“God Had Plans to Rebuild That Old House”
I’ve been given the honor of posting the first blog on House of Hope Ministries’ shiny brand-new website. And so, like many-a pastor who’s been given a writing task, I’ve looked through my notes to see what I’ve got at hand. God’s truth abides, so saying or writing something for a second time is not mere “recycling.” Sometimes we use our old thoughts to reach new audiences; sometimes we need reminders of what we “already knew” but have been neglecting. At any rate, for this first post I’d like to brush off a chapter forthcoming in a little book that I’m publishing, titled Joy Comes in the Morning: 21 Days of Healing Devotions (Springfield: Peace Press, 2015). The chapter, “House of Hope Ministries” (catchy title, don’t you think?) reflects my own thanks for the many gifts this outreach has brought to my Northside congregation and to me, personally. An excerpt follows:
A few years back, Northside Assembly had the permit in hand to tear down a house just to the south of our Family Life Center. But God had plans to rebuild that old house, plans that included re-building lives that were broken and, seemingly, of little worth from the high cost of living in sin.
I was sitting in my church office when a husband and wife team came in and said, “Pastor, we want to minister to hurting women. All we need is a building to minister out of.”
So I showed them the house that we were planning to tear down. They understood that there was a lot of work needed to save the old house, but they were wanting to use it for the Lord’s work, so I brought their inquiry to the church’s Board of Deacons. “Put a new roof on it without cost to the church and we will consider the request,” was the Board’s wise judgment.
When an old house falls into disrepair, it’s the roof that goes first. Rain water starts leaking in, compromising ceilings and walls. Soon the whole house is moldy and unfit for habitation. It’s like the progress of sin, when you I think about it. Isaiah speaks prophetically of the renewal of God’s chosen people:
Then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. (Isaiah 4.5-6)
Cleansed of sin, his people will find “shelter from storm and rain.” But sin continues to take us out from under the Lord’s protective cover, leaving us out in the cold and rain. And soon, like a weather-beaten old house, we become unfit for habitation.
But that broken-down house, once slated for demolition, was getting a new lease on life: just a few months later, the old roof was torn off and a new one put on. And the total cost to the church was $107, which went to feed a crew of seventeen volunteer workers for a day. Otherwise, everything had been donated.
And then, after some interior remodeling, that old building was ready to become the House of Hope, a transition program ministering to women recently placed on probation or finishing rehab. Much like the house they were now staying in, these women needed to “clean up and rebuild” their lives, both in body and in spirit.
It’s not a permanent home for them. House of Hope is a year-long program that combines instruction in lifeskills with intensive Bible study—which is, of course, the most important life-skill of all. In time, “cleaned up and rebuilt,” these women will set out on their paths, freed from the addictions that had bound them.
We know, and the city of Springfield knows, that House of Hope Ministries does much good: so much good, that we’ve grown to four houses—and we hope to add more.
It’s such a joy to watch once-broken women transform into mature, responsible, successful members of our community. When a graduate of our program gets a job or her own home, we know Whom to thank: it’s God’s work that’s being done in the House of Hope. And the primary means of their transformation, which volunteers from Northside Assembly lavish on these women in abundance, is love.
And the best is yet to come!
The best, indeed, is yet to come: for the women at House of Hope, for the ministry and its many volunteers, and for the congregation at Northside Assembly of God, which I’ve been humbled and honored to pastor for the past three decades and more.