Thursday, November 19, 2009

Housing Dreams

Last night, my suburban church went to feed dinner to the poor and homeless at the inner city church. I always find it a valuable experience, but last night, I especially needed it. It's been a week of figuring out how to pay for property tax and insurance and the new roof that my insurer of last resort (it's Florida, and the complexities of property insurance would take a post or two of their own to explain) will require within the year. It's good to be reminded that I'm fortunate to have a house. It's good to be reminded to focus on having gratitude for having a house, instead of focusing on resentment over how much the house costs to maintain.

It's also important to be reminded of the larger social justice issue: how can so many houses sit empty in a city where there are so many homeless?

On Saturday, I went to a meeting of my conference (Broward-Bahamas) within my church's Synod. The purpose was to encourage us to dream new visions. Much of the morning focused on the consultant's experience helping struggling churches decide whether or not to close, merge, or refocus their efforts. But my favorite part of the day was the time where we wrote down possible directions for the Church.

What would we do as a Church, and as believers, if we truly believed that all things were possible with the power of God?

Several churches dreamed of a daycare or a pre-school center. I first wrote down wind farms and then solar farms.

And then I was brave enough to write down what I really wanted to say. Most churches in our county are in neighborhoods full of foreclosed houses. Could churches buy those houses? Could churches become landlords? We could take a page from the daycare/preschool book and give the tenants a price break if they became church members. We could be a force for affordable housing in the county. We could redeem houses and resurrect them into new life.

Just like a pre-school that would come with all sorts of unforeseen issues, I realize that there would be many problems. Many churches can hardly afford the property that they have--and we contemplate buying more?

I just know that property in South Florida will never be cheaper than it is right now. I see a gaping need. I know that God calls on believers to help the poor and destitute. I don't know where to go from having the idea towards making it happen, but I thought I'd post and see what happens next.

My wild hope, of course, is that churches across the nation will say, "Wow, what a great idea!" Habitat for Humanity started in much the same way--a group with a crazy dream that people could come together to build houses for the poor.

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