My wife and I own and manage several apartments in our home town. We do our best to see it as a ministry, not just a business. Often we lease to persons with a poor credit rating because we think everyone deserves a decent place to live, no matter what their circumstances in life.At times we seek out tenants receiving Federal assistance (Section 8) from the local housing authority.
Recently one of our tenants moved out creating a vacancy. The townhome needed extensive cleaning and renovations. We did the cleaning and painting ourselves and hired contractors to replace the kitchen cabinets, counter tops and bathroom vanities. Another professional steam cleaned the rug. By the time we were done the place looked pretty good. We refuse to become ‘slum landlords,’ fixated on costs, unwilling to make repairs. Rather, we keep our properties clean and well maintained.
Over the weekend I set out two “for rent” signs and placed a free ad on the local university’s e-classifieds. Two hours later I started getting calls and emails. Within 24 hours I had shown the apartment to three families, who each filled out an application. However, I was drawn to one family in particular. Dawn (not her real name) is a single mother with two teenage children, a 13 year old daughter April and an 11 year old son Jack. She owns a home in an adjoining county but when her husband left her 18 months earlier, she began to struggle financially. Eventually, she could not keep up with the mortgage payments and the credit card debt he ran up before he left. On the advice of her lawyer, she plans to foreclose on her home and declare personal bankruptcy. She is hoping for a fresh start.
I checked her credit and references. Her credit score is abysmal but her character references were excellent. After some discussion of the various interested parties, we decided to rent her the apartment to help her get a fresh start. When I called to tell her this, she fell silent. I could hear her crying on the other end of the line. Finally, after regaining her composure, she said, “Thank you. This is an answer to prayer.” I explained I too had come through a painful divorce and understood her situation. Again, she choked up. We agreed to meet the next day to sign the lease after she got off work.
The next morning, I stopped by the townhome to mow the lawn one more time and to square away a few small items. When she arrived at the townhome that evening everything was in order. I oriented her to her new home and introduced her to her next door neighbor. She then signed the lease and paid the first month’s rent. When the formalities were over, I gave her a housewarming gift, a copy of Fifty Shades of Grace. I told her my story of divorce and deliverance was in the book. She was genuinely pleased and took it with her when she left to pick up her children.
I have given away more than a dozen copies of this wonderful book which contains amazing stories of God’s grace in the lives of 50 different authors. I’ve passed it on to friends, relatives and this tenant. I’ve given it as a birthday gift, a housewarming gift and just because I thought the person needed to be encouraged by inspirational stories of God’s grace. I just ordered three more copies and plan to give them to our neighbors. I’ve found that Grace is an amazing gift, both to give and to receive. I think you will too.
Steve Carpenter, MennoMedia Director of Development