So I've been reading a LOT lately. Not really sure why, but there's been this gnawing need to know more... like something waiting at the gates, dying to be let in, a hunger or thirst of some sort. I read Margaret Feinberg's "Organic God" and "The Sacred Echo." I read, "The Shack" (I could, and probably will write an entire blog about that one... LOVED IT!) and "Soul Cravings" by Erwin Raphael McManus. But this morning I started, "Wild Goose Chase" by Mark Batterson. I'm only 2 chapters in and I am almost shaking with excitement, fear, and revelation. I hesistate to write any of this, because what if I don't feel this way tomorrow? But most of me knows that I have felt this way for years and today was the first time I even entertained the idea that it might be something that requires my action.
Since about 6 months into our move here to Fairview I started having this ache for all the abandoned housing in our town. Then I learned that our county has the highest percentages in Michigan for unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. How do you live in Northern Michigan without a home (especially in the winter)? Most of our homeless are classified as "hidden homeless" because they bounce from home to home, living with friends and family, or in cars, etc. Our schools can attest to the impacts that has, as so many children are in and out of schools as they bounce from one part of the county to another.
So the ache, combined with the knowledge, and I started wondering, "How do we connect all these homeless families with all these empty houses?" The truth is, any housing that might be affordable, is not very liveable. We have lots of cabins for sale around here, but few are insulated for winter use. Many old homes available, but they are in need of new windows and roofs, and floor coverings and fresh paint, etc. So a family who could barely afford the mortgage will inherit a home they cannot afford to make liveable for their family. What can be done?
Habitat for Humanity is up and active in our area, and they have done a great job of building a house or two a year. Still, on some level I think it's wasteful to build something brand new when there are so many homes sitting around, and so many families in need.
I desperately desire to buy up these houses, one by one, and renovate them... making them decent, clean, updated homes, that children can be raised in and parents can takes some pride in. Nothing fancy, but homes of good quality, updated in ways that will make them more energy efficient and built to last. I want owners to put down roots in our community- for their sakes, their kids' sakes, and for our community's sake. By fixing the run down properties, everyone's home values will increase, and that is good for the town as a whole. By giving people deeper roots in our community, local businesses and schools will benefit. I want to do this, and then sell the remodelled homes for the amount I paid for them originally, OR LESS.
... and there's the rub. We can't even afford to replace our own less than functional stove (or do a million other needed renovations), let alone buy and renovate homes (at a loss of income) for others. And yet... it would seem that God is telling me that He has given me this nagging passion for a reason. I have no idea what step to take next, but I know I'm going to have to take it. Will you pray with me?