The House God is Building

Al Tauber

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

Of all that I learned during my college years, the most consistently useful skills were gleaned not in the classroom, but at the construction sites where I worked to help pay for school. I don’t think a year has gone by since then without me fixing, building, or occasionally destroying something for someone. This year finds me swinging a hammer for Jesus.

I was hired 10 years ago to develop and perform Stories from the Streets with my wife, Andi, but because Emmaus is a small organization, there have always been a lot of “other duties as necessary” in our job descriptions. So when Bob Kuhlman asked me one day in March to come help tear out walls in our new building, it wasn’t an unusual request. Because we want to keep construction costs as low as possible, though, that one day turned into several months.

It’s not a bad gig—Jesus was also known to swing a hammer from time to time. And through it all, Andi and I have continued to do Outreach on Wednesday nights.

One night recently, we met up with “Andre.” He wasn’t quite as drunk as usual, and seemed angry at everyone except us. I was tempted to say goodnight and move on, but something kept me there. Very gradually, Andre’s anger shifted to pain. Then from pain to fear, mostly of himself. He opened up about some bad choices he recently made and his desire to give up on life.

We talked for nearly three hours that night: listening, sharing words of empathy and encouragement, praying silently, and finally praying out loud with Andre. When we said goodnight, the despair that had been so visible when we first saw him had been supplanted by an equally obvious hope.

This new Emmaus building—it’s going to be terrific! We’re going to be able to provide more for our guys than ever before. But the demolition and construction that God was doing in Andre that night will always be the very heart of Emmaus Ministries. The 25 years we have spent building relationships on the streets gave God the tools he needed to tear out a part of Andre’s old self and replace it with something new. This is the house God is building. I am so grateful to be on this job.

Our new Ministry Center, under construction

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