INDIANAPOLIS – With a wide smile on her face, Hidat Ghebremedhin cut the ribbon on the door of her family’s new home near downtown Indianapolis on a snowy Saturday morning. She then received the keys to her house as an early Christmas present.

The house, a half-year Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis project completed by area United Methodist congregations, was dedicated and blessed Dec. 4 – just in time to allow this immigrant family from Eritrea in east Africa to move before the holidays.

More than 50 United Methodists of all ages, representing 20 congregations, packed the porch and streamed into the front yard as they welcomed the Wurota-Ghebremedhin family of four, also two teenage sons, Yemane and Maasho, and their father, Tesfaye Wurota.

“I am so blessed. Thank you for greeting us to America and thank you very much for this house,” said the overwhelmed Hidat, during an hour-long celebration.

Hidat came to the United States from Eritrea in 2004 to work with the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C. She moved to Indianapolis in 2008 to continue embassy work. That year she also met Tesfaye and his sons, who left Eritrea three years earlier as refugees of war. Tesfaye works for Krispy Kreme Donuts, which allowed him time off to attend the dedication.

The family attends the Ethiopian Orthodox Church located a few blocks from their new home.

New home shower

Following prayers and words of appreciation from pastors and church members, the event turned into a sort of housewarming shower for the new homeowners.

One church provided kitchenware. Another church outfitted the bathroom, while another provided yard tools, including a new lawn mower.

A local Kroger grocery store stocked the kitchen with non-perishable foods and gave the family a gift certificate for fresh foods. The family continued to receive blankets, rugs, pictures, gift certificates and other items.

Allison Dungan, an eighth-grader and member of the St. Luke’s United Methodist Church’s youth group, did not let her young age prevent her from helping the family. She learned she could not help construct the house, because she was under 18. But with her sister, Lauren, a sixth-grader, and her mom, Demaris, Allison approached her youth pastor, Kevin Davis, who helped them organize 35 youth and 10 adults to collect or make a porch bench, bookcases, framed mirrors and other items to decorate the new home.

“We wanted to be part of the project, even though we couldn’t work on the house,” Allison said.

The build

The three-bedroom (1,200-square-foot) house is located on a street of older homes built within the last century. Twenty-two congregations and United Methodist Metro Ministries helped finance the $70,000 project, which began this past summer.

The West Indianapolis Development Corporation donated the land to Habitat. But the United Methodist team struggled in August to obtain the final $15,000 and more sponsors to make a September project deadline. That’s when Salin Bank, a family-owned community bank, and its CEO, William N. Salin II, a United Methodist, came to the rescue. The bank became a sponsor and brought volunteers from the bank to work alongside church members. With the bank and a few more church sponsors, the build team met its goal.

Ultimately, sponsors provided hundreds of volunteer hours to build the house. More than 30 companies also gave in-kind donations. Nine of the churches acted as faith-and-hospitality partners, providing morning prayers, snacks and lunch each day of construction, which lasted throughout October and November.

Phil Myers of Phil Myers Custom Homes led the project as construction supervisor. He and his wife, Susy Komenda-Myers, are members of Castleton United Methodist Church, a congregation that played a significant role in bringing the project into being.

“At some points during the build, we had so many volunteers that I had to send some of them to other Habitat building sites,” Myers said. “So many signed up to paint, we gave the whole interior three coats.” He also expressed appreciation for the dedication and hard work of the Wurota-Ghebremedhin family.

The Wurota-Ghebremedhin family applied and agreed to 450 hours of education and voluntary labor as a down payment for the house. They will pay back their interest-free mortgage over 30 years. Most Habitat mortgage payments average around $350 a month. The money received in payments goes to an endowment fund to provide money to build additional homes.

This was the second time in as many years that a United Methodist team organized a Habitat build in the Indianapolis area. Last year, eight churches built the first Habitat house as a United Methodist team.

Ted Mosey, development coordinator for Indianapolis Habitat, hopes for another United Methodist build next year.

“I thought the process was great,” he said. “It was special to work with all the churches coming together for a common cause and interacting with each other in this mission work.”

A Together photo

Hidat Ghebremedhin receives the key to her early Christmas present, a new home near downtown Indianapolis, through the collaborative efforts of Habitat for Humanity and area United Methodists.

“I am so blessed.”

– Hidat Ghebremedhin