The first Community Outreach Team event of the year happened to fall on the 10th anniversary of hurricane Katrina, which ravaged many homes in the New Orleans area back in 2005. While the COT did not travel to Louisiana to build homes, nine students and four adults did spend the day building homes here in our community with Habitat for Humanity.
Volunteers rotated through each of the steps needed to put siding up on a house. Some measured to ensure the bottom panel was flush with other panels. Others ran siding panels back and forth from the saw to the house. Still others hammered siding into place, while learning how to keep the panels visually aesthetic. And most workers avoided hammering their thumbs for the majority of the day (emphasis on most).
“Volunteers are key to building homes for our family partners. The students from the Outreach Team were exceptional, and did a fabulous job of meeting the daily goals our construction manager had set,” said Rosanne Christensen, Interim Executive Director for Habitat for Humanity.
Senior Nick Schmeling started the day off with a devotion that focused on our purpose in Christ (Eph. 2:10). He read how we are God’s workmanship to be used for acts of love as we are united in Christ. Sheila Ziems saw to it that the crew started the day with warm banana bread – something that was not wasted on adolescent boys.
“I wanted to do an event like this to complete my service hours,” Schmeling said. “Once we started working, I got to meet the future owner of the house. I found it surreal to realize that I’m helping someone actually build the house they’ll live in someday.”
From there, the team met at the site and went through a short instructional time. By 8:30am, the team was split into teams and working on different areas of the house. By lunch time (11:30am), well over half the house was finished as comradery and teamwork were growing. By the end of the day, the team finished the majority of the house and a shed.
“At first, it seemed like the guys were concerned with mud all over their shoes. Then, they directed their attention more toward getting the siding to look ‘just right.’ By the end of the day, I saw them increase skills and interest in siding a house,” said parent Jim Otte. “Forty years from now, we can still walk up to that house and know we did right in our community; we created memories; we served.”
The words “building” and “community” come to mind after witnessing Saturday’s work. I know the adults enjoyed showing the craft of using a level, hammering nails, designing an appealing wall. Also, the kids enjoyed showing the adults just how hard they can work and how much they can accomplish when given the chance. When we think of service, often times we think of once-a-year trips to distant locations to help those communities (and, to be sure, that is a fine endeavor). However, Saturday’s event drove home the point that we have plenty of opportunities to serve and make THIS community a stronger one right here in Lincoln, NE.
One of the boys asked me during lunch, “So, wait. Can you just come here and work any Saturday you want? I don’t have to wait for you to organize it?” (I answered in the affirmative.) “Whoa! I’m definitely coming back again. This is fun.”
For anyone not familiar with Habitat for Humanity, this link responds to frequently asked questions (http://www.habitat.org/how/faq). The partnership between the Community Outreach Team and Habitat for Humanity goes beyond volunteering hours. The COT will donate $100 and provide future volunteers throughout the year at this house. Also, through the Thrivent Action Teams program, Habitat will receive a $250 pre-paid debit card to be used for supplies. Lastly, in this month, we will pray for the Christian non-profit group as it works to fulfill its mission: “Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope.”
God gives us opportunities every day to serve right here in our community. Sharing the love of Jesus can be done without saying much of anything. It can be done by doing something for our neighbors. Those interested in other events should contact Joel Stoltenow (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 402-770-3927.