Spirit House II is no dream job, the kitchen floor isn't something I'd be happy to be walking on and when we removed the refrigerator, well you don't even want to see that picture! But just like with Unit I, we knew the task before us was for a special daughter of Christ with no options and great fear about her future so we rallied up a team and started in.
Each time we take over a new unit we take over new projects. Mark and I are sure the day when we purchase our first home together, we will have so much experience in home renovations that nothing will be beyond what we feel ready to tackle!
The first weekend had Mark and his brother Ronnie, plastering holes in the walls and measuring for flooring tile, removing receptacle covers and outlet covers to prepare for painting and patching nail holes where pictures and posters once hung.
But here we are at Unit II; preparing for the release of our new sister, Bree, who is anticipating her release on August 12, in less than a month.
As with Belinda's unit, no matter how we put the pencil to calendar, we keep finding it takes about 1 month of Saturdays to get the work done and the beautification complete. That's just the manual labor. It usually takes me a week of phone calls to get utilities turned on in my name (can't get anyone to understand that they should be in the name of the ministry for record keeping but because these aren't commercial properties they just won't do it but I think I've ranted about that before!)
Then its the gathering of the volunteers! This past weekend we were blessed with two newly returned Army servicemen, recently back from Iraq. Their heart for service doesn't end at their deployment, it seems just a wonderful part of who they are and we thank them greatly for their humor, spirit and willingness to jump in!
Then the donations of furniture and household goods, clothes and hygiene and the normal stuff we all learn to take for granted came pouring in from the women's ministry at First Baptist Church in Copperas Cove. Nothing is too small and no detail was overlooked so when we begin to make pretty and finalize the unit it is sure to come together as perfectly as Spirit House I did.
In any one of these units as there are dozens of things you have to remember when putting the place together.
Think of the last time you moved into a new house. It probably wasn't a run down, slum area of your town (maybe it was?) but you still had so much to get accomplished. You scrubbed every floor, bathtub, toilet and cabinet inside and out. There was shelf paper to lay before the glasses went inside. There was shower curtains to hang, new rings for the curtain to buy because somehow you lost two of them on the move from place A to B. There was the new drapery rods that didn't work now on the new windows and the curtains you took with you were a lot more faded than the new paint you just put on the new walls. Details. Things you didn't think about but had to do something about to make it feel liveable and like home to you.
We do the same thing for each of these units as they come together and get them put in a condition that provides a haven for rejuvenation and demonstrates God's abundant love even in modest circumstances.
I'll be real honest. There are times when Mark and I get overwhelmed by the duty we feel bound to follow through on; providing housing and basic necessities to those the world would rather forget.
The same kindness was once shown each of us; through the pastor who took me in after my incarceration and through Mark's brothers and sisters in law after his DWI's. The love, kindness and provision has not been forgotten by us. It drives us to keep going. It always urges me to remember when I walked out of jail with relief and gratitude that I had somewhere to go. I had a shower, real shampoo and a bed waiting for me. Every detail I might need had been thought about. A room decorated, new bedclothes purchased. A table and chair brought in. A television with cable sat atop a dresser.
When the joy is seen on the faces of those we serve, we feel the gratitude and love from the women we house and write to and provide for. We revel in the relief and joy we are able to witness when they walk out the gates of prison. We feel the blessings in sharing this experience. In those moments I admit to wondering if I'm doing this for those moments, for those words of praise and thanks given my way. I cannot help but enjoy and bask somewhat in their expressions of gratitude toward me when I know the only reason Mark and I are able to do this is because of the abundant love God is sending through us. God keeps growing our business so we can grow the ministry. I never want to forget that God provides all and simply uses us to provide.
We don't want to ever feel we are doing this for any other reason than to show that God works in all places, through all of His followers and ALWAYS for His glory, not ours. I also know He is using a large army of volunteers, donors and others who are beginning to have the same spark fired in them to assist us in our mission to love God's daughter's out of the darkness of their past to the beautiful light of His future plans for them.