Thursday, January 25, 2007

Faith Works 1-27-07
Jeff Gill

Faith Builds, Here And Globally

Licking County Habitat for Humanity is set to do a "Women Build" in March, sponsored by Lowe’s.Habitat is a global organization for faith-based homebuilding made famous by the likes of Jimmy Carter, Newt Gingrich, John Elway, and Jon BonJovi wearing carpenter’s aprons. It’s the involvement of community volunteers building alongside the person who will end up in and owning the house that makes Habitat, well, Habitat.

Why a "build," as HFH calls each project, with primarily women at work on the job site? Take a look at their website, which is easy to find at"Question: Why have Women Build? Can’t women learn construction on a regular Habitat site? Answer: Construction is still a male-dominated field. Because they are often more comfortable around tools and at job sites, men gravitate toward taking the lead in construction, and even smart, otherwise skilled women can end up with tasks such as painting, landscaping and cleaning up the site. These women rarely return for a second experience, but on a Women Build site, women are encouraged by other women to tackle all aspects of construction and quickly become skilled and engaged volunteers."

Makes good sense to me.

In keeping with their aim to provide low-cost housing with no-interest loans, backed by the sweat equity (that’s time and work) of the homeowner, Habitat will select a partner soon who needs the support of the local faith community to get into a home they will end up owning.They have a pool of candidates for their next build, but the ongoing dream is to receive support for two, three, and even four houses a year. If you want to help, call the local HFH office at 788-8778.

Just last week, over at the Ohio Ministries Convocation in Columbus, I attended a program where missionary staff returning from eight years overseas spoke of their work, which was largely through . . . yep, Habitat. Their true full name, in fact, is Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI for short), and they encourage each local chapter in this country to "tithe" an amount, ideally ten percent, of what they raise to go overseas where the builds are quite frankly hard to imagine.

What I saw in pictures was a six foot by six shack in Malaysian Borneo, home to a family of five. It sat on the bare earth, and when everyone laid down at night, at least one person had to go outside.

And it must be said: this tiny shack was beautiful. Well tended, each part in its place, but too small and unhygenic. Yet the natural beauty around, and the immaculate order of the house meant that Habitat couldn’t just throw up a frame ranch house with no trim and fling forest dwellers into the family room.

The next shot was of an attractive structure, set on short stilts, with window boxes filled with flowers. The homeowner partner had scavenged one liter bottles from the dump, and started flowers in them while her family sawed and swung hammers. When the dedication day came, they brought the now blossoming flowers to plant in those window boxes, and the new home was both larger, and just as beautiful.

We saw a mud house, one door, no windows, in Bangladesh. Their traditional building practices and available materials left no margin for windows, and so no light.

But the new build cleverly worked a plaster coating, made from local materials, onto a frame structure, so space, air, sunlight, and local custom were all honored.Then there was Indonesia, where two weeks before these missionaries arrived, a ninety foot wall of water had gone before. They worked with a taxi driver (pedal variety) who lost his wife and five children, and had already joined builds for four other families, but was willing to let a house go up for him when everyone else in Banda Aceh had gotten help.

In Banda Aceh, a million dollars built more than an Ohio contractor’s wildest dreams (think a buck a square foot, or less), from Christian bodies with outreach offerings called "Week of Compassion," "One Great Hour of Sharing," and "Church World Service." In conjuction with Habitat, many denominations multiplied their offerings for overflowing blessings.

Wouldn’t it be magnificent if our Licking County Habitat chapter was so well supported that they could build four houses a year and tithe to the global low-cost housing work of HFHI? The first step, though, is that team of women coming together for the next house.

And the homeowner partner will take care of making that house a home.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he’s helped start Habitat chapters in other states, and tried hard to lose a thumbnail more than once. Tell him about an exciting ministry through

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Notes From My Knapsack 1-28-07
Jeff Gill

Blogging in Newsprint and Ink

During the turn of the year holidays, a number of people told me they thought
my column here in "The Booster" sounded like a blog, and asked if that was

First, a note of explanation for those not wasting too much time on the
internet. A "blog" is short for "weblog," a regularly updated running narrative
usually filled with links that you can click to jump over to another web page
which relates to what you were talking about. Do enough clicking and linking,
and you will experience the odd rush of "surfing" the net, grazing the tops of
large reservoirs of data which, if you like, you can pause to dive down into

Or keep skimming from to to to,
dip your hand in the waters to leave a comment on a story, and surf on to and on and on.

Anyhow, the answer to the question is "sort of." Since this column began in
2001, I spend much more time reading internet material, and that’s no doubt
impacted by writing style. This "platform" in real, not virtual ink, is not
handy for typing a long "url" (universal resource locator) that you can put in
your browser window with an "http" (hypertext transfer protocol) address.

When I can point you, the reader, to resources with a starter link and a few
clues that could help you use Google or Dogpile or some other search engine to
find web materials, I do.

More to the question of "is this a blog?" is the idea that it is a kind of
ongoing conversation. I don’t shy away from picking up threads and carrying
forward stories, with what I trust is enough context to keep you reading even
if you haven’t been checking each week for six years. In that sense, I am
intentionally picking up the blogger ethos.

And wrap around that my awareness, from emails y’all send me and conversations
at the grocery store, that regular readers on paper are also more voracious
consumers of all media, especially web based. The news business is shifting
rapidly, and pundits and consultants of all stripes have opinions they’d love
to sell you as fact along with various bridges and swampland (or ethanol

My impression is not that the web is cannibalizing print newspapers ("dead
tree" media say the web-uber-hip), but that some readers are spreading out and
in fact upping their commitment, while others are drifting farther into the 379
channel wasteland. Organizations like the Gannett Corporation are trying to
figure out what readers want and where they’re going, and what ever the facts
turn out to be, the internet will be a significant part of it.

But wood pulp and ink on your fingers isn’t going to vanish. Less central to
everyone’s day, maybe, but perhaps it never was.

Next week, I’m told there will be a "new" Booster, with a format that sounds to
me like it is meant to echo and reinforce the web presence of our cousins at
the Newark Advocate and Granville Sentinel and Pataskala Standard. Larry Fugate
and I will still show up in these pages, plus lots of pictures, with the
welcome news that the pictures won’t be of us, other than the usual tiny one.

Maybe Lady will have a bigger photo.

That kind of strategy makes sense, and it won’t surprise me if someday I’m
asked to type four 150 word pieces a week to go online instead of one 700 word
column for print.

It won’t surprise me if I’m still writing "Notes From My Knapsack" another six
years from now, either.

So stay tuned, some of us will see you next week, and the rest will spread out
across the growing, changing landscape of Licking County news. And rest assured
my appreciation for you as readers is not virtual at all!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio;
reach him through the internet at