Written By Sean Lambert
The first Home of Hope was built in May of 1990,
yet the story really takes shape a few months before in January. My wife, Janet, and I were part of the staff of Youth With A Mission, Los Angeles, and our ministry director was Dave Gustaveson. Dave had an impression from God that we were to start off the New Year with what he called an “Offering for Jesus”. He explained to our fifty full-time staff members that “Jesus needed an offering” and he set a date for the end of January to have a special meeting in which all fifty staff members would present their offerings to Jesus.
AS STAFF, WE WERE ALL CHALLENGED BY DAVE TO GIVE THE MONEY AS IF WE WERE GIVING IT DIRECTLY INTO THE HANDS OF JESUS.
The plan was then to pray over the offering and ask God to bless it and seek His will as to how to use it. To be honest, this seemed to be a very backwards approach to me. I thought, “Why not pray first and find out what Jesus wants, and then have everyone respond?” Dave was resolute in his thinking, declaring, “We need to take the offering first and freely offer it to Jesus for whatever he wants.” So an offering was taken and several thousand dollars was raised; an astounding amount considering that all the staff members were non-salaried missionaries.
After the offering, a few of us were assigned to prayerfully consider what to do with the money. Several months went by in which no clear idea surfaced as to how to use the funds, so we kept waiting, trusting God to speak to us. During this waiting period, I met a short, burly man named Sergio Gomez who lived in Tijuana, Mexico. Sergio had been raised in an orphanage; he had been a boxer in his youth, evidenced by his large biceps and a prominent gold tooth. Sergio had a huge heart for people, particularly the poor. He frequently built houses for needy families. He told me several stories about families who lived under blue tarps or in cardboard shacks. The more he talked, the more I cried inside. One day he took me on a tour of Tijuana, and I saw for myself how just a few miles from the United States, thousands of people were living in substandard housing. I suddenly found myself asking Sergio if it would ever be possible for me to bring a group of people to build a house for the poor. He said, “Yes, I will help you!” At the next leaders’ meeting, I confidently declared,
“I KNOW WHAT THE OFFERING IS FOR; IT’S FOR THE POOR…WE NEED TO BUILD A HOME FOR A NEEDY FAMILY IN MEXICO!”
In May of 1990, a group of twelve of us traveled from Los Angeles to Tijuana to build one house for a needy Mexican family. My three-year-old daughter, Andrea, came along; she was too young to help, but for some reason I took her anyway. As we painted and hammered the wood, I could not help but notice another family nearby watching us from an abandoned old bus pitched on a hill. Since the engine and hood were gone, the family was using that space to cook their food. Andrea soon connected with the children living in the bus and came over to me with a concerned look, saying,
“Daddy, are you going to build a house for the bus people too?”
Her words touched my heart and echoed in my head all the way back home. When I got back to Los Angeles, I began calling various youth groups who were scheduled to join us in Tijuana that summer for outreach. One of groups accepted my challenge and we built a second house for the “bus people”.
Over the next few months, more groups joined our efforts to build homes for the poor. During the first year we built twelve houses, and during the next year we built twenty-five. We called the program “Homes of Hope”. It took twelve years to see the first one thousand homes built, only four years to see the next thousand built and as of January 2013, four thousand, three hundred homes for the poor have been built in sixteen different nations. We have also begun to do research and identify the many long-term benefits of helping a poor family with a home. Giving a family a home is more than just showing mercy to them; it’s a transformational act that can help break the cycle of poverty in that family’s life.
I often reflect on how Homes of Hope got started; Sergio and his big heart for the poor, and how my three-year-old daughter’s words had challenged me to build the second house; how all these homes for the poor came out of a simple offering to Jesus. Jesus took the sacrificial offerings of a few faithful missionaries, blessed it and created a worldwide movement for the poor called Homes of Hope.