SPRING HILL — Six local churches and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans recently joined hands with Habitat for Humanity of Hernando County to build a family a new home.
Today, the home will be dedicated.
"For Habitat people, this is the day we live for," said project leader Bill Yoos, "when we actually turn that house over to the Habitat partner."
Thrivent Builds, the name for the organization formed in 2005 by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Habitat for Humanity International, will build 10 houses throughout Florida this year. Habitat of Hernando was chosen to partner in building one of them.
Most people know Habitat for Humanity builds homes for people. But some don't know that the nonprofit, ecumenical organization is based on Christian principles.
"It's a Christian home-building ministry, so church support is quite fundamental," Yoos said. "The premise of Habitat is putting one's faith into action, not just talking about Christ's teachings, but doing the things that he told us to do."
Yoos, who is vice president of Hernando Habitat, said the organization can always use funding, and while it is seeking more involvement from churches, it also is looking for business and corporate support. The local organization hopes to build five houses this year.
"You can only build as fast as the funds come in," Yoos said, noting that work on the last house Hernando Habitat built was interrupted for a few weeks until additional money could be raised. "We're always struggling for money, just like any nonprofit," he said.
That's why he is thrilled Hernando County was chosen for one of the Thrivent Builds projects.
"We're delighted that the Lutheran churches want to get involved," he said.
For this project, Thrivent covered 65 percent of the cost of the house through its grant. The local Lutheran churches raised 10 percent. Habitat picked up the remaining 25 percent.
"Basically, 75 percent of the house was financed by Thrivent and by the Lutheran churches," Yoos said.
The Lutheran churches that participated — both financially and by supplying almost 100 volunteers to work on the home — include Christ Lutheran Church of Brooksville, First Lutheran Church of Ridge Manor, Forest Oaks Lutheran Church of Spring Hill, Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Spring Hill, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Masaryktown and Nativity Lutheran Church of Weeki Wachee.
Today's dedication service will include prayers, a welcome for visiting dignitaries, introduction of the new owners and other partner families, recognition of participating congregations and volunteers, and remarks from representatives of Habitat and Thrivent.
The new owners — Christine Rideout and her daughter, Alexandra — will be presented with Bibles, a candle, a loaf of bread, a pantry basket, an embroidery sampler, quilts, a floral arrangement and a tool box.
"The candle is a symbol of love, faith and hope and a light to guide the new homeowners into the future," Yoos said. "The bread is the staff of life; it feeds the body as God's love feeds the soul. The basket is to fill the cupboards as you would fill your new house with God's love. The Bibles symbolize that just as we need food to nourish our body, so, too, do we need God's word to nourish the soul."
The sampler will commemorate the family's first home.
The Rev. Kristin Wee, pastor of Nativity Lutheran Church, is one of the pastors who will participate. She will bless the new home.
"We bless the new house to remind ourselves, really, that God's blessings are present everywhere, from the kitchen faucet to the bathroom cabinet," she said. "In this case, specifically we ask for God's blessings for the family who will live there."
Wee said Lutherans like to build houses with Habitat because they take Jesus seriously when he says they should love their neighbor.
"The love Jesus is referring to is not a cozy, warm feeling, but being willing to work for the neighbor's wellbeing, and a neighbor is anyone who has a need," Wee said. "A good Lutheran knows who to thank for our blessings. Building a house for someone is one way to give thanks and have a good time doing it."