Serving, connecting and transforming. These three words perhaps best describe the work of Habitat Nashville Missional Community, a diverse and vibrant group that launched three years ago to support the efforts of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville throughout Middle Tennessee.
Christ Presbyterian member Anna King, who helps lead the group, grew up watching her parents volunteer with Habitat, an organization known for providing affordable housing to families in need. Often, these are adults who hold down either a full-time job or several part-time jobs but still find safe housing out of their reach. Habitat supports these families by helping them build homes and awarding interest-free loans.
“The full scope of the mission also involves fostering relationships, building community and preparing families to become financially responsible and care for a home,” King said.
This Missional Community, composed of both founding members of Christ Presbyterian as well as church members and friends who are newer to Nashville, plays an integral role in each of these areas. This month, the group will participate in its fifth “build day” as they gather on a weekend to construct a home for a family who has completed Habitat’s rigorous application process. Most of the homes are located in an area of Antioch where Habitat has built a total of 130 properties in four different neighborhoods since 2012, said Danny Herron, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville and a church member at Christ Presbyterian.
The families building these homes are representative of Antioch’s diverse population. One of the neighborhoods sits adjacent to Antioch High School, where the student body is comprised of families who speak 26 different languages as either their primary or secondary language of choice at home, Herron said.
Part of what makes the process meaningful is the way Habitat functions. Future homeowners must first help build a separate Habitat house before beginning construction on their own home. Often this occurs on their own street or somewhere in their soon-to-be neighborhood. As multiple homes are built in the same community, families who will eventually live as neighbors cultivate a sense of belonging as they help raise walls and hammer nails.
While assisting the Antioch residents to build connections and new homes, Missional Community members have also drawn closer and discovered a sense of purpose and passion in serving others. College students, young adults, professionals and seniors from Christ Presbyterian and other churches across Nashville have collaborated with the Missional Community on construction sites and designated days when the group volunteers at ReStore, the home improvement retail arm and donation center that Habitat operates to sell new and gently-used furniture, appliances, home goods and building materials.
Another facet of the Missional Community’s role is financial counseling to future homeowners. Members of the Missional Community work with Habitat applicants to offer expertise on how to manage money, live within a budget and eliminate debt.
Former Christ Presbyterian member Don Drummond, who passed away in September 2018, served actively as a budget coach in the years before his death.
“He desired to share his financial knowledge and skills to better the lives of others,” King said. “His compassion was evident through all of his service.”
Herron realized the impact of Habitat on Drummond’s own life when, upon his death, Drummond’s wife, Fran, requested gifts be made to the organization in lieu of flowers.
“I was touched by not only what the Drummonds meant to the Missional Community, but what the community meant to them,” Herron said.
Other Missional Community members also participate in offering Habitat families homeowner-readiness skills as they prepare to care for their new home. Missional Community member Kelly Zetak initiated a homeowner engagement program last December while the group worked to build a home for Nashville resident LaShonda Smith. Their aim is to stay engaged by offering additional ongoing support in securing and maintaining new homes when needs such as addressing a leaky faucet, lawn maintenance or home winterization arise.
Zetak, who has participated in Habitat for Humanity for more than 25 years in four different states, is grateful to be part of the Missional Community at Christ Presbyterian.
“Through God’s loving and compassionate grace, we’re partnering with Habitat to provide positive change in the Nashville area,” he said. “People from all walks of life are being transformed as they experience true hope and personal success.
“Scripture reminds us that Christ came into the world not to be served, but to serve others,” Zetak continues. “Our prayer is that we would model this behavior and provide a loving and lasting outreach to all the communities we serve.”
To get involved with the Habitat Nashville Missional Community, email Anna King.