A couple of years ago I wrote an article about an organization my wife and I started that we called Neighborhoods of Hope. The goal of this organization is to revitalize the downtrodden neighborhoods in our town. We purchase or help others find and purchase old, dilapidated houses, help them fix the houses up and then encourage them to live in them. If the home owner is not willing to move we then work with them to find Christian renters. Our goal is to flip neighborhoods, not houses. Our hope is that enough believers will move back into these tough neighborhoods and that their neighbors will be led to Christ. In the past two years we have been a part of the purchase and remodel of 5 homes. We pray in the next three years 15 more will be finished.
There is a huge difference between a house and a home. So many of the towns in Southwest AR do not have sustainable homes. We have apartment buildings and run down houses, but we do not have very many move-in ready homes. We do not need millions of dollars in government grants to build three and four story apartment buildings or low income housing. We have all the skills, money and drive to accomplish this task right here. Millions of dollars are not required. I’ve done two houses now for less than what we would have paid for one nice house. We are giving people work and creating homes for people who have none now. The key is heart.
The question that remains is do we care enough about our town to invest in its restoration? Affordable housing is one thing. Relationships with the men and women who will occupy these homes is another. Skills training for laborers is another. Wholesome activities for our kids to do in their spare time is another. An up and coming school district is another. A growing business sector is another. These are all pieces of our town moving forward and are being accomplished in varying degrees now. All except housing.
Dilapidated housing litters our streets. There are not many neighborhoods in town that don’t have at least one run down house. Many of our streets have addresses that we wouldn’t want our pets to live in much less real, live people. These houses can either be torn down or revitalized. It is not an option to keep patching here and there. If we tear them down we will have to build replacements in those spots. Why not fix what is already there? Why not restore?
This cannot happen apart from the work of Christ. Anyone can restore homes. But apart from Christ the home will be back in the same shape it was in before or worse in just a few years. Anyone can build property value, put on siding, replace rot and fix roofs. A few people can afford to do this over and over in the same neighborhood. But if residents and home owners are not trained to follow Jesus we are not making headway. Only in Christ will we see drugs leave, crime die, violence disappear and threats become empty. Only in Christ will we see people walk toward the good, listen to the truth and respond to wisdom. Only in Christ can sustainable homes be reproduced over and again. The best we can do on our own is build structures. Only Christ can build homes.
Will you be involved in this effort? There is no question it is hard. But what good thing is easy? There is also no question that there is a tremendous amount of joy in the task. My family absolutely loves our neighborhood! We love our neighbors! Arduous doesn’t begin to describe the level of work we have put into our two properties, but it has all been worth it. We would do it again in a heartbeat! What do we have to be afraid of? Our neighbors have become our friends. Our kids share back yards and basketball goals. We share produce and tools and laughs. Life is better because we followed God into a hard place for His glory.
If you would like more information about Neighborhoods of Hope and the neighborhood flipping idea give me a call: 870.777.5757. Let’s dream together about the need for homes that last. What will God do next? I don’t know but I pray that we can find out together!