New Houses for Healing Home Literally Built on Word of God
By LORETTA FULTON
“This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Despite the blistering heat, there was much rejoicing Sunday, Aug. 15, when the Rev. Jim Wright, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Throckmorton, quoted those words from Psalm 118: 24. The scripture served as a greeting for the “Blessing a Foundation” ceremony at the site of the latest tiny house being built by Houses for Healing, a local ministry started by Brian Massey.
Wright, about 10 members of his church, Massey and his wife, Karen, gathered at the site on North Hickory Street to bless the house, which the Throckmorton church is sponsoring. When completed, the Houses for Healing complex will contain 20 tiny houses, each measuring 392 square feet.
Houses for Healing is a ministry started by Massey to provide free housing for people from area communities who are undergoing long term medical treatment in Abilene. The patient and family members can stay in a fully furnished and stocked house as long as the treatment lasts–all free of charge.
Each house is named for one of the 19 counties that make up the Big Country region, plus a house for veterans. The Taylor County tiny house, next up for construction after Throckmorton, will be for use by the county’s first responders when disasters occur.
Foundation forms are in place for four new tiny houses. Sunday’s ceremony, led by Wright, included burying an antique King James Bible in the dirt where the foundation will be poured for the Throckmorton house. The Bible, measuring about 14 x 12 inches, was placed in a black plastic bag and then buried. Each person, one by one, placed a shovel of dirt on top.
“Brian has built these houses on the word of God, literally,” Wright said, “so today we will place a wrapped Bible in the dirt where this foundation will be placed.”
The gathered crowd sang the first verse of the familiar hymn, “How Firm a Foundation,” and heard the equally familiar passage from Matthew 7: 24-27 about the wisdom of building a house on solid rock.
“According to the grace of God given to us, we place the scriptures under the foundation as we assist the master builder to lay this foundation,” Wright said. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.”
Throckmorton First UMC already had a connection with Houses for Healing. A member, Candy Key, owns a knitting shop in Throckmorton. A group of knitters who meet there makes prayer shawls, chemo caps, and neonatal caps to donate as a ministry.
When Key learned of Houses for Healing, she suggested the group donate some of the caps to patients temporarily residing in one of the tiny houses, including some from Throckmorton. Now, the church is sponsoring the latest house under construction. Massey, founder of Houses for Healing, estimated that it costs about $55,000 to build and furnish one tiny house. The Throckmorton church will assist in raising the necessary funds.
At Sunday’s ceremony, Key’s husband, Bryan Key, assisted the pastor with placing the Bible in the plastic bag and putting it into the ground. Key said the church is active in various ministries, but the Houses for Healing project is huge for the congregation.
“This may be one of the largest projects,” he said.
The Throckmorton House will be the first to be built on newly acquired land that is across the street from the original four houses. Eventually, 16 houses will be built on that site. Those, combined with the original four, will complete the Houses for Healing complex.
The new land, purchased earlier this year, was occupied for years by Dick and Marie Kinney. The Kinneys, who both are now deceased, gave their land and their home, built in 1926, to Houses for Healing. The house, now known as the Kinney Family Chapel, contains Massey’s office, a chapel, classroom, kitchen, and dining room.
Following Sunday’s blessing ceremony, Massey talked about the house, his ministry, and how it has expanded beyond Abilene. A screened porch is being added to the back of the house to accommodate 30 to 40 people. An indoor dining room will be used for communal meals.
A King James Bible was lowered into the ground where a Houses for Healing house will be built. Bryan Key, center, puts a shovel of dirt in the hole where the Bible was placed. Photo at right shows new landscaping at the Kinney Family Chapel, a part of Houses for Healing on North Hickory Street. Photos by Loretta Fulton
Massey’s vision is for all denominations to work together to make Houses for Healing a success and for his vision to spread. He is pleased with the progress so far. Several denominations are sponsoring tiny houses by assisting with fundraising and by providing volunteers and supplies for each house.
Massey recently heard from the administrator of a hospital in Zambia wanting information on starting his own version of Houses for Healing. The big picture calls for houses to be built in Israel. Massey frequently hears from people all over the U.S. about starting a similar ministry.
Ground was broken for the first tiny house on North Hickory Street on Sept. 15, 2016, and it was occupied for the first time in January 2018. Since then, the four completed houses have been occupied a total of 3,860 nights. Massey uses $100 a night for a hotel room as a measurement of how much money the ministry has saved people in three and a half years. He emphasizes that the ministry is the work of the church–many individual churches acting together as the Body of Christ.
“The church can really make an impact,” Massey said.
Massey’s vision started with a walk around available empty land on North Hickory Street and has grown to the four completed houses–Nolan, Veterans, Brown, and Callahan–and a community building, plus the four houses under construction. As always, Massey deflects praise and gives it instead to Jesus.
“The Lord is doing something,” Massey said, “and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”
Loretta Fulton is creator and editor of Spirit of Abilene