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Jonathan Freeman

A Look Back: Homes

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Jonathan is a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

Mission Part 1: Homes

I’ve been with Greater Indy Habitat for ten months now. In a “year-long” volunteer program that actually only lasts eleven months, I already have ten elevenths of what is meant to be a life-altering program on which to reflect, and I’m not sure where to start. So, in trying to begin to reflect on how my experience here has influenced my understanding of service, I recently asked a few friends how they would describe Habitat’s work.

“Helps habitate humans?” my brother, who studied linguistics, suggested. My friend Mikey, responding in a group chat in which I’d posed the question, said that they “build houses for low-income families.” Moments later, another friend in that group posted, “I second Mikey.”

If I had asked myself the same question a year ago – a clichéd premise, I know – I probably would have seconded Mikey as well. In my mind, at that time, Habitat was just a particularly generous construction crew. That was before I’d ever heard their mission statement, and more significantly, before I became a small part of the mission in that statement.

That mission is this:

“Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”

It seems like a simple enough statement. I don’t think most people with a passing familiarity with Habitat would be surprised by anything in it. But if one really takes the time to dissect and consider the pieces of it, they may realize there’s more to it than initially appears.

With my final three blog posts as this year’s Greater Indy Habitat YAV, that’s precisely what I want to do. This being the first installment in the series, I want to start by looking at the first object of Habitat’s missional building: homes.

Perhaps Bill Withers put it best when he sang, “And this house just ain’t no home, anytime she goes away.” There is a distinct difference between a house and a home. For the esteemed Mr. Withers, a house is where he lives, but a home is where he and this woman who brought sunshine to his life could be together. For many of our homeowners, the structure we build together is a place where their families can be safe. It’s a place where they can find respite and revitalization. It’s a place where they can find fellowship and freedom. It’s a place where love can thrive.

Habitat forms relationships with their homeowners. They take the time to understand the needs of the homeowner, and demonstrate the necessary investment to care for those needs. It’s not that difficult to build houses; to run a blueprint through a conveyor belt and give people four walls and a roof. It’s not cheap, but it’s available almost everywhere today. What makes them homes, and what Habitat takes the utmost care to do, is the compassionate attention given to each family in the program, and each structure they build.

The homes these families build change their lives. They provide a brand new foundation from which things seem possible which may not have even been considerable before. A house cannot do that on its own. It needs to be made into a home, and that’s why homes are the first thing Habitat builds.

Check back later this month for Jonathan’s next post reflecting on communities.

Set Apart

By | Interfaith | One Comment

Jonathan is a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

In my previous post, I discussed the practical value of working alongside people from different backgrounds as a way of pursuing our Biblical conviction in learning how to “maintain constant love for one another.”

interfaith-dedication-2016As I write this post, I sit on the other end of that work. The house is complete, has been dedicated, and will soon become a home. I’ve had the opportunity to see and hear the process of its construction from beginning to end. I’ve had the privilege to hear how people have reacted to it. And now I have the responsibility to share that experience – to describe what we’ve created together, beyond just the physical homes, or even the hope for a stronger, more unified image of God in humanity.

Today I want to share about the sacred perpetuity we found – the sense of eternal value we experienced through the work we shared, the time we spent, and the place we made.

At an interfaith discussion I recently attended, we focused on the concept of sacred space. We took time to learn from one another and pursue the various avenues that led to what each of us understood of sacredness. We discussed how we honored that understanding, individually, collectively, and cross-culturally. It was a beautiful conversation, and it challenged and invigorated my thought processes in some wonderful ways, but it didn’t quite satisfy my personal relationship to what I hold as sacred.

The discussion focused on sacred space, but what I find equally important, and perhaps more significant in my own experience, is sacred time. The word sacred is defined as “set apart,” but how are we to know what to set apart in order to create or perpetuate that sacredness? All too often, we find ourselves attacking one another’s deepest religious values, simply because of our misunderstandings on how to approach sacredness. I believe we are called to set something apart, or hold it as sacred, when we find connection to God through it. Otherwise, this setting apart becomes entirely meaningless, and potentially dangerous. However, it can be a struggle to know whether something actually provides connection to God in some manner, or if we just want it to do so. In my life, I hold my most sacred things in this way because of their ability to tap into eternity; because of how the impact of the time or place that surrounds it becomes eternal in the instant it happens.

And while that sure sounds cool, I admit it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think that sacredness, because it is “of God” in that weird, infinite/inconceivable way, is a real bear to try to understand – much less discuss in practical terms.

interfaith-dedication-2016_rapheal-homeBut I can say this:

What we’ve done through this Interfaith Build is sacred. We set it apart, because the impact it has for Rapheal and Brittney, the homeowners, is too massive to describe. We set it apart, because the way we were able to come together and complete the Image of God in our unity and service is too holy to understand fully. We set it apart, because the understanding and love that was able to grow for one another there is too profound, and too vital in our efforts to further the Kingdom of God here on Earth, to put into simple human words.

We set it apart, not from one another, but for one another, and with one another; because it is of God, it is eternal and incomprehensible, and it is very good.

The work we shared, the time we spent, and the place we made is sacred. The thing that matters now that this project is done, is to continue. Let us continue building homes, let us continue to maintain constant love for one another, and let us continue engaging in this sacred perpetuity.

For One Another

By | Interfaith | One Comment

Jonathan is a Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) spending his service year with Greater Indy Habitat through the Presbyterian Church (USA). Learn more about the YAV program!

I’ve only recently started working for Habitat, but I can already tell that my time here will shape me greatly in the long run. Not because of the work experience, but because of the way Habitat lives into what I believe is one of the most essential verses in the Bible:

“Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
-1 Peter 4:8

This verse contains so much of what lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It highlights our outward expression of the love God offers us, and illuminates just how meaningful such love can be for the world. But we struggle with it. And perhaps our biggest struggle comes in the way we question the meaning of the phrase “one another.”

interfaith-build_webpage-1So what should “one another” mean to us? One thing that stuck out to me as I considered that was the difference between the two words involved. “One” implies unity and similarity. “Another” implies separation and difference.

However, when you put these words together, you get a profoundly meaningful combination which often goes overlooked. The idea is that, though we are “other,” separated by any number of things, we are ultimately still “one.” We are unified because we are all human. We are unified because we are all made in the image of God. We are unified because, only when we are unified, do we begin to see the full Image of God that is present between us.

In Luke 10, the parable of the Good Samaritan perfectly illustrates exactly how we are meant to “maintain constant love for one another.” The Samaritan showed love to the Jewish man despite their cultural differences, and saved his life in doing so. That is the definition of whom we are to love and how we are to do it. That is my theological understanding of 1 Peter’s usage of the phrase, “one another.”

The verse in 1 Peter also points to what happens when we fail to love one another. The “multitude of sins” – the thing that distorts the image of God in us and draws borders that get used to define humans as “other,” rather than “one another” – becomes uncovered. The pieces of us which are overrun by fear and mistrust are empowered by this failure. We see separations begin to form, and everything that comes with and builds upon that change.

We see men in turbans, catching glares of mistrust in airports. We see women in burqas, who remain shut-ins, apart from the society that resents that emblem of their faith. We see people of color, killed without fair trial, too often when we open an internet browser. We see refugee children, their bodies washed up on the shores of lands they hoped would bring new life.

interfaith-blog-post-1But that’s not all we see in this world.

A few days ago, I had the privilege of witnessing and participating in an Interfaith Build with Habitat. I saw people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs come together in service to their fellow human. I saw them learn from one another, and begin to grow in understanding of one another’s beliefs and respect for one another. I saw people recognize and cherish the similarity in values across faith backgrounds, and I saw them appreciate the differences, without ignoring or fighting over them.

Most of all, I saw them build. I saw people coming together around a wooden frame, and pouring their sweat, energy, and time into making something out of it. They did it together. They did it with one another, and in many ways, for one another.

Habitat’s found a powerful and radical means of service in these Interfaith Builds. It’s not just about building houses for and alongside people with less privilege, though that would be enough. It’s not just about providing an effective and meaningful outlet for people to serve one another and express their deep-seated values, though that would be enough. It’s about bringing people together. It’s about learning from and sharing with one another. It’s about maintaining constant love for one another, and in my opinion, this has the potential to be the one of the most beautiful things Habitat’s ever done.