“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”
— Hebrews 3:4
God may be the builder of all things, but Thrivent Financial, Habitat for Humanity and Rowan County Lutheran churches are doing their part in helping out with earthly home construction. Since 2000, this partnership has led to the building of 11 houses, with local congregations raising more than $120,000.
Nationwide, by the end of this year, the effort called Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity will have committed more than $180 million to build 1,922 homes in the United States, and volunteers will have committed more than 3.5 million hours in support of their own communities.
Thrivent is a faith-based, not-for-profit Fortune 500 company, with $75 billion in assets and 1,320 chapters around the country. The company was formed by in 2001 through the merging of two Lutheran groups, the Aid Association for Lutherans and the Lutheran Brotherhood.
Locally, the Thrivent-Habitat connection is strong. “We’ve been very successful in getting Thrivent grants,” says Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County executive director Coleman Emerson. “It’s been a blessed thing for us here.”
This year, Emerson said, Rowan Habitat received one of eight Thrivent grants to fund Habitat homes in North Carolina. Last year, it received one of 11 Thrivent grants in the state.
“We’ve continued to secure a grant for Habitat each year,” said Eric Brady, a local Thrivent representative. “That speaks to the partnership we have. We have a strong Habitat affiliate here, and they do a phenomenal job.”
Brady explains that since Thrivent is a not-for-profit faith-based company it is always looking for ways to put money back into the community and help people at a grass-roots level.
“We feel it’s an important piece of strengthening the community in Rowan County,” Brady says. “It’s a wonderful ministry that ties in with the mission and focus of Thrivent Financial.”
Lutheran congregations have been helping to build Habitat homes since the local Habitat affiliate was formed in 1990, Emerson says. Thrivent’s involvement, starting in 2001, took efforts to a new level.
Barry Ritchie is a member of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church and serves as advisor to the board of the East Rowan Thrivent chapter, which includes 20 churches. He’s been involved with Habitat efforts for four years, helping to collect donations from the churches that will fund the homes and also lining up volunteers. His counterpart in the southwest Rowan Chapter, with 18 churches, is David Linker. Each church is asked to donate $400 to fund the churches’ 10 percent share of a home’s cost. Not every church is able to make that goal, but the money always comes from somewhere.
“I didn’t understand what Habitat was all about until I got involved,” Linker said. Now, he welcomes the opportunity to go to different congregations and talk about what Habitat does for the community.
The churches have been faithful in giving both time and money. “The money comes, and the people come,” he says.
Emerson notes that churches’ involvement is generally not pastor-driven but member-driven. “It’s good for church morale,” he says. “It’s a way to put faith into action. It can revitalize a congregation.
“It feels good. It’s not ‘churchy.’ It’s work and fun. You get to meet your congregation’s members in a different setting. It’s a very pleasant and enjoyable time.”
Wayne Chaffin, a faithful volunteer who lends his plumbing expertise to Habitat builds, agrees. “It’s good fellowship,” he says.
Still, it requires a lot of hard work. And it’s a daunting undertaking to coordinate the building of a home with volunteer labor.
“It has to be a work of God because it’s a strange and complex business model,” Emerson says. “Only God could pull it off.”
One Thrivent-funded Habitat home went to the family of Rufus and Oretha Thompson, refugees from war-torn Liberia who were assisted by the refugee resettlement program run by Lutheran Services Carolinas.
The recipients of this year’s Thrivent-funded home are Brandy Richardson and Shannon Perkins, who moved into their house in May.
Getting a Habitat home has been life changing, says Brandy, who with Shannon has two children: a 5-year-old daughter Cadence and 2-year-old son Kyler. Before acquiring their Habitat home, they lived in a trailer, and their children shared a room.
“We love it,” she says. “It’s been wonderful.” Months after moving in, the children still love to ring the doorbell and run down the hallway, reveling in the new amount of space they have.
“The willingness of others to help has been amazing, how people come together for someone they don’t even know,” Brandy says.
Linker says he was struck by seeing the family’s children and the look on their faces during the dedication ceremony. He sees the home as helping to lay the groundwork for their future success.
And ultimately, that’s what a Habitat home provides: hope for the future.