Today I had the good fortune of using my school division’s first ever “personal leave day”, to attend a Habitat house dedication. I was unsure at first whether to spend my day this way, but I’m so glad I did.
My friend Fana and her family, who emigrated to Winnipeg from Eritrea in north-east Africa, received her Habitat home today. I got to know Fana in the summer of 2011 when I worked with Habitat. Her stories of faith in God during difficult times was an encouragement to me. Fana would give me a warm hug every time I saw her. “We are now friends,” she told me more than once.
I was greeted with the same solid hug when I entered her new home today at 11 a.m. The house, still empty of furniture, was filled with well-wishers. Fana and her 4 children lined up the the living room (minus her husband who is presently in the hospital with a hopefully treatable stomach ailment) as the ceremony began.
One by one, people gave speeches to bless the home. A Habitat employee gave the family a toolbox with tools for any minor repairs in case they’d missed anything (“and if you call us, we can help you with it”, she was told). He also gave them a Bible as another tool they could use for the rest of life’s problems. One of Fana’s Canadian friends gave a warm speech about this loving family, and how deserving they were. Fana had told me about this friend last summer – an
“angel”sent to her to help them in their early settlement in Winnipeg. Now I heard from the friend how much she herself had been blessed from knowing Fana and her family. A win/win situation.
There were more gifts – Tim Horton’s coffee and coffee maker, a broom, shovel and water hose, and many other practical gifts, all given with gracious speeches.
It was all so moving because these were not just words. Many hundreds of loving hours had been given by volunteers to build and finish the house, not to mention companies who believe in Habitat’s vision and routinely donate shingles, skylights, labor and much more.
It’s sometimes difficult to believe in the good news of God’s love in this world filled with bad news stories. I am sometimes very discouraged at day’s end at the problems I see in people’s lives, or in the darkness such as anger in my own soul. But, standing in this living room, I saw a clear glimpse of God’s kingdom. People spoke of their vision of how children thrive when they have a stable, loving home; of wanting to give affordable, decent housing to many. The love for this family, still so new to Canada, was palpable. My eyes didn’t stay dry for one minute of the dedication ceremony. Their pastor prayed a blessing in their language. Even though I didn’t understand the literal words, their gratitude and dignity was moving.
In the end, Fana gave a speech. In her broken, beautiful English, she began, “My English is not good, but I will speak from my heart.” She went on to say thank you to many. Thank you too Fana, for the chance to witness God in your humble and loving life. And thank you God for giving someone the vision for Habitat for Humanity, a place that brings out the best in people.