Pulpit Story: The Hams
By Kaylea Hutson
When Jeanie and David Ham look at their lives, one word comes to mind: blessed.
That is a change from the morning of Dec. 31, 2010, when a tornado demolished their home in northwest Arkansas.
In an instant, everything they knew was gone—including the house David Ham had called home since the age of 5.
The couple found themselves starting a new year facing the task of rebuilding their home, without insurance and with less than $500 in their combined bank accounts.
Their prospects changed when a group of volunteers from the Northwest District of the United Methodist Church offered the help needed to build a new home.
Since mid-March, approximately 240 volunteers representing more than 20 congregations helped raise the house from slab to a completed two-bedroom, one-bath structure.
The home, located in rural Summers, was dedicated by volunteers on Saturday, May 7.
“People came from everywhere to help,” David Ham said, adding that he’s thankful for everyone who helped build the home.
Approximately 90 percent of the labor needed to complete the project was donated. This allowed the Hams to use monies raised by selling their cattle, along with funding provided by FEMA, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and other churches, to purchase the supplies needed for the project.
“It’s a blessing that there are still good people in the world,” Jeannie Ham said. “It’s been amazing. I wouldn’t want to go through this again to get a new house, but so much good has come from [the tornado] since it happened.”
Beyond the physical labor, Jeannie Ham said knowing a group of people were praying for them and offering moral support was inspiring.
“This is the house that God built, is basically the way I look at it,” Jeannie Ham said.
Stepping out in faith
Lex Wetzel said members of Prairie Grove United Methodist Church in Prairie Grove, Ark., weren’t looking to build a home as their first mission project.
Instead, volunteers initially set out to complete several small projects in the wake of the Dec. 31 tornado as they began to form a new monthly mission outreach initiative.
However, while looking for projects, a member of the church learned about the Hams’ need for a home.
Wetzel and others suddenly found themselves developing blueprints for a 1,200-square-foot home and making plans for its eventual construction.
While Wetzel coordinated construction efforts, Dan Dunn, a volunteer from Highlands United Methodist Church in Bella Vista, worked to find volunteers to complete the structure in a short amount of time.
“The fact that we were able to finish this house in eight weeks is nothing short of a miracle,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel said he saw God at work in this project, because many times volunteers arrived at the site to help at the specific time their particular skill set was required for a certain task.
“I didn’t call any of them, everyone called me—and it was amazing,” Wetzel said.
The project also pushed the Prairie Grove church to new heights, with almost half of the congregation—75 individuals—participating in the project in some way.
“When God wants this done, it will be done,” Wetzel said. “Sometimes God just wants you to show up to see what happens.”
Help in unexpected ways
Among the volunteers helping to complete the project was a group of students from a Catholic high school in Rochester, Minn.
Dunn said organizers from the group contacted him about helping during their spring break after plans for their Mississippi mission trip fell apart. Over a two-day period, 80 students picked up debris around the Hams’ farm and helped with the initial stages of construction.
In all, Dunn said, volunteers—ranging in age from high-schoolers to 85-year-old retirees—completed the home in 18 working days across the eight-week time frame.
“I think people who worked on it got as much out of it as the [Hams],” Dunn said. “It just feels good to do something for somebody else.”
A look ahead
Now that they have completed the Hams’ home, volunteers from Prairie Grove UMC are organizing their future efforts.
Wetzel said they hope to concentrate on smaller projects like building wheelchair ramps, repairing leaking roofs or weatherizing homes for people with disabilities or on a fixed income.
He eventually hopes the effort will become a district-wide initiative, completing projects throughout Northwest Arkansas.
Photos by Melissa Gute of the Siloam Springs Herald Leader, used with permission.
Pulpit Stories appear periodically on the Northwest District blog. Have a story from your congregation you would like to share? Visit the submission form at http://www.nwdist.org/ps_submissions/.