Family’s faith a firm foundation -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Family’s faith a firm foundation
The Bowers family (from left) Spencer, Katherine, Amanda, Keith and Michelle. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, Pa.
From the basement of a Habitat home, a house of God grows
By Phil Kloer
In 1994, Keith Bowers wields a shovel while his wife, Michelle, and daughter, Amanda, supervise at the groundbreaking for their home. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, Pa.
The first meeting space for Solid Rock Community Church was in the basement of the Bowers family’s Habitat house. Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity of Franklin County, Pa.
By 10:30 a.m. on a typical Sunday, many in the congregation at Solid Rock Community Church have already been inside for a while, sharing informal fellowship.
Dressed casually, worshippers range from teenagers to folks in their 70s. Pastor Keith Bowers steps to the pulpit of the beautiful, old limestone church in rural Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and welcomes them all.
Two histories come together and intertwine in this church. The building itself dates back to 1853. As a German Reformed Church of Christ, it served as a way station for Union soldiers marching south during the Civil War. The current congregation, which bought the old building in 2007, traces its roots to 2001, when Bowers and his wife, Michelle, gathered a few friends together in the basement of their Habitat for Humanity house in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Bowers had moved into that house in 1994 with his wife, Michelle, and their 4-year-old daughter, Amanda. Before that, he said, “We were living back in the country in a rental house, down a half-mile dirt road. That winter was really bad, and the landlord wasn’t plowing the road to keep it open like he was supposed to. I was missing work.
“One morning we realized the furnace had caught fire during the night,” he said, “but the smoke detectors had not gone off. It’s a miracle we even woke up that morning.”
Keith worked at a local Christian bookstore, but he had been to Bible college and felt called to become a minister. Michelle was a stay-at-home mom. Money was tight, and their housing situation looked hopeless.
“Habitat got us out of a bad situation,” Keith said. “We could not have gotten a conventional loan at that point. Habitat put us into a decent house that allowed us to raise our family in comfort and security that we would not have had otherwise.”
Growing a family and a congregation
Now, three Bowers children have grown up in that Habitat house.
Amanda, a toddler when the family moved in, signed her name carefully on a wall stud underneath the drywall, a Habitat tradition. Now 22, she is a college graduate working as a graphic artist. Later this year, she will move to New York City to work in a ministry for inner-city children.
Her sister, Katherine, was born right before the Habitat house was dedicated in 1994. She will graduate from high school in May and has already been accepted at the Academy of Media Production in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She wants to be a photographer.
Their brother, Spencer, is 16 and interested in electronic music; he has rigged up a studio in his bedroom.
As Keith and Michelle were raising their family in their Habitat home, they were also raising Solid Rock.
In 2000, Keith was a part-time associate pastor at a Grace Brethren church. “I felt God calling me to do more in ministry,” he said. “I felt He wanted us to start something new and nontraditional that would reach people who weren’t going to come to a regular sticks-and-mortar church building.”