Editor's Note: This is one of an occasional series of commentaries about the religious and theological aspects of the work of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity and its partners. Mize, a student at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, is doing supervised ministry this semester with Habitat and Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
YUKON — The Medina family does have a prayer — a bunch of them, in fact.
Prayers came with the Medinas' new house in Yukon, courtesy of volunteers and staff of Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity.
Erick and Liliana Medina and 18-month-old daughter Dulce became the latest family to buy a house from Habitat in the Wagner Lake Estates neighborhood, after kicking in their 300 hours of sweat equity and meeting other guidelines.
Think of the prayers as a spiritual version of a “building envelope,” the array of brick-and-mortar components that keep a house's outside out and inside in: roof, foundation, walls, doors and windows.
Enveloping prayer is the kind of thing that helps a family turn a house into a home.
Nancy Riddell, a Habitat board member, said the first prayers went up a year or so ago, when Habitat acquired the lot. Two or three prayers went up, not counting the unspoken ones offered by family, friends and others, at a short but rich house dedication Friday afternoon.
Ann Felton Gilliland, Central Oklahoma Habitat chairman and CEO, presented housewarming gifts from the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Women's Council, Edmond Board of Realtors, Advance Pierre Foods, Buy for Less, Whirlpool and the NOAA Employees Association of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the National Weather Center in Norman.
Family support volunteer Lila Hoover presented the family with a Bible. Paraphrasing Psalm 119:105, she told them that the Word of God would be a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path. Board member Dan Houston presented them a U.S. flag.
There. Unless you've been directly involved with Habitat, that's probably more “God talk” than you've ever seen associated with the nonprofit group, even though it is, and always has been, an ecumenical Christian ministry. Habitat people do not hide that fact; they just do not wear it on their sleeves, preferring to let hammers do their talking.
Habitat for Humanity International's late founder Millard Fuller insisted early on, in fact, that “the theology of the hammer” would define Habitat: “We may disagree on all sorts of other things,” Fuller said, “but we can agree on the idea of building homes with God's people in need, and in doing so using biblical economics: no profit and no interest.”
The point is to express the love of God by working with others — any and all willing others, for all people are God's people — to eliminate poverty housing.
Talk without action is dead, in other words, which might sound familiar. (See James 2:14-17, especially 17.)
But at certain stages of Habitat life, “God talk” dominates: Prayers before board meetings and meals; devotionals before staff meetings — and worship at house dedications.
The short — 15-minute — dedication Friday, like all Habitat dedications, included a litany, this one led by board member Kevyn Colburn. Feel free to pray it with your spouse, or a friend, or by yourself. I'm sure that neither the Medinas nor anyone with Habitat would mind.
Leader: Great and gracious God, you are the giver of all things.
People: We praise you for your kindness. We humbly accept your mercy.
Leader: We ask your blessing on all that we think, all that we do, and all that we have.
People: May our words and actions be pleasing in your sight.
Leader: We pray that you will dwell with us as we gather in this house today.
People: May we recognize your presence, O God.
Leader: Keep us mindful of those who have no safe dwelling, no peaceful place in which to live.
People: Help us see the hurts of others and to understand those hurts as your pain, O God.
Leader: Remind us of all that we may possess and do in your name if we will trust in your promises and obey your commandments.
People: Move us to action, O God. Empower us with confidence.
Leader: Guide us to serve you by working with those who are in need of decent shelter.
All: Fill our hearts with mercy and our minds with understanding. May the work we do be a witness to our faith as we extend the shelter of your love to others. Amen.
And after a benediction, everybody left to put their faith back to work.