Text by Harry Zimmer, Euless City Council, Place 5
I’ve been a Community Powered Revitalization volunteer for several years. Though I’ve come away immensely proud of our community each time I take part in a blitz, I sometimes leave concerned about the long-term impact of the program. Fixing a house is one thing, but changing a life is something else. With every event, I found myself asking the same questions that many others probably ask. Did we really make the impact we wanted to make? Did we succeed in giving each family the helping hand they needed? Are they empowered to carry on from here? Do they know where to go if they need further help?
During the last blitz in the Spring of 2016, I had the privilege of riding along with Mark Massey, who helps to lead one of the Euless-based Chaplain Teams that visit the owners of CPR homes in Euless. The purpose of the ride-out was to meet the residents face-to-face and let them know that their community in general — and 6 Stones in particular — cares about them. If ever my questions would be answered, it would be here.
The residents’ response to Chaplin Massey was remarkable. They spoke with us as though we were old friends, opening up in ways I never would have expected. Most freely told us parts of their life story. Several held back tears as they looked for words to explain the way that the efforts of CPR volunteers gave them needed encouragement. Six of the families asked for us to pray with them. All of them understood firsthand that there are folks throughout HEB who care about their neighbors, and that 6 Stones and its community affiliates – cities, churches, and businesses big and small — are there for them. Every one of them was incredible, but a few of them stand out as I think about the way this program affects lives here in Euless.
Our second stop was at a home owned by a middle-aged gentleman. I don’t remember any of the work that was being done on his house as we approached, but I couldn’t possibly forget the time we spent talking at his door. As soon as Chaplin Massey explained who we were, he teared up and thanked us — both 6 Stones and the volunteers — for helping him get caught up. He had lived in his house for more than twenty years, had always made ends meet and even had time for his hobby: restoring vintage cars. Then, last year, he became ill with a condition he can recover from only by taking each day slow and easy. With the gentleman’s permission, we stopped and asked Jesus to restore his full strength. Another flood of grateful tears snuck out of him, fading away as the conversation shifted to the story of his lifelong love for Dodge Darts, '55-'57 Chevys, and Fords of all kinds. As we left, I asked if he had a church home and if he knew how to get to 6 Stones. If our work was to continue, we would need to connect him with more people who could support him.
It’s amazing to see the impact a little personal interaction can have on someone who is feeling overwhelmed. There was nothing wrong with this man, really. He had passions and talents, just like any of us. He was just slowed down by sickness. As I left his house, it was obvious that CPR was about more than fixing broken things and painting faded houses. It was about restoring things to the way they were before they were broken, homeowners included. But I never expected to have as direct a conversation about renewal as I did at the end of the day.
One of our last stops was at the home of woman who was raised in the Jewish faith but has come to believe that Jesus is the promised messiah: the one who would save and redeem a world broken by sin. She, her daughter, and visiting friend invited us in. We spent the next hour discussing the Passover seder meal and listening as they retold Old Testament stories that point toward God completing history in the coming of His kingdom through Jesus. And we thought we were the spiritually mature ones! At one point, the ladies were moved to pray blessings over Chaplin Massey and me.
Once again, my mind was a flood of thoughts and emotions when it came time to leave. Even as volunteers were laboring physically to restore their home, these women were expending their energy to help others secure spiritual restoration. Each group was doing important work, and I thanked God for both. The answer to my questions, at the end of the day, was simple: long-term impact comes from a different kind of labor. It comes when we work together in all kinds of ways, both with our hands and with our hearts.
That day, I learned that CPR is not just a two day blitz. It’s a twice-a-year affirmation that our community has the heart, the will and — thanks to 6 Stones — the infrastructure needed to say “yes” when one of our own needs a helping hand. The work we do together is a “hand up” that homeowners desperately need, and not the “hand out” I feared it could be. All the families we visited were encouraged by what the volunteers accomplished, and many were motivated to give back out of their own talents, gifts and interests.
I think that’s the real measure of a blitz: everything that comes after.