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“We Are The RV Care-A-Vanners"

Nancy Hoag
Third Prize - $4,000

Nancy Hoag is a wife, mother, grandmother, and former teacher with nearly 1000 inspirational articles, columns, and devotions to her credit, as well as four published books. Currently, she travels with her husband in a pickup truck pulling a fifth-wheel trailer, because one year ago, they answered the call to build homes for desperately-needy families via Habitat for Humanity.

Almost daily we are asked, “What in the world is an RV Care-A-Vanner?” In the beginning, we weren’t even certain we completely understood, and even today, delighting in our third build, I can’t speak for the others; I can only share how and why my husband found ourselves going down the road with a truck and fifth-wheel as Habitat for Humanity volunteers.


Shortly after my husband’s retirement, at least a dozen retired friends began to share with us their RV adventures; we enjoyed best the tales of seniors in lush villages dancing and playing golf with other delighted retirees . . . until the day my husband was asked if he might help with a local Habitat for Humanity project. Several weeks later, we “just happened” to spot an ad for people who traveled with their motor homes or trailers to build houses, not for themselves but for people they hadn’t yet met.  Maybe we would like to sign on, a friend suggested.


“But we’ve been carrying around THE perfect house plan for more than fifteen years,” I said. We’d waited a very long time; we were going to build the most wonderful home; I’d even begun to collect paint samples and catalogs and beautiful French country rugs. I couldn’t imagine taking off with an RV when we could finally put down roots in the home of my dreams.


Meanwhile, Scotty was asked if he might repair two local shelters for battered women and their children. I’d never been a volunteer; volunteering had been my husband’s thing; but this project moved me in a way I couldn’t yet explain. There were people out there—many of them single mothers—without a place to live. Within days, an entirely different vision for our retirement began to displace all the plans we had made for our wonderful home; it no longer made sense to simply spend our retirement years on ourselves; we would build homes, instead, for people who couldn’t build one on their own.


In June of this year, after selling nearly 75% of what we owned, including our antiques and the rugs, we signed on for our first build. We began with Port Townsend, Washington. After spending two weeks building for a young mother and her wonderful little boy, we headed south to Oregon where we built for two weeks in a community just north of Tillamook. We spent what should have been our sun-drenched summer waking up to fog, chilling temps, and wind. We donned hooded jackets to deal with the rain; we ran our furnace in the morning and, come evening, bundled in woolen stockings and flannel. But we also saw the work of our hands creating a cozy, two-story structure. A home where a single mom and her two little girls—one with a serious heart problem—would be living safe and warm. I had learned only how to paint in Washington State; in Oregon—because my fellow-care-a-vanners were patient—I discovered I could run a chop saw, handle a power drill, put up fencing, insulation, and siding, and install windows with my own spouse. I had discovered the hardest, most exhausting work I had ever loved.


Today we own much less than what we once believed we had earned. There are days when I miss my piano and Scotty misses his boat, but then waking up in our RV and heading together for work and to build with new friends who had earlier been strangers, we remind ourselves of a scripture regarding “a certain rich man” who thought to himself, “I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:16-20 NIV). Thinking on this Word, we know that investing our time—rather than simply spending it on whatever—has become a purpose greater than ourselves. And so much more.


Today, as we complete the work we came for—and do the laundry in the evening or on the weekend, shop for groceries, and search for a spot where we can get an inexpensive haircut—we check our calendars and maps; in less than a week, we will be headed for eight more builds that will take us to New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida (three builds), back to Georgia, and then to the hills of Newland, North Carolina. After that, we don’t know where; we only know there are families waiting for houses.


Today, we are a people who wake up feeling blessed and eager to become God’s hands and feet on this earth . . . and to do so via Habitat. Not that we might “earn” God’s favor but that we might go in His name and give love away . . . along with a unique hope.

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