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Hammers Hearts and Hands: November, 2017

07 December

Just a few days ago, as the sun was beginning to fall in the western sky, I found myself racing against the clock to make some progress on an important outdoor project, attempting to complete this work before the onset of winter. With saw and hammer, I set my focus upon the task of completing some simple framing, but in the process I inadvertently nailed several boards in an improper location.

Despite all the years of accumulating knowledge and experience in this field and despite my intention of doing a good job, I had done something that I’m never proud of doing. I had made a mistake.

Believe me, I am more than qualified to make that statement. I’ve made innumerable mistakes over the years of my life, and my dossier of mistake-making is more extensive than I am happy to admit. I’ve made mistakes in judgement, logic, and perception. I’ve made errors in decision-making, listening, speaking, and doing. I seriously doubt that there’s even one aspect of my life into which mistake-making hasn’t insidiously entered.

When I was a young man, I probably would have taken a sledgehammer to the framing mistake, demolishing what I had to work with, and leaving no alternative but to start all over again. That’s a human option, but it’s expensive. I’m not young anymore. My hands didn’t reach for a sledgehammer, but instead they picked up a tool called a “cat’s paw”, designed to discretely retract an embedded nail without causing too much damage to the overall work. Carefully, I applied the physics of this tool to my framing error and in a few well-spent minutes I was able to undo the wrong I had done without being destructive.

2000 years ago, a little baby boy was born to an unmarried and bewildered couple in a town called Bethlehem of Judea, half-way around the world from the region we call home. His newly born body was swaddled in long strips of cloth and placed in a borrowed, crudely built manger as His family had no proper cradletoputintouse. Thirty-three years later His scourged and flesh-torn body,now dead,would be removed from a Roman cross of crucifixion, wrapped in long strips of cloth again, and placed in a borrowed grave.

Without God’s grace, the life of Jesus, from birth to death, would arguably be just another sad portrait of a life riddled with the results of mistakes that have always plagued the human race. With God’s grace, however, His life becomes the miracle of salvation and the emblem for all true human progress. Jesus is the instrument, the tool, of divine grace that God sent into the world to repair all the mistakes we make without making things worse. Jesus is the personification of God’s grace in this world. He is the living incarnation of God’s will, not to condemn but to correct, to build rather than demolish, to be constructive instead of destructive.

Our world is self-destructing under the sledgehammer swing of pride, hostility, hatred, terrorism, violence, senselessness, bigotry, judgmentalism, and meanness. We are hurting one another, hurting the human race, hurting God, and hurting the cause of the Christ whom God sent into the world to save. Our pride and arrogance have grown large and heavy like the head of a 20-pound sledge and we ignore the delicate utility of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “cat’s-paw” in the Divine Builder’s Toolbox.

Nearly 28 years ago, Hosanna Industries was born to be an instrument of grace in God’s world. The mission has never known a day since its beginning on which destructiveness could not have prevailed. But we were and are called by Christ to be constructive, to build rather than destroy, to help rather than to hurt, to heal rather than injure. We have been invited to share in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and what a year of grace this has been! Since last Christmas, the mission’s service log reports that we have been privileged to help 161 needy households, work with 1675 volunteers, and use all of the gifts generously given to build more than two million dollars worth of equity in this world. We have made blunders, errors, mistakes in various ways, but God’s grace has been sufficient in correcting the way without condemning the work. God’s grace always prevails if we allow it to work.

Very soon, the Holiday Season will be upon us once more. For a little while, the world will be full of the signs of Christmastime. Lights, decorations, trees, presents, parties, carols and candles will ornament our experience, but will we grasp the profound and transforming meaning of it all? Sledgehammers work, if demolition is what you are aiming to do. But must we behave with demolition in mind? Isn’t there a better alternative? Christmas means there is a better alternative and its name is Grace in the person of Jesus.

With this newsletter, you will find enclosed our traditional Christmas present to you, dear friend. It’s another Hosanna hand-made Christmas tree ornament, our 24th in a row, this one made by Amy out of the same kind of canning lid that the mission has used for many years in harvesting God’s produce from the garden and in processing thousands of jars of good food for hungry people. I hope you enjoy it as you include it in your Christmas decorations this year. We give this little gift to you with all the grace we have been given, reminding you as well as ourselves that Christmas is always a choice, because Christ is always the most important choice a person can ever make. This Christmas, choose Christ. Choose His ways of love and forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. Give Christ a chance to correct rather than condemn. You will be amazed at what the Master Carpenter can do if you let Him carefully do His work. Perhaps as you light a candle this Christmas Eve, please know from the bottom of Hosanna’s heart, how very grateful we are for you and for all that you do to help us carry on in our work. Please continue to pray for us, remembering the worth of God’s grace in this world, His grace made known to the world in and through your own precious life, and sing with your voice of faith together with God’s children everywhere:

Silent night, Holy night, Son of God, Love’s Pure Light!
Radiant beams from Thy Holy Face,With the dawn of redeeming Grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth!

Love and grace to you with unending gratitude, dear Hosanna friend, this Season and always,

DDE

Read more in our 2017 November Newsletter.

Festival of Trees 2017 Recap

07 December

We are thrilled to announce that the 2017 Festival of Trees raised over $20,000! We exceeded our goal, and are so thankful for the generous support. Over the three day event, we saw some 700 people come through the doors to see almost 60 creative Christmas trees. Thanks to the 30+ volunteers who helped make it happen, the tree decorators who made gorgeous trees, the sponsors who gave dollars, our media sponsors who promoted the event, the generous people who gave through the Giving Tree, the numerous businesses who donated food and drinks, the many musicians who performed beautifully, and Quality Gardens our gracious hosts. (Photos of the event coming soon.) Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow! 🎄

Hammers Hearts and Hands: September, 2017

27 October

As I write these words, Hurricane Irma is churning its ferocious path across the Caribbean waters, bearing down toward a certain Floridian landfall with recorded windspeed of more than 150 miles per hour and the potential of a predicted 20” of catastrophic rainfall. Further out in the Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Jose is gaining energy as it travels westward to destinations as of yet unknown. In the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Katia is threatening the northeast coast of our southern neighbor, where not very far from that location Hurricane Harvey decimated the Houston and surrounding regions just two weeks ago. Just last night, the strongest earthquake in more than 100 years stealthily struck the southwestern side of Central America, causing as of yet unreportable levels of loss of life and property.

Millions of people are variously evacuating, preparing, escaping, “hunkering down”, watching, waiting, remembering, forgetting, and grieving. All of them are hurting, in one way or another, from hardships never fully anticipated but now as real as rain.

Closer to home, I’ve witnessed mission workers and volunteers, laboring hard all through the summer in all kinds of conditions, helping poor households in the Southwestern Pennsylvania area who have been suffering for a very long time from the ugly and disastrous effects of poverty. While helping with these efforts, I’ve also seen hundreds of people travel far from their homes to volunteer with the Hosanna workers in bringing much-needed help to the households who suffered from the catastrophic flooding in Richwood,West Virginia a year ago.

Still closer to my heart, I’m aware of a husband and a wife, both in their 90’s, who after living together for nearly 75 years are no longer under the same roof. The worsening of dementia has made it necessary for one to leave the other in order to receive professional care in a nursing facility, and the quiet, painful calamity of separation, loss, grief, sorrow, and loneliness threatens the coastlines of old souls. Another dear friend, beset with the uninvited changes of age and decreasing physical condition, struggles with the tension between trying to live life independently or surrendering to this painful challenge by transitioning to an assisted-living environment.

Just last week, I spoke to a man whom I have known all my life. He is about my age, has enjoyed physical health through the years, lives in his own home, and works hard to make a living. Three months ago, he found himself not feeling very well on an ordinary, seemingly routine day of his life. The next day, he mysteriously felt worse. The next morning he could not get out of bed because his legs wouldn’t move. Apparently, a very rare neurological condition attacked his system and now he is adjusting to what may very well be living out the rest of his years in a wheelchair.

All of these natural and personal disasters are tribulations that we experience in this world. No one is immune from catastrophe. There is no inoculation against loss and hardship. Hurricane Irma will be utterly impartial toward millionaires and paupers alike as she unleashes her fury upon Florida over the course of the next three days.

My dearest friend once said,“In this world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” Jesus, the Carpenter of Nazareth, knew that tribulations are not possibilities, they are eventualities. Sooner or later, we all know or will know what it’s like to be lost in the storm of a hurricane, or the storms of the soul where advanced age, decreasing physical health, poverty, hardship, job loss, confusion, anger, or piled-up resentment crash upon the human heart. They all lead to the same place: tears, anguish, despair.

That’s where Hosanna comes in. We were born to help those who are crying out for God’s help, and by the grace and provision of God, we will help! We will rebuild ruined houses, we will construct new homes, we will craft handicap ramps, we will continue to go where He leads us to help those who are hurting, and we will do so, not with the hammer of anger but with the hammer of love, for that is what Jesus Christ used to “overcome” this world.

We can try to prevent catastrophe, but we are in truth powerless against it. But we can, should, and will help when hardship falls for this is the most important work in all the world: to bring hope to the hopeless, faith to the fearful, love to the forgotten.

I send you peace today, dear friend, in this world of dynamic despair. Do not be afraid. Fill your heart with love. Trust God. Forgive your adversaries. Play a beautiful song on the piano. Paint a beautiful picture. Write a beautiful letter. Pray without ceasing. Support worthwhile efforts sacrificially. And always remember these two things: The Lord is at hand, and next year’s lilies will one day bloom. Storm clouds might gather and terrible energies might collide but the power of love goes on forever.

~DDE

Read more in our 2017 September Newsletter

Hurricane Harvey Response

01 September

In response to the inquiries we have received about our involvement in Hurricane Harvey rebuilding:

Yes, we anticipate helping needy households rebuild in the Houston area in response to widespread property damage and loss due to Hurricane Harvey.  We are prayerfully considering future efforts to act, not as “first responders”, but as “primary charitable rebuilders” after the water has receded and initial recovery efforts are underway.

Hosanna Industries travels to areas of disaster to help with the mobilizing of large groups of volunteers to build and repair homes damaged by tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, or other catastrophic events to bring hope and restoration to hurting individuals and communities.   We’ve worked after multiple disasters, including Hurricanes Andrew, Floyd and Katrina, among others.   In 2005, Hosanna assisted over 500 households with rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Ivan flooded parts of the Pittsburgh region.  We are currently in the midst of rebuilding Richwood, WV, after the 2016 “thousand year flood,” and have helped 32 households so far  this year, implementing the labor efforts of our staff of mission worker, skilled subcontractors, and more than 900 volunteers.

Because of our extensive and varied experience with disaster relief and rebuilding, we see disaster recovery  as a multiple phase process.  These phases, can be described  as follows:

  1. Immediate emergency intervention (rescue, emergency relocation and temporary shelter/food/medical care, etc)
  2. Initial cleanup and utility restoration following the cessation of the initial calamity
  3. Evaluation and strategic community-based consensus building
  4. Actual physical rebuilding/reconstruction/repair
  5. Continuing analysis, evaluation, and long-term recovery problem solving

Our current news media culture often depicts disaster and recovery as happening almost simultaneously or suggesting that this be so, and public expectations sometimes project the same views. In the actual field of disaster recovery, this is not the case, should not be expected to be the case, and in many ways simply cannot be the case tactically and logistically.

It will take some time for the first few phases to be complete, and some funds.  In reality, the most expensive phase is #4, and the immediate fundraising that happens after a natural disaster is often meant for  or used toward the first two phases only.  Unfortunately, our culture has a short attention span and when the time for actual  rebuilding begins, the culture and news media will have moved on to new topics, while Houston is left trying to rebuild, at costs initially estimated to be some $40 billion dollars.

 

Hosanna Industries is requesting a few things:

  1. Prayers for people affected by Hurricane Harvey
  2. Let us know if you were personally affected, or have any connections with agencies in the area that may need help with rebuilding efforts.  We are specifically looking to help under-insured or under-resourced homeowners.  (The Washington Post estimates that 80% of those affected do not have flood insurance.)
  3. Keep us in prayer as we explore the possibilities, come up with a plan, and begin fundraising, volunteer recruitment, and organizational  efforts.

About Hosanna Industries: Hosanna Industries was founded in 1990 as a faith-rooted, non-profit mission whose work involves a variety of charitable initiatives aimed at helping our needy neighbors.  By the grace of God and through the mechanical and aesthetic arts, mission workers at Hosanna Industries build and repair homes for needy households; teach and lead classes and workshops in art, nature and spirituality; and train young people in construction skills.  Since our founding in 1990 Hosanna Industries has provided around $52 million worth of charitable work to the community for around $15 million.  We depend on the generosity of others to complete our work.

 

Hammers Hearts and Hands, June 2017

22 June

One year ago, the little village of Richwood,WV was brutalized by the floodwaters of nature’s storms. This already struggling community, beset with the decades-long decline of coal-mining, lumber-mill slowdowns, economic drift, population loss and systemic depression, found itself suddenly torn apart by the raging torrents of the normally quiet Cherry River when more than 6” of rainfall burst the river from its banks.

Floods take a toll upon a town. The property loss, interruption in utility services, transportation problems, mud, stench, destruction, and disarray are nearly more than a human heart can handle. Moving forward is hard when you can’t see the horizon through the immensity of debris. If one were to try to describe the most manageable aspect of a flood, it would be the water itself in all its ferocious power. The hardest part of a flood is what’s left behind when the water subsides.

Hopelessness is the worst of human ailments because when a person loses hope, it’s hard to see positive potential in a sunrise. When a town loses hope, it’s hard to see tomorrow.

A year ago, we flew into the area on an investigative mission and landed at the closest runway at the Greenbrier Valley Airport, about an hour’s drive from Richwood. Geoff Smathers graciously piloted the Piper Lance aircraft that had been gifted to Hosanna Industries by Norm Carroll just a few years earlier. Mission workers Brian Hetzer, Julie Wettach and Amanda Becker accompanied me as we drove to Richwood to meet with local leaders for the very first time.

As we walked into the makeshift community-center in the heart of town, introductions were given and received, strangers shook hands, and we sat together in a little circle of folding chairs. We prayed. The first words uttered by Hosanna afterward were simply these,“We believe God has led us to your town. We are sorry for all that you have lost. We are here to find out if we can be of help, and if so, how we can best deliver that help to you.”

Much has happened since then. I just returned from Richwood after experiencing with many other people a new kind of flooding that is leaving its mark upon the town. It’s a flood of healing and helpfulness, a flood of hard work being done well by many hands that are coming to the area. It’s a flood of rebuilding, repairing, restoring, rejuvenating. It’s a flood of God’s grace happening in thousands of different ways one day at a time. It’s a flood of green trucks and green shirts communicating a message of hope and joy and love.

At this mid-way point in the year, and after numerous journeys to Richwood by our mission workers and volunteers, nearly 20 rehabilitation projects have already been completed. By the end of July, I am confident that we will meet the needs of 30 suffering households. By the end of September, I believe we will reach the goal of bringing assistance to at least 40 households in that community. In the course of doing all this work, the mission expects to spend some $650,000 in providing building materials, furnaces, washers and dryers, and the skilled labor required to get the work done. We have already hosted hundreds of volunteers in the local abandoned armory, which has been thoroughly refitted as an emergency volunteer base and charitable construction center, and we expect to work with hundreds more before year’s end.

Two evenings ago, while preparing to return home the next day to meet local commitments, I found myself privileged to address the nearly 90 volunteers from the Avon Lake United Church of Christ, and upon their invitation, to proclaim God’s eternal Word and to serve Holy Communion in the context of an armory-hall evening worship service. I preached from one of the great post-resurrection passages in the Gospel of John, Chapter 20, verses 19-23, emphasizing the words of the Risen Lord to the shocked and bewildered disciples of 2000 years ago. “Peace be with you,” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, so send I you.” I reminded those gathered of the call of Christ, and how this calling is always personal and powerfully transforming, and perpetual in its eternal results. Then, humbly and quietly, I invited them to the Table of the Lord Jesus Christ, this one made of a piece of plywood with 2×4 legs and braces. We broke His Bread and outpoured His Cup, and as those dear young people already exhausted from the hard day’s work eagerly came forward with their adult leaders and our wonderful mission workers to receive communion, a tear welled up in my eye and I wondered about the fragile nature of life, how each and all of us are incomplete and broken, riddled with the damage of sin and pride and the floods of service to self.

Then I thought of another flood, the one of God’s gracious love, the one that provides healing to our hurts, forgiveness for our sins, redemption and meaning to our lives. I thought of how that flood provides fuel and trucks and workers and tools and machines and materials and even airplanes and pilots to answer the Hosanna cries in our world and the words from an old hymn came into my mind.

“There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins; And sinners, plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains…”

There are all kinds of floods in this world, dear friend. Most of them can lay a place or a person to waste. One of them can lift a person up to a new start, a season of reconstruction and building, a time of joy instead of sorrow.

Thank you, dear Hosanna friend, for helping in all the ways you do, to provide for the flood of God’s grace and love to this world of deep need.

~DDE

Read the rest of the 2017 June Newsletter here.

2017 Summer Staff Wanted

19 May

We are looking for 2017 summer staff!
Each summer we hire a few high school or college age students to support our efforts during the busy summer months. For some high school students, it is an introduction into the building trades and allows them to further consider their career possibilities.  For other students, working with us introduces them to a whole new world and their hearts and minds are opened to needs they never knew existed. Contact us f you’re interested in learning more.

Perks to Pray and Play: Mihelic’s Shop ‘n Save

10 April

Perks to Pray and Play is a rebate program available at the four Mihelic Shop ‘n Save locations where they allow customers to Register your existing Perks card under Hosanna Industries. As you shop, they track your purchases by your Shop ‘n Save card. Then they give 2% of qualified purchases in gift cards to Hosanna Industries.

Example: If you register your Perks card with this program & spend $500 a month on groceries at any of the four Mihelic Shop ‘n Save stores, $10 a month in gift cards will be donated to Hosanna Industries from Shop ‘n Save.

This program doesn’t affect your regular gas perks that you get & it doesn’t cost anything.  The more people that choose Hosanna Industries as their Perks to Pray and Play recipient & shop at one of the four Mihelic Shop ‘n Save locations, the more gift cards will be gifted to the mission.

Four Mihelic Shop ‘n Save locations:

  1. Glenshaw Shop ‘n Save
    917 Butler Street
    Pittsburgh, PA 15223
    (412) 487-1460
  2. Pines Plaza Shop ‘n Save
    1130 Perry Highway
    Pittsburgh, PA 15237
    (412) 367-5115
  3. Rochester Road Shop ‘n Save
    814 Rochester Road
    Pittsburgh, PA 15229
    (412) 931-0743
  4. Richland Mall Shop ‘n Save
    5375 William Flynn Highway
    Gibsonia, PA 15044
    (724) 443-8420

To register your Perks card & choose Hosanna Industries as your charity recipient:

  1. Complete this form & bring it into one of the four stores listed above.
  2. If you do not already have a Shop ‘n Save Perks card, you can simply stop by the service desk in one of these stores & an employee will gladly get you taken care of & registered for our Perks to Pray and Play program.