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A "God-orchestrated moment in time"

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By Brian Garner

For the missionary construction group Harvest Call to begin building a new house on Orchard Street in Chester, a lot of elements had to fall in place just so. Those elements have aligned just as needed in what Ember Church Pastor Kevin Taylor calls a “God-orchestrated” moment in time.

The story begins as Chester City Councilman Carlos Williams was working on homes as part of the East Chester Renaissance project. The owner of the house on Orchard Street stopped by where Williams was working on the project, told him about the condition of her house, and asked if there was anything that could be done.

“The owner said years ago some officials in the city said they would offer their help for her to get a new place, or help rehab her home, but that never came to fruition. What I told her, without giving any guarantees, was ‘I will try to help you.’”

Williams reached out to some other organizations in the community and found they had other commitments at the time.

He knew that Ember Church had started an initiative to build homes for those who needed them in Chester, and he got in contact with Ember Pastor Kevin Taylor to see if they could take on this project.

The members of Ember Church had previously been involved in helping with the East Chester Renaissance Project and had taken on the task of rehabbing one of the houses in the neighborhood. Recently they started a community development corporation called the i58 and were in the process of partnering with York Technical College to build a house for someone in Chester. Taylor told Williams they were not able to take on the Orchard Street house as a project.

“I continued to go out and look for more support, not just to help this one homeowner, but to help rebuild and rehab the homes in our community,” said Williams.

At this point in the story, events begin to exhibit what appears to be a divine inspiration.

“This is one of those things that I don’t think many of the people involved even knew each other until we started talking about this. The pieces just started falling into place,” Taylor said.

“The first I heard about the house on Orchard Street was about four months ago; Carlos Williams mentioned there was and elderly lady that had a house that was in desperate need of repair, and different people had tried to help her, but things didn’t work out.

“At the time we were starting on the first house for the i58, and we didn’t think we had the capacity to do a remodel or rehab. But the house was in the back of my mind,” Taylor said.

Fast forward to about three weeks ago and a casual conversation with Scott Wheeler, a member of Chester Freedom Ministries.

“We’re talking, and Scott says ‘This is a little off topic, but there’s a group of Christian builders (known as Harvest Call) who are staying at Camp La Vida (near White Oak) in Winnsboro and they were here to do some work with the floods. They’re at a place now where they’d like to do a few more projects before they leave, and did I know of any projects?”

“This house that Carlos Williams had mentioned came to my mind, and I said ‘You know, there could be. Let me make a phone call.”

Taylor called Williams on Saturday, and Williams, Taylor and Wheeler looked at the house on the following Monday.

“I had never seen the house, just heard about it. We pulled up and it was worse than I had ever imagined,” Taylor relates. “The roof on the porch was caved in; you couldn’t walk on most of the front porch, it had totally collapsed. The house was beyond repair; when we walked around to the back side of the house, you could see into the house from the outside,” he said.

“When you saw the house from the road, you knew that it couldn’t be fixed. We all three looked at it and said ‘there will be no fixing this house.”

Taylor said he thought the Harvest Call representative would take one look at the house and ask for something a little easier, but the man took pictures of the house and started making plans.

“I said ‘I think he’s seriously thinking about this house,’” Taylor told his companions.

The Harvest Call rep told the three ‘We’ve got enough money; I think we can build her a house, if we can get some help from someone putting her up while everything is under construction and if we could get help with demolition of this house.”

Taylor and Ember Church dropped out of the picture for a bit and Williams began working behind the scenes with the city and county, lining up the necessary details for any permits that were required.

“Harvest Call has a time schedule, where they have to be gone at the end of March. We have to jump on this now; if they are willing to build a new home for someone, we needed to find out what we need to do right now to get this done,” Williams said. He enlisted Chester City Administrator Sandi Worthy and City Fire Marshal Don Wood to help with the paperwork for local permits and inspections and turned to Chester County Supervisor Shane Stuart to help at the county level.

“It’s been a collaborative effort, and that’s a good thing for Chester,” Williams said.

Later on in the process, Taylor got a call from Chester County Public Works Director Ellis Faulkner who said the city and county had smoothed the way with helping out with the necessary permits, but “they were at the place where they couldn’t use public money for work on a private residence for demolition, and was there any way we could help getting the house demolished. That was the part of the project we took care of,” Taylor said.

He said the Harvest Call organization is staying in the community through the end of March, when they hope to have the house completed.

Taylor reflected on the entire process that is leading to a new house for the elderly Orchard Street resident.

“All these pieces of this came together in a matter of three weeks, which is unheard of, when you think about it. Obviously, I see things from a spiritual perspective, but I believe this was God-orchestrated,” he said.