Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
Sometimes, a disaster draws attention to a pre-existing challenge in a community. When that happens, a church may have the opportunity to serve their neighbors in a time of crisis, while also addressing a deeper need. We are grateful that First Christian Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, answered such a call.
On May 22, 2019, an EF3 tornado struck Jefferson City, devastating most of the homes in its path--roughly 500 in all. These homes and apartments were primarily low-income households. In many cases, the owners decided to sell their lots and relocate. A rainy spring caused the Missouri river to flood and stay out of its banks for an extended time during this same period. These events exacerbated a bad situation for community residents who depend on the availability of affordable housing.
Prior to this incident, the Missions team at First Christian Church was already in conversation with their community about housing issues. Following the tornado and flood, the church knew it was time to act.
In pursuit of a multi-pronged approach to increase the availability of affordable housing within their community, First Christian Church is now partnering with Disciples Volunteering and Week of Compassion.
In August of 2019, First Christian Church agreed to accept a gift of property from longtime member Loise White, whose home had been destroyed by the May tornado. After her insurance company removed the home, she gifted the land to the church --with the intention that it would be used to address low-income housing needs in Jefferson City.
The Missions team began by familiarizing themselves-- and the congregation-- with what the process would involve and what partners they would need to work with. They met with several organizations that do work related to affordable housing. The congregation then participated in seven days of prayer in discernment of God's will regarding the future.
After that thoughtful process, the congregation voted in early February to gift the property to Habitat for Humanity.
Responding to the 2019 disasters, the Jefferson City chapter of Habitat has launched “Road to Recovery,” doubling their annual build goal from four houses to eight. They will break ground in March of 2020, and through a summer blitz, aim to complete four units in time for the new owners to move in by fall.
Along with the gift of property, the church will offer financial support and volunteer labor.
Meanwhile, the Missions team has also pledged support for a new non-profit launched by area churches. Similar to Habitat but targeting its support to renters, Transformational Housing has received a historic property that will be gutted and remodeled with 4-6 rental units for low-income households.
Now, mission teams are invited to share in the work of this new vision. Several rooms in the education wing are available for sleeping, with separate showers in the family life center, and the church offers a complete kitchen for preparing meals. First Christian Church looks forward to sharing their beautiful community with those who come to help. To sign up, visit www.discipleshomemissions.org/servants-needed
The Week of Compassion special offering theme this year is “Invest In Futures.” We are grateful for the faithful way in which FCC Jefferson City is investing in the future of its neighbors and community. With your support, Week of Compassion is prepared to respond immediately after disasters and remain long-term partners for the rebuilding process. With your help, we can also support congregations in serving their neighbors in times of crisis-- and far beyond, into the future.
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