Habitat for Humanity Land Purchased!

Habitat Logo

It is an exciting moment for those of us who have been slogging through board meetings for the past year with no land in sight to all of a sudden have an offer accepted.  This Duxbury land is both affordable and appropriate to our mission and needs.  We will begin work immediately spreading the news that we have found land and starting the groundwork that will allow the many, many people who have indicated they would help when we found land, to actually be put to work.  We will be starting the search for homeowners who meet the criteria and begin preparing the land located on Morse Road, just off of Crossett Brook Road.

As excited as I am about the prospect of work ahead building a house and settling a family, I am intrigued by theologian Laura Stivers brave critique of Habitat.  It must be said before I quote her that she and I both recognize the power and the beauty of Millard Fuller’s dream being realized.  Hers is a larger concern that we not forget, even while we build habitat houses, that a systemic change is still required and that the enormous size of that change is most adequately suited to big government.

In some ways, Habitat helps well-off volunteers feel good about themselves by assisting the poor, but it fails to break down the we/them divide. . .  The charitable response of Habitat is the kind of charitable response that will always be needed, but doesn’t help the poorest of the poor.  It’s not really addressing homelessness. [1]

Her point is very well taken and not taken as a criticism of Habitat for Humanity nor of the thousands of volunteers who contribute so much time. Stivers asks instead whether we also ought to be prophetically addressing the “capitalist structures” that perpetuate huge income inequalities in our country and in our world. She worries whether the families being “served” by the Habitat program are in fact playing into a role (the “deserving poor”) instead of breaking out of poverty.

These are real and important criticisms to be aware of as we select a family and build a house together. If these thoughts and this process can spur us to hear in the prophet Isaiah’s words as words addressed to us Habitat volunteers then we come close to Millard Fuller’s dream:

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? And now I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall be devoured; I will break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. I will make it a waste; it shall not be pruned or hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are his pleasant planting; he expected justice, but saw bloodshed; righteousness, but heard a cry! Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you . . . Isaiah 5:3-8

Join us, won’t you, on this journey into discovery and service, of change and grace amidst change.  And may the words of the prophets calls us to proper accounting.

1. Vital Theology, “Causes of Homelessness Left Untouched,” Laura Stivers, March 2009.

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