Thursday, February 4, 2010

The House Hope Built: An Interview with Emily Cummins

Welcome to the next interview in our Love That Moves series. This week I'm excited to introduce you to three fabulous blog readers who inspire me all to pieces. I hope these interviews encourage you to keep fighting for the cause closest to your heart. I'm also giving away a copy of Paperdoll this week. All you have to do is leave a comment (about whatever you want) on any of this week's posts.

"After the support beams and basic structure was in place, we were all given the opportunity to take sharpies and write on the beams words of HOPE and encouragement for the family to move in." - Emily Cummins

A few weeks ago, blog reader Emily Cummins had an intensive ten hour surgery on her jaw. I mentioned it back when it happened, because I was sort of in awe of the way she handled it. If I had oral surgery that lasted ten hours ... I would not be so sweet. I would be slapping cameras out of my face. And most likely, I would be utilizing my Be-A-Grouch-For-A-Week Card with no guilt whatsover. But Emily blogged the experience (with pictures!). And during the few weeks she spent recovering from surgery, I learned two nifty things about her:

1. She looks adorable even when her face is puffy and swollen. Which is just not fair. ;) And ...
2. While she was still recouperating, she volunteered a Saturday with Habitat for Humanity.

The girl is as tough as they come and she has her priorities in order. And she's a pretty awesome example of the kind of mission Habitat stands for.

According to the Habitat for Humanity website, over 2 billion people live in slum housing all over the world and over 100 million are homeless. The numbers are heavy, but habitat has a solution: build homes. They believe every person, regardless of religion or race, deserves shelter. Their continued advocacy for basic human needs for every person is a beautiful picture of what love can look like. Habitat depends on donors and volunteers to make their vision a reality. Emily caught the vision and volunteered a day to help build something beautiful.

First, here's some info about Emily: she's studying English at Central Florida Community College and plans on transferring to the University of Florida to major in Family, Youth, & Community Sciences. She's worked as a lifeguard and an intern to Larry Cretul (Florida speaker of the house). And she currently works at the YMCA. She's crazy about her family, her church, and her three best friends. Also, she's addicted to Starbucks, Oreos, spin class, running, and the beach. She also runs a great blog over at

I asked Emily if I could interview her about her experience with House of Hope here on the blog and she was all for it. Here's what she has to say:

Thanks for coming by the blog, Emily! Can you tell me a little bit more about House of Hope?
"House of Hope" is built through H
abitat for Humanity. Habitat is a Christian nonprofit organization that is partnering with people to help provide shelter, respect, and hope for people in need worldwide. My church, Church of Hope (, began partnering with Habitat last year when we built our first house sponsored by Church of Hope. 2010 marks our second "House of Hope" for a family in our very own community.

I love that you added respect to the mix. One of my favorite things about Habitat is that they build for people regardless of race, religion, or background. And they welcome volunteers from all different backgrounds too. I think that's a beautiful example of coming together to focus on something that really matters. Will you tell me why you wanted to get involved?
My friend, Jordan, and I were excited seeing pictures from the first House of Hope wall raising and dedication, so we decided we were not going to miss it in 2010! My goal, along with that of my church, is to help people discover that in Christ we have HOPE.

Tell me about what you did the day you volunteered. I live in Florida and recently we have been having some interestingly unusually cold weather! We got up and headed to the work site at 7 a.m. in 31 degree weather --there was even frost and snow! Definitely not a typical morning. But even in the midst of the cold weather, a great group turned out to raise the walls of the new home. We even had a grill set up to keep our hands warm! :) After the support beams and basic structure was in place, we were all given the opportunity to take sharpies and write on the beams words of HOPE and encouragement for the family to move in. That was truly my favorite part. It was amazing praying over the walls blessing a family's home.

I love how you gave your whole heart to the project. You could have just detached and hammered and sawed and just built a house. But I like how you were processing the big picture. What are some ways we can get involved with House of Hope or a similar construction outreach?
Habitat for Humanity is a worldwide nonprofit organization. To get involved in your community, check out their website at Talk to your church's missions team about partnering with Habitat to build houses in your community. You yourself can also make donations or volunteer your time independently.

Here's what I love about Emily's story: I hear people talk about "hope" pretty often. Church was a big part of my life (and still is) and I've heard hope preached in so many different contexts. I know it isn't just a faith specific term though; it's gets a hefty amount of political attention too. During the election, and even now, while the economy drags, people talk about how desperate they are for just a little bit of hope to hold onto. Sometimes a word like that can lose it's meaning when it's tossed around so much. That's why I love seeing the word written on the beam of an almost-house. Pretty soon, those beams will be covered with walls and pictures. That house will keep out the rain and wind and become a haven for a sweet family to make new memories. For now, it's just the permanent marker promise of what will be, of something beautiful already in process. And because of the work of many committed and loving people, hope is about to become something tangible, something beautiful, something that keeps a family warm and safe when the world gets dark and cold. Thanks to Emily and her friends, hope is more than a word.

If you have any questions about what it's like to volunteer with Habitat or House of Hope, I know Emily would be up for answering them. Here's my question for y'all: Have you ever done construction outreach? Have an experience you would care to share? I'll share my experience in the comments. Basically, once they saw how not-so-handy I was with a hammer ... they told me to give out water instead. (Don't make fun! It takes all kinds! ... :)


  1. This is a great project! : ) It's funny that Emily was a life guard and works at the YMCA, because I do to! Lol. I started out lifeguarding. I think the idea of writing words of hope on the hose is so beautiful. Knowing that between the walls of the house, are heartfelt words to protect and encourage is amazing. Good Job Emily!!

  2. I went on a youth mission trip last summer, where we did construction. We definatly didn't build a whole house, but we did fix peoples roofs and build porches. :) It was fun and I'm going again this summer! Projects like these really are a blessing to people, and sometimes open their hearts to God. Keep up the good work! P.S. I love the cover for "Paper Doll," it's so cute! -Madison Akins

  3. I know and love Miss Emily! It is so exciting to watch her ministry and heart for people. I can't wait to see what God does in her life.

  4. I was part of a sort-of construction youth group and I demolished a house. We weren't like demolishing in for fun (though it was fun :) Our town had been hit by some tornadoes, and this particular house had been damaged. The project was to tear down the house and save the garage. It took all day, and there were only a few injuries.

  5. Emily, great job!
    Keep it up :)


  6. This is such a cool post! Can I just say that I had my wisdom teeth pulled and was the BIGGEST baby. Emily, you put me to shame! You rock!

  7. Steffanie, how cool that you guys have that in common! I'm with you on the imagery too. I love the idea of literally writing hope on a house :)

    Madison, that sounds like an awesome project! I can't imagine how thrilled those people were that you guys were willing to fix up their homes. Let us know how it goes when you participate this year too! (Thanks for the compliment on the book cover! :)

    Sara, I've never heard anybody talk about clearing a house (and saving the garbage). My word - that is a HUGE undertaking! I bet having your whole youth group there definitely made it better. I giggled over the part when you said there were very few injuries. When I tried to work with a construction project I 1.) was given a tray of water and told to walk around and distribute instead of using anymore power tools and 2.) given the charge of taking someone to the hospital who nearly sawed off his hand. It was ... unique.

    Ashley, Lisa & Laura - totally agree!

  8. Kristi, thanks so much for your comment! I thought I responded to you and just realized I hadn't. My bad! :) I too am excited to see what God does in Emily's life. She's an incredible girl!