By Don French
Member of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
and Thrivent Builds volunteer
Don French with Habitat homeowner Carmel Ramsey
For the past five years, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Waukesha, Wisc., has set aside a week in May to help with Milwaukee Habitat’s Blitz Build Week and selected summer Saturdays to help complete those houses. In addition to our team efforts during the year, several congregation members have been motivated to serve on their own.
The story has not always been the same. In 2005 — the year Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced a partnership providing financial and volunteer support to Habitat — St. Luke’s gave zero volunteer hours to Milwaukee Habitat. The Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity kickoff meetings opened our suburban eyes to the glaring need for affordable, quality housing in Milwaukee’s low-income areas.
So on Monday, May 8, 2006, four St. Luke’s volunteers showed up for the first Thrivent Builds with Milwaukee Habitat Blitz Build Week. The experience was transformational and lit the Habitat service fire at St. Luke’s. Two Habitat Saturdays followed in 2006, and as they say, the rest is history.
As the partnership matured, St. Luke’s-sponsored teams shifted their focus from simple construction to building relationships — with homeowners, with fellow servants and with Habitat staff. We come together and give thanks for our ability to serve others. We understand all our blessings come from God and, as a team, share our thanks in the joy of service. Over the years, we have built strong relationships with the homeowners we have helped. We meet them on build week and help them finish their houses during the summer. Because of these strong relationships, homeowners generously agree to come to St. Luke’s and share their story with our congregation, and occasionally we’ve had the privilege of visiting them after they have settled into their dream — a new home.
So there you have it — passion coupled with structure and consistency that gives those who want to serve the opportunity to do so. Being able to provide that opportunity is a true partnership among homeowners, Milwaukee Habitat staff, Thrivent Financial, congregational leadership and vision and all those who serve. What a pleasure it is to be part of that cooperative, team effort.