News Articles

WMU leaders build experience for upcoming Habitat projects

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (BP)–“Are you afraid of heights?”
A negative answer to the question made Wanda Lee of Columbus, Ga., a roofer on her first day as a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. But her experience is not really an uncommon one for a Habitat volunteer because willingness is valued more highly than skill.
Lee, president of Woman’s Missionary Union, was among 2,400 volunteers who participated in the 13th annual Jimmy Carter Work Project with Habitat for Humanity International. The project resulted in the building of 50 new homes in seven Appalachian communities throughout rural Kentucky and Tennessee.
Habitat for Humanity International, based in Americus, Ga., is known worldwide for its efforts to provide affordable housing for people in need. Founded in 1976, the organization has recruited volunteers who have built more than 50,000 houses in 53 countries, providing decent shelter for nearly 300,000 people.
Lee’s involvement in the June 15-21 “Hammering in the Hills” project was in connection with WMU’s signing of an agreement with Habitat to build nine houses in 1998 and 1999. Lee, who did not join the project until June 18 because of other responsibilities, shared the week-long responsibility with Delane Tew, coordinator of WMU’s Volunteer Connection.
WMU’s agreement with Habitat for Humanity calls for the recruiting of up to 320 volunteers and raising $258,500 in money and/or materials to build eight Habitat houses in 1998 and 1999. The houses will be built Sept. 14-21, 1998, in Birmingham, Ala.; July 11-Aug. 14, 1999, in Circleville, W.Va., and Pine Ridge, S.D.; and July 11-17, 1999, in Jackson, Miss., Cleveland, Portland, Ore., and Albuquerque, N.M. WMU volunteers will work at two sites in Jackson.
Lee and Tew were assigned to work on a house in Pikeville, Ky., dubbed as the “First Lady’s House” because other workers included Hillary Clinton, Rosalynn Carter and Judi Patton, wife of Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton.
Participation in the project provided a “practice run,” said Tew, who will coordinate the Habitat projects for WMU. “The experience will be invaluable as we begin the process of planning and recruiting volunteers. I will work from firsthand knowledge of what happens at a work site.”
Tew said she personally found the experience very rewarding, especially as she saw teamwork provide a place of service for skilled and unskilled workers.
“Some of the women were experienced construction workers while others had never been on a work site before,” Tew said, “but it did not matter because we worked together as one to accomplish our goal.”
Lee agreed, saying there was “a spirit of cooperation among the volunteers that was far greater than any other experience I have had. There was a sense of purpose and unity among the volunteers that spoke a strong message to everyone involved: ‘There isn’t anything we cannot do in missions if Christians will learn to work together in a spirit of cooperation.'”
Acknowledging the work left her exhausted each day, Lee said it was an experience she will not soon forget nor wait long to repeat — she will work on a Habitat project co-sponsored by her church, First Baptist Church, Columbus, July 7-16.
“It is very hard to put into words what this project did for me,” said Lee, a registered nurse. “I learned new skills. I gained a deep satisfaction in living out my faith in such a tangible way. And I was humbled to work alongside the new homeowner and realize that I had had a part in making a lifelong dream come true.”
In explaining why WMU chose to work with Habitat, Lee said, “WMU challenges its members to do missions in new ways. Building houses in poverty areas — where we will also be able to share our faith, work with children and do a variety of other mission activities — will enable us to reach into communities we may not have been able to reach otherwise.
“It also follows the example of Jesus,” she continued. “He told us that when we minister ‘to one of the least of these you have done it to me.’ I think helping a person build a decent place to live is something Jesus would do if he were here today.
“My hope is that these projects will give WMU members a new sense of pride in who we are and a genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of the families we will minister to through this project,” Lee said. “I also hope it will help those who do not know us to have a desire to get to know us and to make a commitment to a missions lifestyle.”
Anyone interested in participating in the WMU Habitat projects may contact Tew at P.O. Box 830010, Birmingham, AL 35283-0010; phone, (205) 991-4097; or e-mail [email protected].
*Name changed for security concerns.

    About the Author

  • Tanya Dawson*