How Shinefest collaborated on housing

Published 5:45 am Sunday, August 11, 2013

Guest Column: by Jim Troe

When I came home from work the other day, my wife was sitting at the dinner table with our 6-year-old son, questioning him as to whether something bad had happened to him. I asked her why she had chosen her line of questions, and she told me his little soul had been anxious and fearful all day, and she was trying to get to the bottom of it. Finally, my son broke into the conversation and said: “You had the news on this morning!”

There’s a lot of scary stuff going on in our world – enough to make a 6-year-old want to hide in his room and not come out. Do you ever wonder how all this bad news is affecting you? Even as an adult, I have some 6-year old boy in me (just ask my wife). I can’t bunker in my room, but I am tempted to stay distracted with my own stuff, so I don’t have to think too much about where our world is heading.

Jim Troe

Jim Troe

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The thing that helps me keep a healthy perspective (and probably my sanity) is my faith. As a follower of Jesus, I gain tremendous strength from his promise that in this world we will have troubles, but to be of good cheer, because he has overcome the world.

To me, that means that I am expected to think like an overcomer, not a victim, and not a spectator. In the book of Revelations, the apostle John scribed a prophetic vision where Jesus judged the seven churches of Asia Minor. In those seven letters, Jesus both affirmed and rebuked the churches for how well they were walking-out his message in their own city — their little corner of the world.

AZ-One is a nonprofit organization that focuses on what the unified body of Jesus-followers can do to faithfully carry out his work in our little corner of the world. We want to help create opportunities for people to exit their mental bunkers of fear, frustration and distraction, and work together to solve some problems right here in our community.

One example of working together to solve problems is the Rocking the Block collaboration. For years, AZ-One has sponsored a week of service to the community called ShineFest, where volunteers from 16 area churches work together to show their love for the community through practical acts of service. In the beginning, our focus was spreading wood chips on school playgrounds, lake cleanup and street-corner giveaways, but as the years passed, many of our volunteers began to express a desire to move into neighborhoods to help families with housing issues. For a long time, the thing that prevented us from reaching out to help our neighbors was a fear of the screening process. How would we decide who needs the help?

It was in the midst of this quandary when I met Ann Austin from the United Way of Freeborn County, Jon Ford from the Albert Lea Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Ryan Applegate from the Assembly of God Church.

Amazingly, all three of these servant-hearted people carried with them an incredible concern for our community, along with a somewhat murky vision of how more people could be helped. It was almost as each of us held a different piece of a jigsaw puzzle, and it wasn’t until meeting each other that the big picture came together. The collaboration was complete when Habitat For Humanity of Freeborn and Mower Counties joined our ranks.

The Rocking the Block collaboration takes advantage of the HRA’s screening expertise, the expertise of the United Way and Shinefest to mobilize volunteers from churches and businesses and seek donations for building materials, and Habitat’s expertise in volunteer-based housing projects.

The collaboration forces each of our organizations to lay down our egos and offer up the best we have to simply serve people who need some traction to make their homes safe and livable.

Every year, as the week of service approaches, I become filled with anxiety. There are now so many moving parts to this organizational machine, and the logistics far exceed what my simple mind can digest. But every year, God shows up, and I have the privilege of watching people use their gifts to serve our community in mind-boggling and heart-warming ways!

Every year it works out. Every year there is a messy path to a good conclusion. My hope is that one year I will overcome the sin of worry. In the meantime, I am at least happy to worry about things we can do something about — in our little corner of the world.

Rocking the Block takes place this week, ending Saturday. If anyone is interested in volunteering, they may contact the United Way at 373-8670 or visit for more information.


Jim Troe works at Pro Manufacturing and attends Crossroads Evangelical Free Church.