Over 70 Pastors Build With Habitat In South Korea

Mostly First-Time Volunteers Work On A Former Jimmy Carter Work Project Site

ASAN, 15th July 2008: Dozens of pastors recently gathered to build with Habitat for Humanity at a former Jimmy Carter Work Project site in South Korea. It was the first Habitat build for the majority of the 70 or so volunteers. One of them, however, has been a regular volunteer since 2001. Je-guk Jeon, who is pastor of Chen Woo church, said: “Pastors can teach things well but they cannot ‘do’ things well. “This ‘Love House Build’ program is the best way to preach what Jesus did.”

Heart work: The pastor volunteers started and ended their one-day build with prayers.

Unity: Pastors from various churches serving together by working on a Habitat build.

Practising what they preach: The volunteers letting their hands do the talking.

Pastor Jeon was among the local pastors who spent a day to work on eight housing units in two buildings. The build took place in Asan city in the western province of Chungcheongnam-do, or Chungnam in short. Asan was the main site among six sites that hosted the Jimmy Carter Work Project 2001 in South Korea where 136 houses were built. The Jimmy Carter Work Project is now known as the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project in recognition of the former U.S. First Lady’s contribution.

The day before the build, Habitat for Humanity International CEO Jonathan Reckford was at the Asan site, visiting the Habitat museum, study rooms, a house dedicated to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Reckford was visiting South Korea on the penultimate leg of his six-country tour in Asia.

On the way to the Asan site, which is about two hours’ drive from the capital Seoul, Gi-son Kim, HFH Korea’s public relations director, said: “I have been waiting for this moment, for an all-pastors build and now this dream has come true.”

After the pastor volunteers reached the Asan site, they prayed and were given a briefing about the work. The volunteers helped to mix cement, carry water or materials, cut wood, lift wooden trus and lay bricks among other tasks. A pastor from Cheonan Seobu church said: “We are teaching people to help and love others. We have to show them (by example) from now on.”

Pastor Huang, who was involved in building a church, said: “It is not so hard to do because of many people’s help. The moment of practicing love is the moment that Jesus’ love is coming down to us.” He sees the Love House Build project as the means through which pastor volunteers can share and do things together.

Working on a Habitat build is actually relaxing for Pastor Je-guk Jeon. He said: “We have to think about many things in our lives. This activity makes me relaxed. If I work hard, without any thoughts, it will be my rest.”

Raafat Zaki, Habitat’s director of global faith engagement and church relations, encouraged the volunteers by saying: “Think about what we can do for the un-churched or non church members every day. This engagement is not about Habitat’s ministry, it is about churches and Christians serving Christians and non-Christians right in your local communities, because that is also where Jesus is. When your church members see you serving the larger communities and partnering with Habitat and other churches and pastors, they will follow our example. When we do it together, it will create much power.”

During his opening remarks, Rev. Zaki highlighted five words that represent the ABCs for the pastors’ build: Agape (genuine and unconditional love demonstrated by pastors), Biblical (this ministry is about both spiritual and social transformation), Credibility (sincerity of pastors in service), Discipleship (pastors leading and serving by example), and Ecumenical (to create unity among pastors and churches to serve together).

At the end of the build, the pastor volunteers prayed for blessings upon the Habitat home partners. They shared their feelings about their build: “Though our body is tired, we are so happy to see what we did. Working with the people who are going the same way is delightful.”

Referring to the pastors’ build as “a good beginning here in Asia”, Raul Sarceda, Habitat’s church relations advisor, Asia-Pacific, sees the potential of a similar build taking place in other parts of the region in 2009.