“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12)
When Lutheran Christians come together and put their faith into action, big things happen. Lives are changed, the Gospel is proclaimed and communities are transformed.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, this is precisely how the Helping Hand Initiative is unfolding. This is the third time the national Helping Hand Initiative, driven by LCMS National Housing Support Corporation (NHSC), has worked in the city. This time the recipients of home repairs are residents of Fort Wayne’s East Central neighborhood, located around Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Of course, NHSC and Saint Paul’s aren’t out to transform this neighborhood alone. Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s Laborers For Christ (LFC) is on-site, bringing their expertise and hard work to bear on the lives of these neighbors who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to repair and restore their homes.
“Building on NHSC’s success in other communities and in Fort Wayne in 2014 and 2017, we’re able to help Saint Paul’s extend a hand and assist low income and elderly homeowners with critical home repairs right outside its doors,” explained Nicole Ridley, chief executive for NHSC. “The city of Fort Wayne, like most communities, has limited resources for projects like this.”
Among the 10 homeowners who are receiving help with various health and safety related home repairs are two residents: Carl and Gwendolyn.
The LFC crew updated Carl’s home with a new front porch decking and stairs, fresh interior paint, a new electric panel and his bathroom was renovated to replace an old, leaky shower.
Meanwhile, at Gwendolyn’s home, LFC workers repaired and painted the front porch and installed new rails, replaced a peeling ceiling in the upstairs hallway, fixed a leaking bathtub, replaced a leaking kitchen faucet and cleaned up the yard.
“Our crews and our work in the community could not have gone unnoticed,” said Mike Vandercar, project manager for LFC. “We had a banner on display most of the time listing LFC, Saint Paul’s and LCEF and had several people stop to ask what we were doing. The impact our work had on the homeowners was very noticeable. In both cases with Carl and Gwendolyn they were pretty withdrawn and just seemed sad on the first meetings with them. However, it was amazing to see how they had changed by the time we got close to the end of the work we were to do for them. They were revitalized and full of joy for the work that was done and were once again proud of their homes and just all-around happier people.”
The fruitful partnership between NHSC, Saint Paul’s and LFC also has a few extra players. The project’s funding is provided by The Lutheran Foundation. Lutheran Social Services of Indiana supports the residents through mentorship and other services and Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation offers the LFC team a place to park their RVs for the duration of the project. It’s truly the ‘body of Christ’ at work.
“Saint Paul’s and the Laborers For Christ workers have been wonderful partners,” said Ridley. “Each of the homeowners has been overwhelmed by the congregation’s generosity and impressed with the LFC workers’ workmanship. Partnerships like these are one small way that the church can be a good corporate citizen, while living out Christ’s greatest commandment.”