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Giving Homes–and Hearts–a Facelift

September 1, 2007
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Have you ever spruced up your home with a fresh coat of paint? Or, redecorated a room with new drapes and furniture? Or, remodeled your kitchen, upgrading it with new cabinets and appliances? Whether small or large, the renovation makes you feel good inside, puts a smile on your face, and makes the house feel almost new. It’s a great feeling. Many people, though, never have the funds for even a bucket of paint and can never give their home the much needed facelift. Instead, year after year, the property deteriorates. Any homeowner knows how much care is required to keep that from happening. Even if you don’t do any major renovations, every year, it takes a certain number of projects to keep a house from crumbling to its foundations.

Unfortunately, crumbling facilities––whether apartments, senior citizen centers, or youth community centers––are what we find in Israel among the poorest areas of Jerusalem. Many are occupied by the elderly, including Holocaust survivors; whether renters or owners, they have no resources, skills, funds, or energy to do repair work. Some are new immigrants who barely have enough income to cover necessities and live in low-income government housing until they can afford a better place. Landlords care only about the rent they receive, not about upkeep.

Our Home Repair team receives calls from social workers directing them to many a desperate family. These are not ordinary repair jobs. The walls areliterally crumbling. Bathrooms suffering from defective plumbing are black with mildew. Big cracks travel across ceilings or down walls. If renovation makes one feel good, just the opposite is true. Having to live in such horrible conditions, with no prospect for change, month after month, year after year, creates depression and hopelessness. So, when our Home Repair team gives a home a facelift (free of charge), it not only improves the look of the apartment, but the look on the faces of the occupants and a lift in their spirits as well. Someone cares! And, to their surprise, they are Christians!

“Yafey” (Beautiful)

Daniel, a member of the Home Repair team, tells about renovating a senior citizens activity center “in great need of major renovation” with rooms for arts and crafts, a library, kitchen, room for potting plants, and meeting hall.

“When we saw the place, we knew we had a big job ahead of us. First, we had to tear out the old kitchen. If you saw us at work at that stage of the project, you would have thought we were a demolition team, tearing out the old sink, which seemed to be cemented to the wall, and all the old shelves and cupboards. We hung new cupboards and installed a new countertop, a sink, and a new hot water heater. In the meeting hall, we plastered and painted the ceiling and walls, and our electrician wired and installed spotlights where the artists display their oil paintings on the walls. I remember the bathrooms the best. They needed a lot of plaster because the walls were so crumbly and the paint was falling off. I think we spent half a day just working on them.

“On the second day, some of the center’s ladies who make ceramic art and tile mosaics came in and kept complimenting our work with yafey (beautiful). The next room was the bomb shelter, converted into a library, where we had to move all the books out and place them in lines on the floor in the next room. The walls of that room were so uneven and bumpy that even after two coats of paint, they never looked right! On the third day, people came in just to see what was going on and watch us as we worked. Some would ask us were we were from, and they were very impressed that we were volunteers and that there were Christians around the world that cared about the Jewish people and wanted to help them. When we got to the arts and crafts room, it was full of potted plants and ceramics. So we carefully moved all of them and painted the room, being careful to put everything back when we were finished.

“After we had cleaned up and packed everything away, the social worker asked if we could come to the dedication. A rabbi would be there to put up the mezuzah (Scripture box affixed to a doorway) and pray the dedication blessing over the center. So the next time we went to the center, we were no longer covered in dust and paint but in handshakes, hugs, and thanks from the seniors. Our manager was asked to give a speech. He told them what a privilege it was to be able to help and how we as Christians love them. There was hardly a dry eye in that place, including our own.”

The work was done shortly after the Second Lebanon War last year. This is part of the thank you letter we received:

Though we don’t use precious stones, Isaiah 54:11–12 reminds Daniel of the work they do to bring beauty into the lives of those who feel they are overlooked and forgotten: “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones”(NKJV). Just as it is God’s desire to bring beauty and joy into the lives of those He loves, it is our desire to do the same for the poor in His city. It may seem a small thing to us, only a one to three-day job, but to those who live or meet in their “face-lifted” places, it can be life-changing.

Join Our Team

Maybe you would like to volunteer in Jerusalem for a week, month, summer, or year and join our Home Repair team, using your skills as a painter, carpenter, electrician, or plumber. Even if you aren’t an expert, if you can wield a paintbrush or hammer, we have a place for you. Maybe you can’t come but could send a donation, so this valuable assistance to Jerusalem and its surrounding communities can continue. Our latest project is to replace the 14-year-old Home Repair van with a newer used one. Through each of these ways, you can join our team to give a heart or home a much needed facelift.

Blessings from Jerusalem,

Rebecca J. Brimmer
International President and CEO