Archives For home

Going home and spending time with your family and your real friends keeps you grounded.
Jennifer Ellison

There’s no place like home!

Yesterday, I took the day off of work.  Leanne and I had intended on going to the shore for the day, but the temperature was a little chilly for Jersey Shore weather.  We stayed around our house for most of the day.  I went to my men’s group (DIBs – Dudes In the Basement) at 6AM.  Then Leanne and I went to The Energy Station in Vernfield, PA for a rare breakfast out together (that place is amazing).  We drove down to King of Prussia, PA to pickup a new pair of running shoes at Road Runner Sports and to try out some donuts at the new Duck Donuts in the King of Prussia Town Center (the donuts didn’t disappoint and my new running shoes are a welcome change from my old shoes).

Friday late afternoon, we drove to Mt. Holly, NJ to attend the family gathering at First Presbyterian Church to honor and celebrate the life of Phil Olson.  Phil was the Minister of Local Missions at the church for 13 of the 18 years my dad was there as one of the pastors.  Phil passed away earlier this week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer.  The gathering gave family and friends a chance to greet Phil’s family and to say hello to old friends from the church and the community.

(I’ll always remember Phil as an important friend and co-worker for my father.  I’ll remember his love for the New York Mets (I’ll never understand this one).  I’ll remember that his family always eats ice cream on Christmas morning (I love that tradition).  I’ll remember catching up with Phil a few times at the Plymouth Meeting Mall where he served as the Pastor at The Church on the Mall.  And I’ll always remember his passion for practically ministering to the local community.)

For me, it was a real homecoming.

First of all, being back at First Presbyterian Church felt like home.  It felt like I was going back in time to a significant time in my childhood and teenage years.  This was the church where I worshiped and grew in my faith from 8 years old (1980) until I married Leanne in 1996 (now you can figure out my age).  The building itself is beautiful – stained glass windows, stone exterior, tall steeple, majestic pipe organ (but that’s a story for another time).

More than the building, the people made it feel like home for me.  People remembered me (and my family), and I remembered most of them.  Some people had changed (as have I), but many people seemed exactly the same.  I’ll treasure the opportunity to talk with people like Ray and Joann Rivera, Mark Redlus, Dave and Nora Kennedy, Dan and Marla Kennedy, Thad Livingston, Larry and Linda Taylor, and so many others.  They asked about my parents who were part of the congregation for 18 years.  It’s hard to imagine it’s been over 20 years since my parents moved away from Mt. Holly.  It seems like it was yesterday.

After our time at First Presbyterian Church, Leanne and I met up with some wonderful friends (the Grovers and the Becks) for dinner and time to connect.  It turned into a later night for us, but it was so heart-warming to be at home with old friends.

Home means many different things to me.

Mt. Holly, NJ will always be home to me in some ways.  I treasure the memories and the people there.  They saw me grow up, and many of them helped me grow up.

Schwenksville, PA is my home now.  In fact, I’ve lived here for longer than any other place in my life.  I’m thankful for the community we live with here, and I look forward to the memories and friends we will create in the years to come in this area.

My physical home is my sanctuary away from the rest of the world.  It’s where I find real encouragement.  It’s where I often find rest.  My home is a place where I can leave a mark on those who mean the absolute most to me.

Phil’s passing was a reminder that there is another home that is waiting for me.  As we passed through the receiving line waiting to greet Phil’s wife, Holly, and the rest of the family, I noticed a verse that was posted near some of the flowers and other memories of Phil:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.  Philippians 1:21-26

I don’t know what the future days hold.  I strive to make the most of the opportunities (Colossians 4:5) here in my earthly home.  And I yearn for the day when I’m in my eternal home.  From what I can tell, Phil lived his life this way.  He impacted the lives of so many people here on earth (I’m sure the funeral service today was packed with some of the many people who were impacted by Phil and his ministry), but this verse was a clear reminder that Phil also longed for the opportunity to be home with Christ in heaven.

What comes to your mind when you think of home?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

The year, we build with Casas por Cristo.  Casas is a fantastic organization, and I learned a lot through our experience this year that will be helpful as I pursue building 100+ houses in Guatemala.

Today, I’ll give you a glimpse into the building process.  Our large team split into two smaller teams, and we both completed our houses in 2 1/2 days.  The actual construction may have gone fast, but there were other steps before our build that paved the way for our visit.

Applying to Get a Home

In order to get a house, the pastor of a family in need must complete an application.  Through this process, the pastor and associated church commit to coming around the family in an effort to disciple them and help them with their ongoing needs.  The families selected make an average of $60 per week, and they typically live in huts made of cardboard, cornstalks, or bamboo.

Preparing the Site

The job site is prepared in advance of our arrival.  In our case, the church community dug dirt out of the hill in an effort to level the site for the house, and they carried all the wood, stone, concrete, sand, and other building supplies down a huge hill to the job site.

Building the Forms and Leveling the Ground

When we arrived at the site, we gathered to meet the family and pray before the fun began.  It didn’t take long to set up the cutting station and build the forms for the concrete foundation.  Making sure the ground was as level as possible was critical to the next step.

Pouring the Concrete

Next we mixed the concrete with two mixers.  Each batch of concrete included just the right mixture of sand, stone, concrete, and water.  Before lunch on the first day, we had completed the concrete slab.  This was a critical step, and we were reminded of the importance of having a firm foundation in our own lives to withstand the storms of life.

Building the Walls

Wall construction started on Monday afternoon and rolled into Tuesday.  We build the walls on the ground before lifting them up onto the slab.  Once the walls were square and attached appropriately to the concrete floor, we began the process of installing the exterior tongue and groove panels.

Installing the Roof

While the exterior walls were being covered, a few members of our team climbed to the top of the house and began installing the roof.  The roof consisted of wooden beams which supported the metal roofing material.  By the end of the second day, the roof was installed and the exterior walls were mostly complete.

The Finishing Touches

Wednesday morning, we arrived on site, and we quickly worked on finishing the house.  The exterior panels were completed.  The front door and windows were installed.  The interior walls were covered.  The electrical was installed and tested, and the trim work was completed.

Dedicating the House

This was my favorite part!  After completing the house in the morning.  Lydia and other ladies from her community cooked us all lunch (chicken, rice, corn tortillas, and a delicious red sauce).  Our team sat down at a long makeshift table in front of the house, and we enjoyed the meal before a quick rainstorm interrupted things.  When the rain died down, we all gathered in front of the house.  Lydia received a Bible and a set of keys for her house.  And we nailed a “Casas por Cristo” plate above her front door.  After a time of sharing, we laid hands on Lydia’s house and prayed for Lydia, her new home, and her family.  Listening to her pastor pray was one of the most moving experiences of the trip.  He wept as he prayed aloud.

Missionaries from Casas por Cristo will head back over to Lydia’s house in a few months to see how she and the house are doing.  And the pastor will continue to keep an eye on her as well.

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

In Guatemala last week, we had the opportunity to impact a woman and her family by blessing her with a new home.  I’ll get into more details on the building process tomorrow, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into this remarkable young woman and into the importance of this house in her life.
Lydia’s husband left her 3 or 4 years ago.  From what I can gather, he probably migrated north to the United States with the hope of finding better work and the promise of sending money back to Lydia.  Lydia hasn’t seen her husband since his departure, and she certainly hasn’t reaped any financial benefit from his departure.
Lydia is essentially a widow.  She is a single woman left to raise her four children in a place where work is hard to find and doesn’t pay enough to meet the needs of her family.

This is Lydia

Lydia and her family have been living with her father (or father-in-law – I’m unclear on this detail).  He tries to help, but his health is failing.  His desire is to make sure Lydia and his grandchildren are safe and secure with a roof over their heads.

This is Lydia’s father

Lydia has four children.  She has three boys and one daughter.  Her oldest son, Eddie, is eleven years old.  They are a beautiful family.

This is Lydia’s family (or most of it)

A house represents security, shelter, and stability.  As a result of this new home, Lydia and her kids will have protection from the rain, protection from potential abductors, and a place to rest.  A house provides hope and a springboard to sustainability for her family.

This is Lydia’s new house

We all need a fresh start from time to time.  For Lydia, this house provides the fresh start she needs.  It’s an opportunity for her to practically experience God’s provision in her life, and it’s a great way to connect her with her community and with us – the team who helped this become a reality in her life.  It was such an honor and privilege for our team to be part of this new beginning for Lydia.

This is Lydia’s new beginning

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25-34-40

What Is Home?

April 25, 2016 — 2 Comments

home

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.

Maya Angelou

This week, I’m not home.  I’m out-of-town attending a leadership conference in Chicago and then visiting my brother’s family in Milwaukee.

I’m away from my home in Pennsylvania.

But I’m returning to my home in Illinois.  I lived outside of Chicago until I was 8 years old.

Home is where the heart is.

Pliny the Elder

At least that’s what they say.

Home is where I feel a sense of belonging.  It’s where I feel a connection with my past, my present, and my future.

Home is where I feel safe.  It protects me from the storms of life.  It keeps me warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain.

Home is where I feel a sense of purpose.  Sure I need to branch out – to stretch – into the uncomfortable.  But my first purpose is fulfilled when I’m a home.

Home is the nicest word there is.

Laura Ingalls Wilder

I feel at home when I’m in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania.  I feel at home when I’m in Mt. Holly, New Jersey.  I feel at home when I’m at my job in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania.  I feel at home when I’m in Grove City, Pennsylvania (where I went to college).  I feel at home when I’m in Xenacoj in Guatemala.

I feel at home when I connect with others through my writing and speaking.  I feel at home when I mow the lawn.  I feel at home when I run the trails near my home or the treadmill at my gym.

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Despite these feelings, places, and experiences, I still have an ache – an empty spot – for home.  When people pass away, others say “They went home.”  This sometimes sounds cliché, but I think there’s something to it.  We all have a longing for home that won’t truly be satisfied until we take up residence in our eternal home.  Until then, I’m hanging onto the glimpses of home I experience in this life.

My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.

Billy Graham

What does home mean to you and where do you find it in your life?

This post was inspired by a fantastic video about bringing humanity to the homeless.  I hope you’ll check it out below.