Not every project that Operation Nehemiah takes part in lands on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, but this story captured the hearts of people from miles around. Since 1946 the Sabec brothers, Don, 81; Lawrence, 77; and Ron, 67, had lived in a small home in New Lenox, Ill. The home was filled with memories yet was increasingly run-down. A leaky roof, faulty heating, and gaping holes in the walls prompted the county to warn that the building could be condemned.
Then the community stepped in—including Rob Lach. A general contractor, member of New Life Christian Reformed Church in New Lenox, and founder of the nonprofit Operation Nehemiah, Lach coordinated the effort to rebuild the dilapidated house within a span of just two months.
“Our mission is to help individuals and families as well as other nonprofits that are in need of construction-related services through the use of volunteers and donors,” Lach said.
One organization did the majority of the fundraising, Lach noted. Operation Nehemiah provided the volunteer labor, tools, and equipment. A group of six to 10 volunteers from New Life did everything from demolition, carpentry, plumbing, electric wiring, drywall, flooring, and more; three other churches were also involved, along with several organizations and businesses.
“The people of New Life Church have always had a passion for getting involved in serving in our community,” said Rev. Ron Vanderwell. “A new development for us has been an emphasis on learning how to do this together. . . . We have been developing teams and leaders in order to help people like the Operation Nehemiah leaders better include and mobilize other volunteers to help them in making a very practical difference in the lives of people around us.”
In addition to the complete home renovation, a physician at New Life helped one brother with his orthotics; another member repaired the brakes on the brothers’ car.
“This is a great way to share something practical in Jesus’ name,” Vanderwell said. “But beyond that, we have a lot of members who work in the construction trades. It’s so important to help Reformed believers realize that they can make a real difference for God by doing what they do best. Sometimes we accidentally send out the message that people have to come to a church building to serve the kingdom of Christ. Those three brothers could tell you that every day they now wake up surrounded by a very tangible reminder of the grace of Christ.”