Mercy in the Midst of Foreclosure: What Can Churches Do?

Tim Brister —  February 18, 2008 — 21 Comments

By now, if you are living in the United States, you have been made aware of the bust in the housing market and the incredibly high number of foreclosures, which is a process in which the estate becomes the absolute property of the lending institution. This is the result of the owner’s inability to make payments on the loan, thereby defaulting to the lender. There are numerous causes of foreclosure, including over-indulgent lifestyles, job-loss (financial slippage), divorce, sub-prime adjustable interest rates (mortgage lending fraud via teaser rates), compounding debt (and credit problems), medical problems, inability to sell property in a soft market, and simply irresponsible home ownership.

In any case, the problem of foreclosure is real, and it is growing. While doing some research last week, I stumbled upon a recent article by CNN Money where they list the top 100 zip codes worst hit by foreclosure last year (2007). For instance, the city of Cape Coral, Florida had four of their eight zip codes in the top 100 (25, 32, 41, and 88) with a neighboring city (Lehigh Acres) topping out at number 14. Together, these zip codes numbered a total of 1,671 foreclosures, and this stat does not account for the other half of Cape Coral! According to the 2000 census data, Cape Coral has 40,768 occupied housing units, so these numbers are quite significant.

After viewing the CNN Money article, you might be thinking, “Whew! I’m glad I don’t live and minister in Nevada, Florida, and California!” The reality is that, during 2007, foreclosure of all kinds in all places was up 75% according to RealtyTrac. So with that said, foreclosure is something that we all should be concerned about, acknowledging its effect in our communities and cities. So what then? What can we do? Are we to simply leave those affected by foreclosure to the mercy of the U.S. government? Their help found only in a government check deemed as an economic stimulus plan?

I think churches should consider the crisis of foreclosure as something which they can respond. As Christians, we live and minister between two worlds–the kingdom of God as citizens of heaven, and the world in which we live as citizens of our country, state, and city. While it is true that we are pilgrims and strangers in this life, like Abraham, looking to the city that has a foundation whose designer and builder is God (Heb. 11:10), we also are called to be ministers of mercy, seeking to engage culture with the kingdom ethic found in the mission and message of Christ. When we think about passages like Matthew 5:16 which say that, as lights of the world, we are to shine before men that they may see our good works, would not such a good work include ministering to those in the midst of foreclosure with the love, mercy, and benevolence found in Christ?

So then, we should determine whether or not such a ministry should be an outreach and extension of your church. If you agree that it should be, then one should determine what it looks like.

> Should benevolence and mercy be shown to members of the church alone? To the community at large? If so, does one have a priority over the other? Receive greater assistance?

> Should those ministered to be required to partake in a biblical stewardship class?

> Will those needing assistance be required to first hear the gospel before they qualify for help?

> Is temporary housing an option? What are other forms of merciful intervention during the crisis of foreclosure?

There are other questions and issues to address, and perhaps you can add to those mentioned here. I readily admit that I do not have all the answers, but I do know and believe that God has placed us here to tangibly show the love and compassion of Christ to the world around us, and I believe the crisis of foreclosure might just turn into an incredible opportunity to engage your community and city with hope for those in despair and mercy for those in need.

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  • http://psalm305.blogspot.com/ Paul Schafer

    Timmy,

    In reference to my church, I will answer these questions.

    Should benevolence and mercy be shown to members of the church alone? Yes and no. For those who seek to receive benevolence from the church, such as money and goods, we do ask if they are members of our church or if they are not, we would ask them to join our church as members. If they are not members, we would ask our Hope Group teams, whomever the person who is asking a member or leader, lets say me. We would see if my hope group team would help out. If we are not in a position to give, then ask them to join. If they dont want to join, then we tell we cant help them.

    To the community at large? We have started in the last year a ministry that works in the community. This ministry ministers by helping to build low-income homes and sells them to families.

    Should those ministered to be required to partake in a biblical stewardship class? Not required, but recommended.

    Will those needing assistance be required to first hear the gospel before they qualify for help?Members no, non-members would require to go through new membership class. In that class they will hear the Gospel.

    Is temporary housing an option? Members yes. Non-members same rule applies above.

    What are other forms of merciful intervention during the crisis of foreclosure?
    Counseling and making sure they work and create and live by a budget.

    Sincerely,
    Paul

  • Mark

    This is a tough one to think about after just having heard this past Sunday night a passionate testimony of one small urban church’s attempts to aid people still living with outhouses and no safe ground water to drink because of how many years they have been without proper sewer systems. And this within the “outerbelt” of a major metropolitan area in the USA. Should our benevolence efforts focus on those who are losing the home of the American ideal or should it focus on those who have begun life without even a leg up and have to drive to a caring church willing to leave their water taps open so these people can fill their water tanks to take home fresh water to be able to cook a meal if they have been blessed to have been given food to cook? Somehow I suspect those in the mortgage crisis will need less of our attention and resources to land on their feet than those living day to day seeking fresh water and food right in the midst of us all.

    Certainly makes me ponder the application of Matthew 25:45 when considering both situations.

    Sorry Timmy, I’m probably rambling and not effectively contributing to the discussion your prompting with your post.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Paul,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think there is a real dilemma for church leaders when offering help to the community, viz., whether to require them to join, hear the gospel first, etc. In one sense, there is the issue of strings attached to the gospel, that they have to jump through certain “hoops” to get the aid they need. On the other hand, if you help everyone who asks without any discernment or qualification, then you could be guilty of poor stewardship and even hurting them instead of helping them (kind of like the entitlement mentality of many inner-city poor who rely on the government to give them what they need without accepting responsibility to be productive and solution-oriented themselves). If you have to err, which side is better?

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    Mark,

    You are not rambling brother. :) You brought up another point. When needs abound so much, when some are considerably worse than others, where do you begin? Should those who do not have clean drinking water have precedence over those in your community have defaulted on their loan in a home that is comparably nicer?

    One of the things that concerns me in all of this, however, is that Christians often don’t think of helping their neighbor in these terms, *except* in a time of crisis like Katrina, UU tornadoes, or the like. However, in many cities and even across the street, there are opportunities for churches to administer mercy and help in the time of great need among people who, perhaps, have never been to church or known the love of Christ.

    Are we to be concerned about the plight of the poor or needy only when it is strikingly apparent (as in natural disasters)? Are we being inconsistent to reach out hands of love and concern in selective or severe moments in our lives?

    This is stuff I am wrestling with right now, and when I think of people in the city in which I minister being without a home, I think that should concern me more than it does. Ministering mercy in the midst of foreclosure may not be only the top five list of church growth strategies, but some things in Kingdom priorities do not rank high on the agenda of pragmatic practitioners who are looking more at numbers than souls. In the end, I wonder if our ideology has truncated our identity as being followers of Him who had compassion upon the multitudes who where like sheep without a shepherd.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    I’ve been pondering the … scope of Christian charity for a while. Though there is certainly nothing wrong with helping nonbelievers, the NT seems to focus on helping other believers first. I think it makes sense that, when resources are limited, we help family first.

    Then there’s the question of which believers to help when resources are limited. Now, in the current housing situation there are two kinds of people — those to whom life has hit hard (lost jobs, sudden medical bills, etc) and those who did something incredibly stupid that has come back to bite them (adjustible rate mortgages). I have to say that, if push comes to shove, those who thought they could use an ARM to buy more house than they could afford are not going to elicit much sympathy, or money, from me.

    In that case, those who are looking at foreclosure for because of the hand they’ve been dealt are with us in any period — with or without subprime morgage snafus. What can we do to help them?

    One, we can help them pay their mortgage for a while. Two, we can buy their house (so the foreclosure doesn’t ruin their credit). Either of these would take a lot of money. It’s possible to do, though, if believers will sacrifice to help each other the way we’re supposed to. But I don’t know how many we’d be able to help before we ran out of money.

    If the above is not possible, we can certainly help them find temporary and permanent housing that they can actually afford.

    So I’d say help people in this order: believers on hard times, believers who bit off too much with an ARM, nonbelievers on hard times. I’d have a hard time bailing a nonbeliever out on an ARM. Sometimes charity becomes enabling bad behavior.

    I hope I don’t sound too harsh here. I want to help people, but when a “crisis” is born of greed mixed with stupidity (much like the dot com crash), I’m more inclined to help those who are collateral casualties than those hurt by their own bad choices.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    ChrisB,

    Yeah, I think I can relate to what you are saying. There is a matter of consequence and owning up to decisions you made that were poor at best. Also, considering the fact that there is a distinctiveness and commitment to those in our covenant community (i.e. local church) that should direct our foremost attention to their need. I do not have a covenant commitment to the world around me, who are not my brothers and sisters acknowledging the Lordship of Christ, but I am called to “bear one another’s burdens” give when it is in my power/ability to do so (one of the more frustrating things for me in seminary has been the inability to help others with limited funds/income).

    On the other hand, when I think about the life and ministry of Christ, it is evident that he did good to those who did not “take up their cross” and follow him. For instance, what about the ten lepers who he healed, and only one coming back to thank him? What about going in the towns and villages and healing all those who came to him with disease and affliction–many I presume did not embrace his message as the coming Messiah. It seems to me that there was a liberality when it came to doing good to others in Jesus’ ministry and not as much discrimination as it is today. Even when the Canaanite woman came to Jesus regarding her demon-possessed daughter and Jesus told her that he came only “for the lost sheep of Israel,” he eventually granted her request because of her faith. As a Jew, he could have required her to become a Jew first. As Messiah and Lord, he could demand that she repent and follow him for a certain period of time. But the text bears no evidence of either being the case.

    So I see both sides, and while it would be wise to consider each situation case by case, I am interested in working through a general biblical framework or foundation for thinking through this issue. Honestly, I do not think we give it enough thought. My curiosity leads me to ask, “When was the last time a church had a staff meeting and discussed something like this?”

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    Timmy,

    When I think about the passages you refer to and some similar ones, I’m struck by one important distinction. Christ’s miracles, and those of the apostles, were done to and for unbelievers. When the early church actually spent money, they spent it on the family of believers.

    Miracles seem to be supporting evidence for the message they preached. But the sacrificial giving that the NT calls for always seems to be devoted to the church.

    (Incidentally, I’m not sure we can make a biblical case for keeping it within our local church body. Think 1 Corithians. The most sacrifical giving we read about seems to have been from the Greek churches to the Jewish churches.)

    “When was the last time a church had a staff meeting and discussed something like this?”
    Don’t you remember that the apostles devoted themselves to prayer, teaching the word, and discussing church growth schemes?

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    ChrisB,

    You make a good point about the miracles being evidence to support the message and Messiahship of Jesus, but I wonder if all of them could be lumped into that category. Certainly the signs (semeion) in John would indicate that to be the case, but would all miracles serve that overarching purpose?

    Acts 6 could be balanced with the apostolic exhortation for Paul by those in Jerusalem to be sure to “remember the poor” which he said he was glad to do (cf. Gal. 2 I think). Now what does that incorporate? Visiting widows and orphans in their distress? Not neglecting the poor in this world whom God has chosen (James 2)? Doing unto the least of these my brothers (Matt. 25)? There are litany of texts which support the case for a biblical-theological foundation for mercy ministry and social involvement, and I think the apostles would certainly agree (especially since they read the OT).

  • http://www.foreclosurefish.com/blog/index.php?id=326 Nick

    Timmy,

    It seems to me that it would be better for churches and communities to be involved in helping homeowners in foreclosure, rather than looking to distant government or banks. The more local the solution, the longer term it will tend to be, and charitable solutions encourage these homeowners to get back on their feet quickly, whereas bailouts or welfare encourage dependency on government.

    The church has also been such a huge influence on culture and charity that many people in foreclosure already look to their churches for guidance through a very tough situation. Banks, while they may contribute more directly to economic growth, tend to destroy that culture by focusing on financial rewards and consumption. Homeowners in foreclosure have definitely had enough of being run through the debt machine and experiencing the consequences of having no financial discipline.

    If churches can help homeowners, though whatever creative methods they come up with, so much the better for the homeowners in the community, believer and nonbeliever alike.

  • http://arabigrace.blogspot.com Rodney A. Bradford

    Thanks so much for this incredibly helpful post. Over the past few years as serving as a pastor, I have discovered that many good church folks believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a working Scripture verse and often quote when it comes to helping with benevolent needs. I appreciate the thoughtful questions on how we extend mercy to those in need.

  • thomastwitchell

    Funny, isn’t it that we can tackle complex theological issues, but when it comes to the practical out-workings we can’t figure it out?

    So, apply some Scripture. Appling Acts, is a fallacy since there is no application outside the church. Apply this one, “Having food and clothing, learn to be content.” Or, let’s look closer at, “What soever you do to the least of these my brothers.” When does Jesus have compassion on the crowds? Ah, yes, they were following him. What was the requirement to continue to have a part in him? Ah, yes, that they become true disciples partaking in the covenant of blood and body.

    Who then is our neighbor? Well it was a man going down from Jerusalem, guess that would make him a Jew, and he was helped by a Samaritan, a disenfrancised Jew. The love your neighbor as your self commandment comes from an admonition that applied to fellow national neighbors. At the same time there is slight provision for the stranger and sojourner.

    Another thing should be noted. None of the miracles of compassion that the Lord performed had any effect evangelistically. It is not faith comes by doing good and doing by good deeds, but faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Deeds before creeds produce greeds.

    Do we have a responsibility for the poor outside the church. That I think would be answered upon the same lines as, “Let each man give as he purposes in his own heart.”

    Though it has long been a tradition for the several churches to provide charities to the world, it is just that, a tradition not very well supported by Scripture. We forget, that when the Lord said, that the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another, he also said that the world would hate us because we were. Our country has had a great tradition of charity. The first hospitials, colleges, free-schools, charity halls, orphanages, homes for the unwed mothers, and the list is as long as you can continue to name various relief areas. What they tended to was not a changing of society, and not a growth in true believers. What it did produce is a narcissistic populace within and without the church. It produced a socialistic welfare society, Social Security, Medcare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, subsidized housing… It produced the seizure of private property through taxation, a kind of tithe and charitable giving by foisted guilt.

    I know that this all sounds pessimistic and cynical, however, I think that it is simply real. When these kinds of issues come up, the thing that comes to my mind is that we do not have any idea what Scripture really says concerning the responsibility for the poor. In fact we cannot even define poor. If Jesus said that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head, how is it that we think that housing is a necessity?

    There are a plethora of Scriptures that control our charity. I think that our greatest fear is that someone might actually require that we follow the rules and we don’t like that. The first priority must always be what Jesus came to do, preach the Gospel, command them to seek first the kingdom, then these things will be added to you. Find out then all the Scripture has to say about who the deserving poor are, then act according to the leading of the Spirit, making disciples, baptising and teaching them to keep and to do all that Christ has taught.

  • Michelle

    I work for a small mortgage company in the foreclosure department. Our company only works with Fixed mortgages. I have seen other churches bail a person out of foreclosure just before the sale date occurs and bring it current, only to find the file back on my desk six months later. There is a period between the 2nd month of delinquency and the end of the 6th month of delinquency where a number of tools that can be utilized before it ever gets to my desk. The Loss Mitigation department helps these people and goes over the financials to see the person’s expenses and income to determine what type of help would suit them best.
    I would say approximately 70% of our foreclosures are due to people not utilizing their money properly. The other 30% are the ones that are either deaths, deaths in the family, illness, loss of income, and marriage difficulties.

    I have debated this for a long time, with my walk with God, what should be done. I’ve also asked where do you help and where do you draw the line. The thought I have is that for the 70% of the people that are not utilizing their money properly, there needs to be Christ centered financial counseling. Those are the people who need the help the most. Those are the people who will continue to make the same mistakes if someone does not point them in the right direction. I believe as a church we should help our congregation and neighbors in making the right financial choices to begin with. Then they hopefully they would never make it to my desk.

    As for the current problem, I’m still unclear of what the Church should do. Helping anyone in the 30% group would be my first choice. Not to say the others do not need the help, but the others have caused their own financial mess. I guess that’s harsh, but the other people did not expect death, illness, or loss of job, these were things out of the persons control.

  • http://timmybrister.wordpress.com/ Timmy Brister

    This has been a really helpful discussion (at least for me). As you probably can tell, I have not (until recently) considered the effects of foreclosure on the lives of Christians in the church and non-Christians in the community. Yet as Christians, the gospel should affect every area of our lives and serve as a framework in which to view matters like foreclosure in our culture. It would be a shame that the only solution people find in our society is more government entitlement and bail out.

    Nick said:

    The church has also been such a huge influence on culture and charity that many people in foreclosure already look to their churches for guidance through a very tough situation. Banks, while they may contribute more directly to economic growth, tend to destroy that culture by focusing on financial rewards and consumption.

    I think that is precisely my point as well. While it is tempting to be cynical and pessimistic about the plight of others who, as mentioned, are more than likely deserving the consequences of their mismanagement of their finances, there is within me a desire to see these times of crisis as an opportunity not to point the finger and say, “See, that’s what you get for being played the fool,” but rather to show the kindness of our Lord whose invitation is “Come unto me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” This, of course, is not to gloss over the seriousness of the situation or ignore the problem of poor financial stewardship and/or fiscal discipline. Like Michelle said, I think churches can be proactive rather than reactive by training their congregation (and even offering it to the broader public) in biblical stewardship and financial responsibility. One has to wonder, of the 70% of foreclosures which are self-inflicting, how many of them are believers? Should not Christians have a worldview which considers money and material things (such as a house) differently than the world around us? But how many Christians think this way?

    So going back to the title of this post: mercy in the midst of the foreclosure. What about speaking truth in order to prevent foreclosure? Teaching biblical stewardship and training God’s people to have a worldview that encompasses the value of treasuring things above and the virtue of handling our financial responsibilities as those who will not only give an account to a bank or lender but to him who judges the living and the dead.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion. Feel free to continue on. I just thought I’d chime in once more.

  • http://www.evangelismcoach.org Pastor Chris

    Michelle makes an insightful contribution — some of the problem is money management and the lack of God honoring stewardship.

    Others make the point that lax lending requirements have contributed to the problem.

    Yet, this is the story we find ourselves in.

    In my last church (I am not actively pastoring at the moment), we had an active food pantry that gave away food to members/non-members alike. Members could receive more than 1x a month, in conjunction with pastoral counseling on finances.

    Non-members were limited to only 1x a month, unless they wanted to start attending the church and getting into some form of financial education.

    Pastors had discretion over mercy minsitry funds to help out members who were struggling with their homes.

    Sometimes, if the foreclosure was a result of a member’s poor stewardship, the church didn’t step in. Foreclosure was the natural consequence of their foolishness. Instead, the church would focus on helping the member rebuild their life around wise stewardship of funds (and that doesn’t mean giving a televangelist a seed offering to get 100 fold from God).

    Other times, if the member has had a history of wise stewardship and their current crises was a consequence of a blip (divorce, job loss, illness, family death, etc, failed business), the church compassionately helped with housing and other bills for a season.

    But this was member care. It wasn’t social welfare for the community.

  • http://thomastwitchell.wordpress.com/ Thomas Twitchell

    What think ye of mortgage coops? Say, for those members of a church or community of believers who have mortgage problems, could a ministry be created to pool resources much like food or fuel coops?

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  • Patricia

    I have to say that I read allof your comments & thoughts about helping. It galls me to be in this position, & although I am a Christian, I am not in a position, due to the nature of my job, to join a church or attend classes; I was forced to withdraw from a career improvement class when I took this job. I am a truck driver. I run from coast to coast, border to border. Its a demanding job.
    My daughter & I are about to lose our home. I am a widowed mom who 12 years ago was left with 3 young teenagers to raise to adulthood alone. My kids had never had any advantages, we lived until my husband’s passing, in a 23 ft travel trailer. After he died, I took a long, hard look at our living conditions, & decided I needed to move the kids into town (we lived in a remote area) & put them in a proper home. The travel trailer was all my husband could afford; he was disabled as the result of a car accident when he was 16. The effects of the injury didn’t manifest until after our youngest was born.
    We moved into a mobile home in a park & a year later was able to buy a mobile home in the same park. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t new. But it was ours, and I worked hard to take care of my little flock without taking any government help. All I did I felt was in honor of my husband, to extend his love thru me to his kids. After 10 years in my little mobile home, the park manager decided she needed my house more than I did. I was never late with my park rent or my house payment. But she evicted us, hoping I couldn’t keep up the payments while paying rent somewhere else. She manufactured complaints about us, even tho we got along with all of our neighbors & the content of the complaints had no basis in fact. For instance, many of the complaints were about my older daughter driving too fast in the park, which she didn’t do. The dates on the complaints were during periods of time when she was living in San Diego or when my car (the only car she would have been driving) was disabled, undriveable in my driveway. Much to her surprise, however, I sold my home (I made a small profit,too) & in tears closed the door for the last time.
    We found a rental house after that. It was small,smaller than the mobile home & the rent was nearly double what I paid for my mobile home. But we managed.
    Two years ago the owner said his financial advisor told him to sell. And he wanted to give us the opportunity to buy it. I was reluctant to go see his real estate agent, but we went. That’s where this all began to head south.
    The agent represented both our landlord and us. His financial advisor was our loan agent. I didn’t like the selling price. I didn’t like the terms. I didn’t like anything about this. Something seemed dreadfully wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. And we were constantly pressured by the RE agent, by the loan agent & by the landlord. The result of the appraisal was kept from our knowlege until the secretary let it slip that the appraisal had come in low. I nearly flipped!

    The loan agent told us that was a mistake & she wanted to get a new appraisal that would show it was valued as high as the selling price.
    I stalled, I hesitated, I balked. I didn’t want to do this. But everyone was pushing & pushing. We finally signed. There was no feeling of joy that we had our house. I only felt scared. What have I done?

    The first year was okay. We paid the house payment. It was a struggle for me to do on my own. Then I had trouble at my job around the same time as my mom died. After trying to live with some blatant age discrimination for 6 months, I quit. Surely, I thought, I can get a local job. But no one was hiring. At least no one was hiring a 55 year old lady. I went to the school district while I was on unemployment, & took the training for school bus driving. Finally I had a job. I made more on unemployment than I earned as a school bus driver. I emptied my 401K and my savings to keep up the house payment. I checked into selling the house, but it was worth about $50,000 less than we bought it for. I was getting behind on payments. Even with help from my daughter, we couldn’t get caught up fast enough to satisfy the lender.
    Then I applied fo a job in my old industry, thinking that we could at last get caught up again. Soon after I started my new job, the lender, Chase, reset the ARM we had on the loan. Now, instead of the $1468 payment, they wanted $1896. It was a 3% jump in interest! Why?? I asked. When the Federal interest rate is going down, why is this going up? They started talking about “indexed rates” and stuff I had no idea what they meant.
    My daughter & I pleaded with them. They said if we make 3 payments at this rate, we could get the loan modified. The last time we made a payment, they demanded not one, but TWO payments ! We talked them into accepting one, but not without the Chase associate on the other end of the phone trying to trick my daughter into committing to another payment besides the one I had given him. We didn’t HAVE enough for 2 payments. But this guy would have hit our bank account for an additional $1896! And also not before assuring us that NEXT payment WILL be a double payment.
    All I wanted was a home. A sanctuary where my family & I could be safe. I’ve lost one home already. If everyone would have let me be, I’d still be there. I wouldn’t be in this situation. I could afford the mobile home payment. This is wearing me out. And I’m too old to be working this hard. I’m tired. Mostly I’m tired of being ripped off every time I make a little progress. I don’t know if I have, at almost 57 now, that I have the time or the energy to start over again.

  • Jennifer

    I am going to approach this from the other end so that churches have something to think about. We bought our home three years ago. My husband had a wonderful job and we bought a home that we could easily afford. About two months after closing, we started going through documents and noticed some disturbing information. There were all kinds of things wrong with our mortgage. Without going into all of the details, we had a predatory mortgage and our mortgage was in violation of state law, so we started fighting back at the mortgage company using the legal system.

    Jump ahead to a year ago last June. My husband unexpectedly lost his job through no fault of his own. We paid on our mortgage as long as we could while he was on unemployment but eventually it was impossible. We consulted with financial counselors and an attorney and put our home on the market. My husband continued to look for work but kept on coming up empty. Unless he were to work three to four warehouse jobs and destroy himself physically, it was impossible to keep our home.

    We had two offers come in on our house, but due the housing market, the property value had fallen to less than the amount of our mortgage. The mortgaage company wouldn’t agree to very reasonable short sale offers. It was ridiculous. Keep in mind that in all of this we also had an attorney fighting for us in court. The judge denied the first foreclosure request from the mortgage company due to our attorney catching them on some lies. Even though he didn’t want to, the judge had to grant the second filing because my husband didn’t have income to sustain the mortgage anyway. He would have rescinded the mortgage all together and we could have gotten a brand new mortgage, but that would not have been responsible when we still didn’t know what our income would be like.

    My husband is called to ministry and has been serving in ministry for free for a very long time. He decided to go back to school and pursue full-time ministry as a career which was his original career goal anyway. We believe that God allowed everything to happen for a reason and we are one of the most caring families when it comes to other families in need.

    Now let me tell you about our church. We stayed fairly quiet on our situation with the church. We sort of got the vibe from the church that the have’s really do not hang out with the have nots. Well, when we knew we were definitely going to have to give the house back to the bank, we carefully just let the church know as a prayer request. Basically asking them to pray with us as we transition (we had pretty much prayed already and knew God was wanting us to move out of state and to a hopefully better job market anyway and closer to family during time of transition). Well, that is the biggest mistake we ever made. We should never have told the church anything.

    My husband was confronted by two individuals (a deacon and a staff member) and told that he was not being the “man” of the household. It was not an encouraging conversation at all. They told him he was letting his family down by losing his home. They could care less that we knew God was calling us to move somewhere else. They even had the audacity to tell someone called to ministry, that he should just take as many jobs as he could and work seven days a week and forget about serving at church. Needless to say, we were both deeply hurt from this, and will probably never
    voice a prayer request again.

    If this is how churches are going to treat honest Christians who are responsible with their money and perhaps God is letting things happen for a reason, then it is just downright sad. We serve a great God and despite two people of status in our church treating us poorly, there are others who do care and do pray for and help us out as they can.

    I just would like to caution those at churches to be careful and not jump to hasty conclusions and pass unjustified judgments on those losing their homes to foreclosure. It hurts to be torn down by other Christians when you know that you are following God’s will for your life. We are not supposed to set our sights on earthly things. Our focus should be on God and Heaven. A house doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

  • Marlene

    Dear Timmy,
    As I read through your initial posting my heart soared to hear of your thoughtful yearning to find the means to help those in need. For many people, this housing crisis is the first time they have experienced a financial crisis – up until now they may have thought the struggled but those struggles pale in comparison with the challenges they face. As it was suggested in one of the responses, for the church to provide guidance and support to plan and rebuild their lives, seems like very appropriate and loving to me. It is disheartening to read the posts of Christians arguing that people in foreclosure do not warrant the church’s sympathy or assistance. Bless you on your journey as you gather those who wish to help their neighbors, brothers and sisters. Many of those you help have children who undeniably deserve your help.

  • Carolyn Bonzi

    My husband became disabled due to multiple auto accidents that had no coverage.I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer when our children were 1,3,5,7. My father in law who was a WWII veteran was miss- medicated with another persons methadone. He fell off his bed and had a stroke. We moved into this house with his help, and he moved in here with our family.We had a purchased a rental in 2000.We upgraded it completely, and rented it to a great lady. She was laid off,and fell behind for months. My cancer came back in 2006 when we knew we were to refinance. y cancer came back and we didn’t have time to refinance. We are loosing our home.Our 4 children all still live at home. Can anyone help Us

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