Restoring houses and hearts in Nashville and nationwide

Last July, Heidi Isaza covered this heartwarming story of Lisa McEleny, who traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to volunteer with World Vision's recovery efforts in the wake of destructive flooding that hit the city in 2010. During her week there, Lisa discovered that God had a much bigger purpose in mind for her than just rebuilding a damaged house.

This year, World Vision is organizing mission trips all across the United States. Check out the dates and locations -- you could be a part of something meaningful and life-changing.

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“I’ve had the Mercedes. I’ve had the jewelry, the phony nails, and the big hair,” says Lisa, 44. She notes her previous desk job at a bank -- but it's almost as though she is talking about someone else.

The Lord is leading Lisa on an exciting adventure of transformation. “I left my job in this lovely economy,” she comments sarcastically. “I had no idea where I was going to be going or what I was going to be doing.”

How has this changed her? Lisa’s leap of faith led her to lean more fully on the Lord.

Leaving her job was the first big step. The next one? Volunteering a week of her time to serve with World Vision in Nashville as part of our ongoing efforts to help families whose lives were ravaged by devastating floods in May 2010.

“I think of it as an honor, not as a sacrifice,” she says. “I look at it as the most amazing gift that has been given to me personally -- the opportunity to go and help be a part of reconstructing somebody’s world that has been really shattered.”

Rebuilding from the inside out

Lisa puts finishing touches on the bedroom they restored at Vera's house.

Lisa spent most of her days in Nashville working on Vera Thompson’s house. Vera is a slender African American woman. She lives in an older house that she inherited from her mother in suburban Nashville.

From the curb, the house appears to be in acceptable condition. A look inside, however, reveals sagging floors, rotting staircases, and a permeating smell of mold. Parts of Nashville received nearly 20 inches of rain in a two-day period. Much of the excess water ended up in Vera’s basement.

The house filled with nearly three feet of water. Without electricity, there was no way to pump it out. “The water stayed down here [for some time],” says Lisa. “That is how the damage got as bad as it did.” Water, combined with heat and humidity, led to mold in the walls and weakening of the wooden structural foundation.

Several of the individuals on Lisa's team were construction professionals. She wasn't among them -- but that didn't deter her from coming alongside Vera in her time of need. “I don’t know how to sheetrock, but I have a really big heart,” Lisa says.

Thankfully, another skilled volunteer group had already visited. They had hung sheetrock in one room, which was ready to be taped and painted. Lisa and others on her team worked on doing just that.

Lisa and Vera: lifelong friends

Vera (left) and Lisa sit together on the porch outside of Vera's house.

“It’s not really about the work,” says Lisa, after going through the list of what the group had accomplished. It became clear that the Lord led her to Nashville and allowed her to serve Vera for a purpose greater than the physical restoration of her house -- important though that was.

God also brought Lisa there to help with the emotional and spiritual restoration of Vera herself.

“[Vera] said to me that she feels burdensome. She doesn’t want to ask anyone for anything,” relays Lisa, adding that Vera lives alone and feels lonely. Her son died when he was just 23.

“I got a pencil, and on the sheetrock, I drew a great big heart. I wrote ‘We love you, Vera!’ and then we all wrote our names,” says Lisa.

“I [told] Vera, 'whenever you are lonely, we are right here for you, always. You just put your hand on here and you will feel our hearts. This room is our gift to you.’”

Vera was touched by the team’s hard work -- and their hearts. “They have lifted my spirit as well as lifted my morale,” she says. “Knowing that they are coming in and they are working with me and they are doing it from the kindness of their hearts and their love of people…I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.”

Tears welled up in her eyes as she spoke. “I don’t want to cry, so I will just say I thank you all. It brought me so far up out of myself to know that there are people…who love me,” she says, hugging Lisa, her new life-long friend.

Want to be part of a similar experience that helps restore both lives and hearts? Check out the dates and locations of World Vision's U.S. mission trips this year. The trip might only last a week -- but the impact can last a lifetime.

Also, consider making a donation to help support World Vision's work with children, families, and communities in need right here in the United States.


    Thank you for this post! We are currently serving overseas and working to encourage friends and family to see the totality of what Acts 1:8 says. Not all of us are called to international missions (sometimes I wonder if WE are?!). Not all of us are called to preach/evangelize. But ALL Christ-followers are called.

    Definitely agree, Jonathan (great name, by the way). It's always amazing and humbling to hear stories of where God has called people, especially because most of those stories aren't the most "exciting" by our world's standards. Hope all is going well where you are serving! -Jonathan, WV staff

    Hi great see your doing activities like that. I spend sometime in Nashville on december and january and also i saw some areas that were affected for the floods. World Vision USA help a lot of people already in my country Honduras and is nice to see your doing the same in your own country too. God bless you and keep helping people also we need more voluntiers for help make changes in the human lifes ....

    Thank you World Vision for such a wonderful surprise! It was the most amazing privilege and honor to work beside my friends and Church family mission team as we came to Nashville to help the flood victims. All of us were touched in ways you cant imagine - it was a time we will never forget.

    My son and I are leaving on another mission trip to serve you - We will be with our Church youth group in Denver working in the storehouse. It is with great pride and humility that I will be wearing my orange World Vision Volunteer shirt again!


    Lissa McEleney

    Heart warming story Heidi.

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