Ronald Kiconco Ongopa is a senior development officer at Habitat for Humanity International and is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” | Romans 11:35, NIV
Millard and Linda Fuller, co-founders of Habitat for Humanity, decided they had to turn their lives around if their marriage was to survive. They committed to leave a life of affluence and success in business in Montgomery, Alabama, to find a new life in Christian service.
During that pursuit, the Fullers met Clarence Jordan, who, along with three others, had created Koinonia Farm in the 1940s as a demonstration plot for the kingdom of God. Millard described Clarence as full of grace, kindness and the love of Jesus. The couple’s experiences at Koinonia would result in the creation of Habitat, which today attracts multitudes of individuals and groups that offer hope and create opportunities through housing as they work alongside millions of individuals around the world.
What a transformation and impact! Most importantly, what an amazing story of God’s redemption. Of that redemptive work, Paul asks in Romans 11:35: “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”
I would also add the words of Pastor A.W. Tozer, who said in his book The Pursuit of God, “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.”
Lent is a reminder of both the redemptive work of God and the rhetoric of Paul’s question. The stories of Clarence Jordan, Millard Fuller and Habitat for Humanity mirror scores of similar accounts of transformation draped in the story of Lent. For the story of Jesus is of a life that keeps giving, flows easily and continues to salvage many who encounter it.
The Lenten season reminds us of God’s ultimate gift and of a God whose love we cannot outgive or repay. At Habitat, we seek to demonstrate that love through the work we do — sharing with and bringing along with us all nations, tribes and tongues to build homes, communities and hope!
Lent, therefore, is about a God who offers us a self-perpetuating gift and life. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a gift as something “given to show friendship, affection, support,” and life as an “essential to the continued existence of something else.” What an apt description of our loving God.
Lord, our hearts glow with gratitude for who You are and for Your work in our lives and the Habitat ministry. In all these, “Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1)
1. What gifts and whose life are you reminded of during this Lenten season?
2. How have you (or can you) share some of those gifts and that life?
3. Has someone been a “Clarence Jordan” in your life? If so, how have you recognized them for their role?
4. If no one has served that role in your life, do you know someone who could? What will you do to learn from that person?
5. Is God calling you to reach out to someone to serve as a spiritual mentor?