Thursday, May 11, 2017

Through our eyes - Robin Pfalzgraf

Habitat for Humanity of Marion County Inc. Executive Director, Robin Pfalzgraf
I was excited in January of 2017 when I received a call from the Board President for Habitat for Humanity offering me the position as Executive Director in my community.  The Lord had given me a desire, many years ago, to help people that had needs in my community.  I learned through my previous experience in non-profit that there were few needs that could not somehow be met.  Through that experience, I grew to love helping others.   Habitat for Humanity would get me right back into the position of helping others find the answers, and what better help exists than helping people get a secure home of their own.

The weekend before I officially started working for Habitat I attended was their 20th Anniversary and 50th home event.  At the event was the couple that would be the 50th homeowners.  I went to them and introduced myself wondering how over the next several months I would get to know them on a more personal level but only time would tell. 

The Kennedy family
They were excited, it was evident on their faces, to own their home and to be part of the partnership with Habitat for Humanity.  In a brief moment, I wondered how my life would impact theirs over the next year or two, but it was a fleeting thought at best.

As the weeks passed, I saw them a little more often.  I had the opportunity to take them to their home one day to drop off some items they had purchased that were going into the construction process.  When I talked to them, their excitement was contagious.  I saw in them the same excitement I had when I was preparing to move into the home I live in today.
We had a nice visit in their kitchen, and I realized that I REALLY was beginning to like this couple.  They talked to me about their future dreams for their house, their children, and their lives.  We talked about how much they are enjoying the process of working on their own home through both sweat equity and volunteer hours.  

Our HFH office was required to host an open house for the local Chamber of Commerce, and we
were blessed that many community members showed up to support our organization.   Near the end of the event, Mike arrived.  He wanted to come and support us.  When Mike arrived, the majority of people had left, and I had the chance to visit with him.  Mike talked about his past, his dreams, his future and the fact that this home was a symbol of a future that once he only dreamed.  He said, "You know it's like the biggest dream you've ever had and you're going to live to see it happen.  You wonder if there will be anything in life you ever look as forward to again."  Mike told his story of the Mike he “used to be" and the Mike he's “become."  My respect grew even more for both he and his family. 

When we take a minute to think of our homeowners as the people they are, as the dreams they have, as the cumulative measure of decisions of the past both good decisions and bad decisions;  those decisions are what placed them at this particular place at this particular time it gives me time to pause.  God may not be blessing this family as much as he is blessing and teaching me.  Being a piece of the puzzle that gets them to a place that they only thought would be a dream is a blessing beyond measure. 

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to act.

This story is shared with you with the permission of Mike and his family.  When you help a Habitat for Humanity Family you are helping a family with a story.  Some are similar and some are very different but the key is the “hand up” you’re giving another family in our community.



Monday, May 8, 2017

The New Guy - Foundations


"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."  -Jesus of Nazareth



As Jesus spoke these words he was standing near the sea of Galilee.  This analogy was understood well because the sand ringing that lake was rock hard during the hot summer.  But a wise builder would dig down as far as ten feet below the surface sand to the bedrock, knowing that this was the only way to erect a foundation able to withstand the winter rains, which were notoriously torrential and capable of causing disastrous flooding.

Hi!  I'm the new guy!  As I sit here I am finishing off my third week here at Habitat for Humanity of Marion County.  I've worked within the non-profit world for the past 8 years.  Most of that time was in sunny southern California but some of that has been here in Iowa.  One of the things I've observed in that time is that the foundation of those who work in this field deeply effects their impact within this field.  Someone can do all the right things and say exactly what the people around them want to hear but as time goes on and the weather of life wears on them it comes down to the foundation they are standing on that determines their impact.  Discovering the right foundation in most cases takes digging, and not just a little digging.  You have to dig deep in order to find a pre-existing rock or boulder capable of building on.

My Foundation - I would be lying if I didn't state plainly that I have spent a lot of time and energy digging to discover my foundation.  One truth I have learned is I have little control over the bedrock I uncovered after all that digging.  All I could do is discover what it is.   There is little about that foundation that I can build to my liking, it had already been built hundreds and thousands of years ago.  My job is to build upon that pre-designed bedrock. I suppose that's part of being in submission to a Savior.  Finding a place here at Habitat has been a result of submitting to that design.  I was designed to build capacity and build community among those within arms-reach.  My design requires me to be in regular relationship with those whose lives I wish to impact.

Living into that foundation is about making a place for those who otherwise might not feel welcome.  It's about grace, hospitality, and sincere friendship.  It's about loving my neighbor as myself and advocating for the poor and disenfranchised.  By doing those things I express my love for my God.  Don't get me wrong though, I have no plans to force these ideas of mine onto you.  I will not treat you any different depending on how you build on the foundation you have found or created for yourself.  Sincerely, I just want to be someone who welcomes you and speaks to you in a combination of truth and grace.

Habitat's Foundation - Habitat for Humanity also has foundations.  Foundations I truly appreciate.  In the span of 20 years some deeply inspiring things have taken place.  Likewise to my personal foundation there is little anyone can do to build the foundation to their liking.  It has already been built.  It's about helping those who would otherwise not be able to get a traditional home loan get a home and doing it in a way that they thrive as home owners.  Thriving as a new home owner and experiencing things for the first time requires great quantities of grace and truth.

This Blog's Foundation - I hope you see a theme here.  We are all building on something and I wanted to make sure you knew the sentiment which will serve as this blog's foundation.  Grace, truth, and hope.

Grace and truth aren't new terms for anyone.  Separately they are well understood.  When used together they always birth HOPE.  Unfortunately, hope can sometimes be a rare commodity.  For those in search, I welcome you to come find what you're searching for here at Habitat for Humanity in Marion County.