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FBC Alabaster, others build home for elderly neighborcomment (0)

July 19, 2007

By Greg Heyman

Lorene Furline could hardly believe it when she learned members of First Baptist Church, Alabaster, in Shelby Baptist Association and other area churches planned to build her a new home.

Years of neglect had not been kind to the home the 74-year-old widow shares with her two adult sons. The roof had fallen in on a portion of the house, and a sinking foundation and other problems had resulted in the city of Alabaster condemning the property.

For Furline, the construction of a new house was an answer to prayer.

“It felt wonderful. I couldn’t believe it,” she said, laughing. “I had prayed that maybe someone who was wealthy would come in and build us a home, but I hadn’t dreamed that the churches would get together and build one. It’s just been fantastic.”

Once completed later this summer, the new house will be 1,400 square feet with a garage and storage room. It will have three bedrooms and two baths, with one prepared as a handicapped-accessible bathroom with a marble shower. It will be much different from where they’re coming from.

Furline said when the roof collapsed on one side, it resulted in power being cut to that part of the residence and one son having to sleep in a living room where the family spent the majority of its time. A blue tarp covered the area were the roof had deteriorated and the bathroom was unusable. The Furlines were forced to use the rest room in a nearby service station. Bathing was even more challenging.

“We had to catch water and bathe from that, like we did in the old days,” she said. “The house was in terrible shape.”

In January, the house was burned by the city as a training exercise. The Furlines had been relocated at the end of 2006 to a house owned by First, Alabaster, where they are living until their new house is completed. Along with staying at the house free, donated money was used to purchase new furniture and appliances, which they are already using and will be moved to their new house.

Bob Brown, director of community ministry at First, Alabaster, said the idea to build a new home for the Furlines originated when Pastor Neil Knierim told members he wanted the church to be one of “irresistible influence.” Brown said that call was taken from the book “The Church of Irresistible Influence” by Robert Lewis.

“They came to the conclusion (in the book) that if the church is really going to witness to the world, they’ve got to out and minister to the world where it is hurting,” Brown said.

Brown approached Knierim and asked how he could help. The pastor charged him with finding needy families in the community.

During a meeting with Alabaster Mayor David Frings, Brown learned the Furlines’ house had been condemned two-and-a-half years earlier but the city was reluctant to put the family out on the street. Brown went to the house and after seeing the need, wanted to involve other churches in helping the family.

Knierim said members of his church have given almost $37,000 to help build the new home. Other churches have joined in. Among them, Westwood Baptist Church, Alabaster, in Shelby Association has given about $6,300 and provided volunteer labor and Kingwood Assembly of God has raised $10,000. Companies have been helping with the project by donating money, time and needed materials such as roofing shingles, plumbing supplies, electrical wiring, carpet and cabinets.

Brown said First, Alabaster, has created Homeward Ministries to serve as the entity to complete the project.
Homeward Ministries, a service that church members provide to the community, reaches out to Alabaster residents with needs such as home or roof repair.

Projects like Furline’s home are “a tremendous witness of the church caring about people who are struggling,” Brown said.

As difficult as her housing situation was, Furline also faced trials with her family. A part-time nurse at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, Furline’s husband died almost five years ago. Her two sons also deal with serious health issues.

Faced with what sometimes seem like insurmountable odds, Furline said the churches’ work in providing her family with a new house is a blessing from God. “I knew it was the Lord helping us, because we had been praying for so long,” she said. “They have helped us so much.”

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