Habitat for Humanity


For those who are concerned about doing God’s work, for those concerned about sharing what we have with the less fortunate, I know of no organization more attuned with these beliefs than Habitat for Humanity International.  I encourage you to visit their website at www.habitat.org.  This is a God inspired and directed organization that is building houses for those in desperate need of decent housing throughout the United States and in many of the developing countries including here in the Philippines.  (The Philippine office can be contacted at hfhphil@habitat.org.ph.)


The organization was started years ago by Millard Fuller who wrote the book No More Shacks! (Word Books: Waco, Texas, 1986).  The book provides you with a wonderful description of the work Habitat for Humanity is doing worldwide.  However, it is also worth reading so that you see how an excellent volunteer organization operates.  They are very astute public relations experts and money raisers.  When you are doing God’s Work you have to have faith; however, you also have to develop skills.  Yes, God will provide; however, God also expects you to do your share of the work!  The following quotes are from Fuller’s book.


Habitat is focused on housing as they recognize that this is one of the most important and basic need areas that millions of people have worldwide.  “The goal of Habitat is that every time we build a house in the United States, we build at least one house overseas” (p. 17).  This is not a program where they simply build houses and give them away.  These are partnerships where the future owners are involved in the building process if at all possible.  This is what is called “sweat equity” where the person who is going to benefit feels that they are involved in making their dreams come true. 


Although such ideas as Habitat are not new and social workers have been doing comparable efforts for years, Habitat is the best model around and worthy of emulation and that is why it has continue to thrive since its beginnings in the 1970s.  I have used these techniques successfully long before I ever heard of Habitat as have others.  I say that to emphasize that the concepts are sound ones as they had stood the test of time.


Every day, throughout the United States and the developing world, Habitat “Volunteers are giving months and years of their lives.  Supporters are giving enormous chunks of their cash.  High-salaried professional people age giving their time and their skills.  Poor families are giving their own ‘sweat equity.’” (p. 23).


Two of the most important volunteers that Habitat was able to enlist are former United States President and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jimmy Carter and his wife Roslyn.  One of the reasons that they got deeply involved in Habitat is that they are deeply religious, caring human beings and they live in Georgia where Habitat has its headquarters and where it built its first homes.


The Carters have not only both served in leadership positions with Habitat; they have both gone to construction sites and helped with the actual building of the houses.  They also help raise funds in a variety of ways and assist Habitat in other ways.  Habitat was already a successful program when the Carters joined in; however, their participation gave Habitat much higher visibility and the ability to expand more rapidly than they would have been able to do otherwise.  When Carter was helping with a construction project in New York, the press all came out.  One question they asked was: “What made you sacrifice a week to come here instead of going to the Virgin Islands?”  His answer was a profound one: “It’s not a sacrifice.  I’ve worked hard all my life, and carpentry is nothing new for me.  I’m enjoying it.  It’s great to meet new friends and do something to help others at the same time” (p. 89).  This is at the heart of why Habitat is successful.  It is a way of serving others, of giving back as God calls us to do, it is a humble way of sharing, and because of that it feels great!  And, you can do it anywhere.  You don’t have to speak the language of a foreign country to go there and bang nails or make bricks.  Giving your hard work to help another is a universal and loving language accepted everywhere.


As Fuller states: “Habitat for Humanity is a crazy idea.  Skeptics, many of them professing Christians, continue to insist that selling houses at no profit to low-income people, charging no interest, undertaking construction projects worldwide without government money, and expecting thousands of volunteers to give weeks or months or years of their lives to work for practically nothing---all these are crazy ideas.  But these are God’s ideas, solidly based on biblical commands and promises.  And, like a lot of other instructions He gave to people like Noah and Joshua and David and Gideon---messages which seemed pretty crazy at the time---they work.


“Furthermore, what never ceases to confound these skeptics is that Habitat’s unlikely methods will work anywhere in the world.  Differences in culture and language and economic system cannot obscure a universal truth: Everyone wants and needs decent shelter. And whatever the location, when people band together to build with God’s ideas, their efforts will succeed” (p. 129).