Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007-Faith and festival -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007-Faith and festival

Fire boat welcome
As the crowd gathered for the official opening ceremonies, Los Angeles Fire Department Fire Boat 2 threw jets of water skyward all over the shipping channel. Used to fight fires on ships and boats in port, it gushed gloriously for the celebration.

The richness of Los Angeles’s many cultures and the worldwide work of Habitat for Humanity in nearly 90 countries were jointly celebrated in worship service Sunday morning in the Port of Los Angeles, just down the hill from the San Pedro build site.

Voices in languages from all over the world spoke the verse from
Micah 6:8

“He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Pastor Josip Benk of the Seventh Day Adventists spoke in Croatian. Pastor Hovard Osland of the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Pedro proclaimed in Norwegian. Staff from Habitat for Humanity International added their voices in Tagalog, Korean and Swahili. Jose Tobar, the son of a homeowner family of the JCWP 1995 in Los Angeles, handled Spanish and English.

Erin Rank, CEO of Greater Los Angeles, said her city was a place where cultures came together: 224 language are spoken somewhere in the metro area.

A voice from the praise band from Hope Chapel in San Pedro, which sang at the worship service, said “Our God is God over all the earth.”

Little Jose

At the multicultural worship service celebrating the start of JCWP 2007, Jose Tobar read in Spanish and English. Tobar is the son of Jose and Maria Tobar, a partner family who moved into a Habitat home 12 years ago, the last time the JCWP was in Los Angeles.

“I still praise God for that opportunity he gave us,” said Tobar, 27, known in his family as “Little Jose.”

Tobar was a teenager when his family moved into their Habitat house in the Watts neighborhood. He recalls being completely overcome with emotion during all the media coverage at the time.

“I couldn’t express how I felt,” he said, “so I just cried.”

Now a college graduate who works for a credit union, Tobar says he doesn’t know what would have happened to his family if they had not become Habitat partners when he was 15.

“I can’t imagine where we would be,” he said. “I never would have gone to college, and I would never have discovered that I have a passion for working for people.”

Festival time

The Habitat Festival started at noon in a broad paved expanse of the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.

An arch of Habitat blue and green floated above the crowd as they entered a sea of white tents with street names borrowed from the city. Habitat sponsors manned booths; food vendors offered everything from funnel cake to barbecue – and water, because this bright sunny day was hot!

Seagulls and ship loaders moving piggyback containers looked on while families, volunteers and staff registered and celebrated. A telescope on a platform let folks peer at Harborside Terrace, the 16 duplexes now wrapped in blue, which volunteers will finish this week. A cardboard cutout of former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Habitat’s most famous volunteer, stood nearby.

Festival celeb

Spotted walking around the Habitat Festival L.A. was actor Barry Pepper (“Flags of Our Fathers,” “Titanic,” etc.). He has been a Habitat volunteer and advocate since being introduced to the organization by director-screenwriter Randall Wallace (founder of Hollywood for Habitat) and actor/producer Steve Zapotoczny, organizer of the 2007 Habitat Festival.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting involved in the Habitat network,” Pepper said. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity to give back.”