Who is my neighbor? -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Who is my neighbor?

By Jonathan Reckford

In the 10th chapter of Luke, in the story of the Good Samaritan, an “expert in the law” asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

Do you ever ask yourself that question? What is your answer?

For a group of volunteers in Louisiana recently, the response would be simple. Taking a break from driving stakes to mark the foundation of a Habitat house, a heavy-set man straightened up, took off his big black hat and used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his brow.

He explained why he and several brothers, an uncle and some nephews—10 Mennonite men in all—had driven straight through from Pennsylvania to build a house with a young, single mother in Louisiana who had lost her home to Hurricane Katrina.

“When a neighbor’s barn burns down, we all go together and build another one,” he said.

When a neighbor is in need, whether that person lives just over the next hill or far away, those who pattern their lives after Jesus reach out to provide love and support. That is the basis of Habitat’s response to hurricanes and earthquakes as well as to the day-to-day disaster of poverty housing.

On that build site in Louisiana, a young mother shared a day of dusty labor with hard-working volunteers. Strength, perseverance and hope passed from hand to hand with a mallet and a shovel.

In the disaster response vocabulary, there’s a word for what this home partner and the black-hatted volunteers exemplify. It’s “resilience”: the ability to bounce back from the events of life that knock us down.

In building houses and communities with families around the world, we are helping our neighbors become more resilient in the face of inevitable and unavoidable storms and disasters. Surely, disaster response is in everything we do.

Jonathan Reckford is CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.