'Something to dedicate myself to'

By Bret Wims, financial consultant for Thrivent Financial and Habitat for Humanity volunteer


Thrivent Builds: By the numbers

  • Since 2005
  • 576,871 volunteers
  • 4,047,226 hours (or 468.43 years)
  • 3,579 homes built or repaired
  • More than $200 million committed

Editor’s note: In this National Volunteer Week, we celebrate the more than 4 million volunteer hours that Thrivent Builds has logged with Habitat since 2005. Bret Wims is one of the many dedicated volunteers who has helped make this milestone happen.

When my Bible study group read the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren in 2006, I was inspired by what he said about doing global work to help others, but I wanted to wait for the right opportunity.

In 2007, Thrivent Financial announced their $120 million, four-year pledge to support Habitat, and I realized this was the perfect fit I had been looking for.

I was part of the first Thrivent Builds trip to Guatemala that year, and I knew as soon as I got there this was something I wanted to dedicate myself to. Since then I have made 10 trips to Guatemala to help build safe, decent homes.

Every Thrivent Builds trip is special in its own way, but in September 2012, I participated in a trip to Panajachel, Guatemala, that I will never forget. Our team of 30 volunteers, mostly members of my church, worked on five houses in the village.

The site where we were building was spectacular, cut into the side of a mountain, in a cornfield with a beautiful view of Lake Atitlan. It was a very typical Guatemala build: lots of hauling cinder blocks into place, putting together rebar ladders, sifting sand, mixing concrete and mortar and filling the gaps in the blocks once they had been set in place.

The family we were building with included our homeowner and her four children, her parents and a couple of her siblings and their kids — something like 12 to 15 people — who had been living for years in a small home of about 600 square feet.

On Friday, we held our dedication ceremony for the new house. We said a prayer in English, the family said one in Spanish, with our interpreter Brenda helping everyone understand. We presented them with a Spanish language Bible.

With Brenda interpreting, the adults all thanked us profusely. Our homeowner started by thanking God for sending us to help. As she told us of her lifelong dream of one day having a home of her own, she started to cry. I was starting to get choked up and thought I might start crying. I felt I had to hold it together, even though volunteers crying at Habitat dedications is a long and honorable tradition.

Then the children got up and, one by one, told a similar story of how they had been dreaming of their own home. But they could only get part of their thanks out before they started crying uncontrollably. Every speech ended the same way – in tears.

I won’t confess to crying myself, but I still get choked up thinking about that little ceremony that day. Knowing I was able to be part of making that family’s dream come true makes me proud to be a part of Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity as a volunteer and Thrivent Financial as an employee.