Our first place to call “home” for Kay and me was the second floor of a converted pony barn just two doors away from my homestead. It was a tiny apartment. The bathroom was so small that one of us had to step into the tub to get by the other. But, we knew something better was coming. Even before we were married we had started construction on a split-foyer house in a small town south of Lancaster. That was 48 years ago. We thought that would be the place to raise our family near family and friends. But, six years later God began to mess with us. His call to the Navajo would uproot our plans and move us 2,000 miles away to Navajo Missions in Farmington, New Mexico.
Our calling to become houseparents to Navajo boys and girls resulted in our home having six bedrooms filled with as many as 11 children at times. (Hmmm … that’s a Baker’s dozen with Kay and me) This ranch house built in the late 60’s would become home to our natural family including Lisa and Dave along with 33 Navajo children over the next 18 years. By then I was President of the ministry so we weren’t taking new children. On the other side of the campus a tiny house that served as extra office space was torn down and a new two-story home was built for us where we lived an additional 21 years.
I’ve shared all of this to reflect on the fact that 39 years of our Navajo Ministries living was done as tenants. We were basically renters, so anytime that something broke or was in need of repairs or replacements, I called Rick or Art for maintenance assistance. I remember getting a gift card from Home Depot and didn’t know what to purchase because everything was provided by the Ministry. That all ended about five years ago when we purchased a 40-year-old house in town.
While the house had “good bones” structurally, we felt there was definitely a need to update some of the features in the home. With the help of our long-time friend “Builder Bob” Fitz and Jami and Lisa, our in-family painters, we were able to bring new life to a dated 1970s interior. This past week more renovation has taken place with the gutting of our bathroom. The pink tub is finally gone!
Through these days of being a home owner again, we have found a new favorite TV show called Fixer-Upper. Chip and Joanna Gaines work with prospective house buyers in the Waco, Texas area finding as they say, “the worst house in the best neighborhoods.” The one-hour show highlights the weeks of work necessary to bring a broken-down house back to life, both inside and out. If you haven’t watched it yet, I encourage you to check out this unique Christian couple as Joanna designs the transformation and Chip leads the construction crew in the hand-on renovation. He particularly enjoys “demo-day” as walls are removed, cabinets destroyed and bushes uprooted.
As I think about these fixer-uppers of houses I am drawn back to the reason that Kay and I were drawn to Navajo Ministries 42 years ago. We came to help provide boys and girls with a “fixer-upper” during their stay with us. Years of turmoil in their natural family had broken down their spirit. Walls of fear and distrust had trapped them in the memories of their disruptive past. Many had no idea what a relationship with Christ could mean in their spiritual lives. It was time for a “make-over.”
Through the help of many houseparents, counselors, teachers and other encouraging staff members, hundreds of boys and girls have experienced a “fixer-upper” time in their young lives. What a joy it is to have former kids stop by for a visit and share how God touched their lives during their stay with us. Sometimes we even get a glimpse of their lives on Facebook as we see their families and hear of their challenges, too. Our prayers continue to follow them on their journey through life.
We all need those “fixer-upper” times in our lives. The burdens of life with all its frustrations can be overwhelming at times. Sickness comes. Sin abounds. Family friction has created open wounds. Depression takes over. Walls of fear and frustration crowd out the peace that passes all understanding.
If you feel it’s time for a do-over or fixer-upper in your life, remember, “Unless the Lord builds the house its builders labor in vain.” (Psalms 127:1) We must build our houses on a firm foundation so that when the storms come, the house remains. (Matthew 7: 24-27) And, don’t forget Christ’s words about our future home in heaven. He is now preparing those many rooms for us … all brand new, just for us. (John 14:1-4)