Several years ago I was looking at books in the architecture section of Barnes and Noble. I came across a beautiful book that documented the work of a university architecture department that was building public structures in the poorest county in America. The book explained that every architecture student went and lived in this poor county during their fourth year of study and completed a building project—a chapel or a ball field or a home or a set of apartments or a church. The student was responsible for finding the ground, engaging the community, deciding on the building, drawing the building, finding the funds, and getting it built.
The book was full of glossy color photos of projects the students had created with the help of these communities. The buildings were unique, creative, attractive, and functional.
I was very impressed. I bought the book and read it cover to cover. I looked at the pictures over and over again. The book hooked in to my heart for people in poverty. It hooked into my love of building buildings. It hooked into my enjoyment of photography.
A year or two after reading this book I had a conference about 60 miles from where the students had created all these structures—and where the current students were also creating new buildings. So I went a day early, rented a car, and drove down to see what I had so loved in the book. I got an informal tour of the huge warehouse where the current students were drawing buildings and making models. I got a map of where the existing structures could be found—scattered over miles and miles of this impoverished county.
Armed with my map, my camera, and good feelings about the work I drove out to see these wonderful structures.
What I experienced was a major let down. At least 75% of the structures were in horrible repair. They were not being used to speak of and the windows were broken and weeds were growing up through the floor. A beautiful chapel that spread across the pages of my book had been built using car windshields to create a towering cathedral ceiling. In the picture it was both unique and beautiful. On the ground it was a mess. The grounds were overgrown with weeds and uncut grass—outside the building and inside too. Inside the floor was dotted with campfire rings, strewn with cigarette butts, whiskey bottles and beer cans, and covered with the soot of camp fires. What had been a very amazing structure was now in horrible disrepair.
I told you about that experience to say this: Last week Kathi and I and 20 other CBCer’s went to Mexico to build house number 18 for an impoverished family in Acuna, Mexico. We had a great build and gave a very attractive and functional house to a grateful family of five. Then we all drove to see a home that Kathi and I and Nelson Allen had helped to build exactly two years earlier. When we arrived at the house we hardly recognized it. We hardly recognized it not because it was in disrepair but because it had been so significantly enhanced. The owners had built a huge retaining wall to build up the area. They had built a patio. They had planted trees around their home. They had installed a window air conditioner in one window. They had patio furniture out front. It just looked great.
The family was home. They recognized Kathi and Nelson and me. We had a wonderful time of hugging and talking and then praying together before we left. It was a gift from God to see how the family was thriving and how the home we had created was thriving.
Sometimes your investments for others end up in ruin. Sometimes your investments for others end up in decades of fruit. Where your investments end up—ruined or thriving—is generally not in your hands. Your work is investing. The investing is in your hands.