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'Taking care of his sheep'

“We’re doing something that will last forever,” says A.J. Hermann, 16, a member of the Knox Presbyterian Church youth group of Naperville, Ill.

A.J. Hermann, 16, carries a strip of insulation to the house where it will be used.

He’s not talking about the pieces of plywood he’s driven nails into, or even the solid front door that will protect the new owners of the house he’s working on from cold and danger. Though these things are necessities, even luxuries for Benton Harbor’s 20 newest homeowners, they are only means to an end: A.J.’s donated week of work has made possible the solid ground on which these families can build for generations.

A.J. and his friends are participating in "Go & Serve," the church’s summer service program designed to get students excited about helping in their community. Its focus echoes the biblical commandment to serve Christ by seeing to the needs of others—by taking care of his sheep. It also echoes Habitat’s own core belief: that service to those in need is a natural part of experiencing Christ’s love.

“It makes you feel good about what you’re doing,” A.J. says. “I get something extra out of a Habitat build compared to other kinds of service. It’s great, giving someone a meal. But we’re helping people get a place to live.”

A.J. is sharing his excitement with his peers. He brought three friends along on this trip, and he says he will encourage others his age to get building with Habitat because of the positive experiences he’s had.

“It’s a lot of work,” he says. “I’d make sure they knew that. But I’d also tell them how good it makes you feel.”

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