills and talents across churches and denominations (assuming we hold to the same core beliefs and doctrines). As a sidebar, that's another great reason for church home repair teams (or pick your service ministry) to serve together. If you're experience is like ours, you'll be able to do more by working across multiple churches.

    2) Maximizing resources - What's true of labor is also true of materials and funding. Do you think that most organizations feel like they could accomplish more if they had more money or materials? Perhaps you can pool resources with another nonprofit or agency to benefit both. A ministry that has blessed us, Ground Zero Grace, has shared a warehouse with us for years. Their generosity has turned into many in the community getting repairs, because we have a place to store materials and tools!

    3) Thinking strategically - here's where we can put #1 and #2 into use to increase impact. Our nonprofit ministry has served local co-ops to help them serve more people or use limited resources more frugally.

    We've talked before about helping a local co-op build a thrift store so that they could provide low-cost goods to clients and bring in some more revenue. We've also served at a thrift/consignment store that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities. These are just a few examples. The possibilities are endless. Do you have success stories working with other agencies? Please share your experiences and help us learn! Just click on "Leave a Comment" below to add to the discussion. Please note that you have to be in the actual post (click on the blog title above) to leave a comment. You will not be able to leave comments from the main blog page (if you see more than one blog post as you scroll down, you're on the main blog page).

    We've also observed that funders look very positively on community collaborations - yet another reason to explore the possibilities!

    If you missed earlier posts, you can see them here -

    Part 1 - Repairs and Accessibility
    Part 2 - Advocacy
    Part 3 - Disaster Response/Recovery