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Hosanna: a hand that can open the doors to Hope in a person’s life

13 May

A part of the work that I enjoy the most at the mission is a bi-weekly practice I call speccing jobs. Its a time when I hop in a green truck, sometimes with another mission worker, and go out to visit with potential homeowners to determine if their situation/ conditions are a good match for receiving help from the mission. Recently while visiting one of many clients we have on a long waiting list, I experienced one of the rare times, in roughly 2000 visits, where I found myself caught up in the plight of this new friend.

“Mrs. Smith” was a divorced woman of 57 years old who was taking care of her 34 year old bi-polar son and her granddaughter. She was a polite and very receptive woman to the offer of our help in replacing her hot water tank. She described that its been tough taking sponge baths in the sink for the past 4 months with a wash cloth. This was a straight forward, “easy” spec I thought to myself as my mind was preoccupied with moving on to the next visit. We started filling out paperwork and I explained to her that due to our current schedule, help in this case should be coming in about three or four days. She described to me that it would be best to keep in touch as to when we would be arriving because she would be going into the hospital. In my hurriedness I said ok I will and could you please sign here and here.

I stood up, shook her hand, and started for the door while smiling and thanking her for the visit. I decided to ask her what she was going into the hospital for and this is when the real visit began. She calmly said she was diagnosed with cancer three days ago and had to get some more tests done. She now had my attention. Shame on me. I asked her what type of cancer it was and she said she had three baseball sized cysts in her abdomen and that it was Ovarian cancer. I tried harder than any of the other visits I have made in the past 19 years to maintain my composure, but I became almost overwhelmed with emotion and had to turn away for a moment. I cried. I had lost my mom to Ovarian cancer three years ago and it really hit home. Her spirit was broken but her strength to want to care for her kids was remarkable. She had gone without hot water for four months and just wanted to take a hot shower before her doctor’s visit the next day. I prayed with her and said I would be in touch. She had hot water that same night, on Ash Wednesday.

I was excited to share this story with the staff! I was excited to be in a position to help this child of God. I am proud to work at a mission that can bring this simple type of help immediately. We are fortunate to have relationships with businesses that are in a position to donate the materials to install it. This visit once again reminded me that poverty of spirit can hide its face and we really have to look hard for it sometimes. You see, this woman had an income of only $8,000 a year and her house was impeccable. This visit reminded me once again that the mission is a hand that can open the doors to Hope in a persons life.

-Brian Hetzer, mission worker

Builder’s Perspective

06 May

Builder's PerspectiveI don’t know when it started and I sure don’t know why. Maybe it’s always been this way, but we live in a world that segregates. It’s not always bad. I would find it rather awkward if I bought shoes at a fruit stand, but you know what I’m saying don’t you? It’s been like this for quite some time now. Black vs. white, Rich vs. poor, gay vs. straight, republican vs. democrat. “Oh, you’re presbyterian? Oh, well you can go over in that line over there. Oh, you were born into money? Well, you won’t fit in here, you should probably go over there, somewhere. Your hair, yeah, you, it’s kind of different from mine. I can’t really get into that, we should probably not hang out in the same circle.” Wow. We sure do have a hard time fitting things together. It can be done. Builders do it all the time.

What do a 2×4 a nail a bucket of mud and a shingle have in common? Nothing. They are in all ways nothing alike, but a builder doesn’t care. A builder doesn’t care about the fact that all of these materials are different from the next. A builder doesn’t care that they came from different factories in different parts of the country. A builder cares about the character of each of these things and that builder cares about putting them all together to make something useful and beautiful.

Have you ever seen a house with all the 2×4’s in one pile and all the drywall in another pile and and and… No, you haven’t, that would be ludicrous. A home, a church, a warehouse, a school, these buildings are all made of separate components that without one another would fail. Try putting a wall together with just lumber. Good luck. Don’t invite me over when it’s windy out.

Now I’m sure some of you might be saying “Well, Emily, builders have an advantage. Building materials don’t have brains and opinions. Building materials don’t fight you.” Well, I don’t like to be argumentative, but if you’ve ever worked with them, yes, they sure do fight you. I don’t like to admit it but there’s a few times when I was even a little younger than I am now that actually let a crooked 2×4 or a heavy sheet of drywall defeat me. I just couldn’t get the darn thing to do what it was intended to do and I gave up! Probably after I kicked it, but I gave up.

Wouldn’t it be something if The Lord gave up on us for not doing what we were intended to do?

He is the ultimate builder. The master craftsman. I wonder if He’s using an Estwing?

My point is (and yes, I’m getting to it) that whatever you are, a 2×4, a nail, a shingle, you are useful and beautiful in the Lord’s design. A good builder doesn’t throw out a crooked piece of wood. He works with it, tweaks it, makes it beautiful even. And so does The Lord with us. We aren’t in a scrap pile. After all the mistakes we’ve made he’s still trying to make us useful. Go out there friend, be a builder. Work with all materials, learn how they work and why, love them.

So amen for crooked boards and knots in wood. Amen for stubborn pieces of drywall. Amen for being different in this big beautiful house The Lord has made.

-Emily Cadenhead, mission worker

“How did you get here?” Amy Lee’s Story

30 April

Hi, my name is Amy, but if you know me at the mission you probably know me as Amy Lee. I am a born Pittsburgher, fluent yinzer and Willie’s mom. One of my favorite questions is, how did you become a mission worker?

Short answer: God and my big brother Dave.

I could stop there but God gave me a pretty good story so stick with me! Born and raised in a small coal mining town I knew that there were needy people, just unaware until my 20’s of how much need there really was. I left the Burgh for several years – I went searching for my calling in life. Little did I know that it would take thousands of miles and too many addresses to recall to bring me back home. In 2000, my brother Dave and now sister-in-law Teresa, were visiting me out west and were planning an April 2001 wedding. While talking with him, he suggested that I arrive a few weeks early to help build a few homes in one week. After chuckling and explaining to him what he already knew about my non-existent skill set, I tried to decline. He assured me I would be fine. He insisted in his own way that I needed to be a part of this. So it was April 8th that Willie and I arrived at Morledge Chapel for orientation and followed a centipede line of cars full of strangers from all over the country and several green trucks to a place called New Castle. First observations of New Castle, not so new. Second observation, we are all cramming into a church basement, except for Willie (he would guard the truck).

The week is a bit of a blur and I’ll explain that soon. I remember being a part of it, but not quite certain what I was doing except walking a lot, there was a lot of walking. You do a lot of walking when you are geared up with your Hosanna nail sack and volunteer tape measure and some kind person asks you to find a 2″ x 4″ for them and you haven’t a clue that what they are really wanted was a 1 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ board. (Insert laugh here). Yeah, lots of walking but far more kindness and love than walking.

All I really knew was that when Good Friday rolled around there were plants, porches, people and brand new homes! Really this is what my brother and all these green shirted men and women and all these 7-70 year old volunteers were a part of, oh and I was too? I couldn’t believe it! No, seriously, I couldn’t.

After searching for some menial job for my six month stint in Pittsburgh all the meanwhile volunteering for about a month and nobody hiring me or interviewing me I realized it was a big neon sign that had an arrow pointing to hosanna industries. Convincing myself that there was really nothing for me to do or be helpful with(remember the 2″x4″ story from above), I got a little bit of a spiritual kick.

See, we helped a family during the volunteer month that lived very close to where I grew up. I couldn’t understand why we would be there. That’s when it hit me, these are my neighbors, these are all of our neighbors. It’s not about what you don’t know as much as it is knowing that you are called to do what you are doing. I love people, I love helping people, I love variety.

My plan: 6 months in Pittsburgh for family weddings, then add another 6 months to help my brother build his home. . After a year I looked back and realized that during April 8th – April 13th 2001 it wasn’t a blur at all – it was transformation. It just took a little long to clear up the blur.

The story hasn’t ended… Continually I’m reminded of the blessing and responsibility we have to be a blessing to another… I continue to meet a volunteer whose life has been changed by learning something new or a family whose life is changed and full of hope because of a new modest ho,e that strangers built, and I continue to meet that elderly widow whose life is blessed by someone simply caring.

So how did I become a mission worker? God used my brother Dave.

-Amy Lee Firek, mission worker

Words From Their Mouths

21 March

The first semester of the Terrell Trade Skill Learning Center is coming to a close. We’ve poured our time, talent, and treasure into the lives of the young men attending this program. I had the immense privilege of participating in the end of the semester interviews of four of the young men. I’m not sure my words can adequately describe this moment in my life. You’d have to meet the men yourselves. You’d have to see them. Shake their hands. Hear the words from their mouths.

My background is so very different from theirs. They know the ghetto. They have experience with gangs. They understand life on the street. They know pain and suffering and poverty like I’ll never know.

Yet they yearn for more. They want a future. They want to better themselves. 23 year old Eric looks at two men aged 55 and 62. He says, “Where I come from you don’t see many men your age living… and doin’ good.”

And my mind reels… You don’t see many 60 year old men living? Where do you come from? Some third world country? No, I know you live half an hour from my own home. Where are your men? Where’s your dad? Who’s your role model? How are you going to learn to be a man? Who’s going to teach you to be a daddy to the baby you’re expecting in five short months?

And suddenly I know that I am incomprehensibly blessed. No matter what I struggle with today it is nothing compared to what these young men have experienced day in and day out all of their lives. And here they are. Putting their feet on the floor every morning. Deciding they want more. Not that they deserve more, not that they’ve even seen what “more” looks like, not that they know what this “more” is. But they want it. And they are learning to trust that we might be able to help them get there.

Mike, slouched in his seat with his hoodie pulled up, looking at the floor and fiddling with his feet, is really quite eloquent. He says it best. “When I first came here I couldn’t picture myself in an environment like this. I was angry. But I committed myself to being a part, to learn what I can, and not to distract others. I did what I said I would and I’ve come to like it. I have a feel for being here, for wanting to be here. I think the people here are good people. They make me feel welcome, a family feeling, you know what I mean? It makes me want to get up in the morning and come out here. You see our different backgrounds. You can’t really understand them, you know what I mean? But you work with us. Everyone’s patient.”

We’re throwing our heart and soul into these young lives and we might be the first people they’ve ever known to do that. But they’re doing even more. They’re learning to trust. The relationships they’ve known in the past haven’t helped them learn that. And once they dare to trust, their whole world will change. They will have the opportunity to learn and grow and dream of a bright future. They will have the chance to make something of themselves. They will be men. And their little boys will have role models worth looking up to.

Thank God for people with visions who are willing to step out in faith and act upon them.

-Julie Wettach, Mission Worker


What I Learned

14 March

I learn something new everyday.

Take that back, I learn so many new things everyday, that it has become a constant occurrence.

When I first came on the summer staff at Hosanna Industries in the summer of 2011, I knew I had a great deal to learn. I had no prior experience in the construction field.

Since being on the full time field staff, which started at the beginning of this past summer (2012), I have learned so much more than can be expressed in one blog post. But one of the things that I have recently learned is, in order to do God’s work, it takes a lot of risk and a whole lot of faith. There are numerous clients that we help on a regular basis that don’t know what the next steps are going to be, or what tomorrow holds, or if they will live to see tomorrow. We just have to trust God and have the faith that He knows what He is doing and that He is the one in control. Doing God’s work is risky business, because the road ahead isn’t always perfectly clear and lined up the way we would want; all we can do is trust God’s plan at the moment and do the best that we can do with it.

This is what Hosanna Industries is known for – its “faith based” composition.

-Katie DeJournette, Mission Worker