Tiny houses: Sanctuary for needy shows 'God is good'
Crossroads Community Church in Stearns, Ky., bought a 13-acre site and is building 20 homes of 300- to 540-square-feet to meet the needs of a community impacted by poverty, broken families and substance abuse addiction.
About 75 people attend the church "on a good Sunday," many of them retired or unable to work, pastor Grant Hasty told Baptist Press. Yet God has given the church a multifaceted ministry with the help of others.
"Everything we do is through donations and volunteers," Hasty said, including volunteers from the church. "Most [Crossroads Community Church members] are unemployed, some are retired, some of them are unable to work. We're just giving them an opportunity to serve and to give back. And then we also partner with a lot of churches, and not just summer, but throughout the year."
The housing development, called The Light Community, is about 12 miles from The Lord's Café where the church worships and serves free hot meals four days a week.
"We've had mission teams that have been up here since Memorial Day week," Hasty said, "and we'll have … teams all the way through the 28th of this month [July]. We'll have over 16 churches up here working."
In addition to building homes and serving hot meals, volunteers are conducting a free summer camp four days a week, giving away groceries once a week, washing clothes in a laundromat ministry four days a week and conducting a crafts ministry at a privately owned adult day care, all while spreading the Gospel with those at each outreach.
"A few years ago, we began having a few individuals come in and just needing a place to stay, sometimes temporarily," Hasty recounted. "Some were dealing with addiction, some were dealing with being burned out, others were dealing with child protection services" or other issues.
The needs birthed The Light Community in Strunk, modeled after the Community First Village outreach by Mobile Loaves and Fishes ministry in Austin, Texas.
"I really fell in love with the model … in Austin to combat homelessness," Hasty said, "and so we're bringing that back to rural Appalachia and adapting it to our culture."
Hasty founded Crossroads Community Church eight years ago and describes himself as technically bivocational, although the church is his only endeavor. He has no complaints about working fulltime at the church on a part-time salary.
"It does boil down a lot to faith. If God calls you to do something, He's going to provide the resources for you to do it," Hasty told BP. "Our prayer even from the get-go was, God show us the needs of the community and then provide the resources to help us meet those needs."
The Light Community will house people who have demonstrated a clear effort to recover from substance abuse, such as opioid addictions that place Kentucky fifth in overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the 2016 Overdose Fatality Report of the Kentucky Office of Drug Policy Control. Overdose deaths numbered 1,404 in Kentucky in 2016, compared to 1,248 the previous year, the report said.
But seeing individuals in need, rather than knowing the statistics, was the driving force in founding The Light Community, Hasty said.
Rent paid by a couple to live in a two-bedroom cabin at The Light Community site, coupled with an outside donor, covers the mortgage and utilities for the construction site.
"The project is not costing the church anything each month," Hasty said. "All we do through ministry is by donation and volunteers. God is good."
Hasty struggled to secure a sewerage system for the property in McCreary County where the service is not provided, but an environmentally friendly system is being designed by a Cincinnati company and undergoing inspection for approval.
"God's doing this," Hasty said. "It's going to come together. It's just a matter of His timing."
Volunteers will construct homes in four sections of five homes each, with each section costing about $20,000 and including two studio homes and three two-bedroom homes, Hasty said. The first homes should be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2019. Christian faith won't be a requirement for tiny home residents, which Hasty said will give the church additional opportunities to spread the Gospel.
Long-term plans envision avenues for the residents' livelihood, including an artisan center, a blacksmith shop, livestock and other ventures.
"They're going to have to work," Hasty said. "It's not a handout; it's a hand up."
Among the churches Hasty listed as providing volunteers for The Light Community: Curtis Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga.; Crosspointe Baptist Church in Owensboro, Ky.; Central Baptist Church near Austin, Texas; Big Stevens Creek Baptist Church in North Augusta, S.C.; Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Fountain Inn., S.C., and Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, N.C.