In early July we had the good fortune of moving into our new office space, a project we have referred to as Katapheugó, a Greek word meaning “to flee to a place of refuge.” Since the inception of this project, it has been a desire of ours to rebuild, renovate, and make the community livable again in the name of Christ such that those fleeing an illicit and broken world can flee to a place of refuge. Though the project is multifaceted, one of the major components is to afford CLDI the opportunity to provide housing to persons in need by providing 10 studio apartments and 6 one-bedroom apartments.
Walking into the office I noticed a gentleman I had met a number of years ago, I’ll call him Michael. In February of 2012, CLDI opened a house called the Adullam House to provide Christian community and fellowship for men in need, a “home” to meet a tangible need and further model and teach them the ways of Jesus and His kingdom.[i] I hadn’t seen Michael for years, but here he was, in our new CLDI office filling out an application for one of our studio apartments that will be available August 1st. Michael has been out of prison for five years, has been working full-time for the same company, and currently lives on his own, renting a run-down room with a bathroom and common kitchen for $675/month (utilities included). He said, “My pastor has been telling me that I need to get down here and fill out an application, so here I am.”
After completing the application Michael came into my office where I was working with my eldest son in tow and began to share with me more about his newfound life in Christ and the freedom and joy he has experienced these past five years. My son, ever eager to be a help and showcase this new project said, “Would you like a tour of the apartments?” While initially saying no, Michael said he would love a tour, so I agreed to be a shadow and let my son Elijah give his very first tour of the building. Walking to the stairs we told Michael that there wasn’t an elevator. “Oh,” he said, “really?” What I didn’t tell you is that Michael is, shall we say, short in stature. I’m not sure how tall he is, but my 11-year-old son is taller than him, but half his weight. Making it up the stairs, after catching his breath, we proceeded into a studio apartment. I had walked in first and as I turned around, Michael came through the door and his eyes lit up! Half squatting, with his eyes as big as they could be, and his hands lifted in the air he exclaimed, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” Grabbing the oven, seeing the kitchen, going into the private bathroom, noticing the high ceilings, big windows, and beautiful cabinets, time and time again all he could say was, “Wow!”
Elijah was so excited about his response that he said, “Michael, come with me. I want to take you to the third floor for a really great view.” Elijah had in mind the apartment with an entire wall as storefront glass overlooking the bluff to the South. I wasn’t so sure, as I didn’t think Michael would be up to the task of hiking up another flight of stairs, but because of Elijah’s excitement he said, “Yes, I would love to see it.” Walking into the apartment was a retake of his first response, “Wow! Wow! Look at this view!” Looking out the window Michael said, “I know that this may sound crazy, and be hard to believe, but this is the highest I have ever been in a building where I could see outside.” Imagine, 49 years old, and this being the first time on the 3rd floor of a building with views looking below.
Elijah then wanted to take him to the other side of the building where the one-bedroom apartments are located so that he could see the view downtown. Walking in to this larger apartment, Michael’s response was the same, “Wow!” Standing by the window and opening it as he looked over downtown, he said, “I just can’t believe I have the opportunity to be in such a beautiful space. I can just imagine waking up every day and seeing this view, being reminded of God’s goodness every day.” Taking in the moment, the Holy Spirit was at work, tears began to stream down his face and also fill mine. “Michael,” I said, “thank you for your heartfelt response. When we designed this building, it was our hope to create a beautiful space, a home that makes one feel special and as though they matter, because the Bible teaches us that God made every person in His image and likeness. Every person that has breath of life has intrinsic value and worth because God has made them and cares for them. Michael, He cares for you, He cares for me, and every other person of this world regardless of age, skin color, background, what they’ve done (or not done), socioeconomic status, education level, because we have been made with Imago Dei.”
In that moment in time, right there on the third floor of the Katapheugó Apartments, God affirmed this vision He had given us to provide quality, affordable housing for neighbors and friends like Michael. Out of rubble He indeed made the community livable again to make known our true identity and sense of value through the Gospel of Jesus. Psalm 124 says, “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” none of this would have been possible. If for nothing else, if we toiled four years to spend 3.6 million dollars on a near condemned building to affirm Michael’s sense of purpose, value, and identity – Michael matters because he matters to God – then it was all worth it. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made the heaven and earth” (v. 8). In the words of Michael, my response to His working in various ways to make His glory known, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” What a joy it is to serve the Lord and seek first His Kingdom.