My name is Eric Meyer, and I am a Methodist pastor serving at First United Methodist Church in downtown Bentonville. It might help for the readers to understand my interest in Havenwood if I mention why I am a pastor. This is my third career. Actually it is not a career. A career is a job for which you get paid. I left my careers because there was something missing in my life while working in those areas. The ministry or vocation I now enjoy is not work, it is a way of life that completes me. My vocation is what I do because it is what gives me life. Ministry is my vocation, and teaching people to see that by aligning their lives with God, the future is filled with unlimited potential, is my mission in life.
I first heard about Havenwood because our congregation adopted one of the rooms here. My wife was invited to help paint the room by Susan Kennedy a number of years ago.
The Car Care ministry just kind of happened by itself in a way (I say that pastoral tongue in cheek. I know exactly Who was guiding this ministry!). As with so many of my experiences of mission or ministry, the door just seemed to open and my friends and I walked through it. I love working on cars and I would get together with friends to work on our old cars together. We had the idea of offering free oil changes and tire rotations to the elderly ladies in our congregation, and set up a Saturday morning in August of last year for a Car Care event. We created flyers for the event and gave one to Havenwood. While we did not have any of the senior ladies from the church take advantage of the offer, we had four single moms bring their cars to us. We had naively thought we could change the oil and rotate the tires on a car in 30 minutes. I now thank God we only had 4 cars that first day because the cars all needed a lot of work, and several trips to the parts store to ensure they were safe to put back on the road. When we were cleaning up that morning, one of the guys said, "What if we did this service on an on-call basis for the ladies at Havenwood? These cars need a lot of work, and they can't wait for us to do a service event every 6 months." We all thought that sounded like a good idea.
Since that first Saturday, we have been working on a Havenwood car most Saturdays since. Overall, our team has completed about 130 service projects, not all on Havenwood cars, but they make up the majority of our work. We realized that in many cases, we were just barely prolonging the inevitable with our work, and what some of these cars really needed was to be replaced with a safe and reliable version. That was when we began raising money to buy cars. We have had people donate cars to us to sell to fund our ministry, we have had people donate cars to us to give away, and we have begun a relationship with America's Car Mart so that we can buy cars from them at a discount for the women at Havenwood. Since January, we have given 4 cars to women at Havenwood and 3 more cars to women in the community.
Havenwood is a life transformation ministry. Through this community (and Havenwood is a community, not just a program), women move from being completely dependent upon others to being independent. Women who would otherwise never be able to give to the larger community are transformed into community leaders and care givers who can make a positive impact on the lives of everyone around them. More than that, Havenwood gives the children involved opportunities for growth and healthy development they might never have had. Havenwood breaks a cycle of oppression and gives freedom to not just the mom, but their children and grandchildren, and on and on.
There are three kinds of change that transform society from chaos to health and wholeness. First Order Change is when someone who is hungry is given a bag of food. It is essential change for the moment, but tomorrow they will need more food. This kind of change is essential but not transformational. Second Order Change is where the real transformation begins. It is providing change so a person no longer needs to rely upon the bag of food. That person is given the long term support needed to become stable, then healthy, then independent. This is the kind of change that Havenwood provides. The problem with second order change is that it is really difficult. It takes long term commitment from care providers and it takes a lot of resources. There are very few organizations in Bentonville that offer true second order change. That is why Havenwood is so critical to the long term health of our community. Third Order Change transforms the system so that people don't fall into helplessness in the first place. This is the work of Martin Luther King. It is stunningly difficult, and there is very little of that change taking place today in our community. The entrenched systems just have too much inertia.
In order to be healthy hundreds of years from now, our community needs to be working on all three forms of change. But to make immediate impact, to experience the joy of participating in the transformation of lives, we all need to find ways to participate in second order change. One of my favorite ways of participating in this change is Havenwood.
Rev. Eric Meyer
First United Methodist Church Bentonville