I jumped at the chance

Enloe Wilson (left) with Bishop Patrick Yu at the opening of the new Habitat for Humanity site on Brimley Road in Scarborough.
 on February 1, 2016
Michael Hudson

Enloe Wilson is the manager of Faith and Community Development for Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area.

I am the relationship manager of our organization’s interfaith partnerships. Those partners that fall within my portfolio – including the Diocese of Toronto and its parishes – offer critical support to our affordable home-building work through volunteering and financial support as well as advocacy around the need for affordable housing in our region.

We are thrilled to have completed and dedicated 23 homes for our partner families in 2015, one of those being the first-ever Diocese of Toronto-sponsored home at our 960 Brimley Rd. site in Toronto’s east end. This year will see us working on 46 homes in Toronto, Brampton, Caledon, Stouffville and Newmarket. We invite parishes and other faith communities in these areas to support our work.

Easily the best part of my work is the privilege of serving alongside a richly varied community of families and supporters. In a region as diverse as the Greater Toronto Area, “Habitaters” arrive by way of countless ethnic, faith, socio-economic and other backgrounds. The opportunity to make these acquaintances, to learn from their perspectives and to affect a measurable social impact in concert with them is hugely rewarding.

Perhaps the toughest part of my work is challenging myself and others to truly live out our contempt for poverty. I’ve found that most people will declare with complete sincerity that they are deeply moved by the plight of those who live in substandard housing, but fewer are prepared to avail their own time, resources or proverbial backyards to develop affordable housing. Fewer still are prepared to assume a lifestyle of solidarity with the poor, not merely supporting our work – or that of any charity – on a project basis, but existing in opposition to those policies, market activities and social assumptions that facilitate systemic poverty as a matter of course. This latter disposition is deeply important, not to mention exquisitely Christ-like. My hope is that I might grow in my ability to exemplify and inspire movement in this direction.

I was born and raised in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and did undergraduate and graduate studies in journalism at nearby Kent State University. I worked primarily in news and community relations until 2006, when I relocated to Toronto to take up a call to seminary. In 2010, I graduated from the University of Toronto, Emmanuel College, with a Master of Theological Studies degree.

On graduating from seminary, my initial intent had been to continue in doctoral-level study. During my discernment of whether I was best suited for a career in the academy, the opportunity arose to volunteer with Habitat GTA in a number of capacities. I began as a volunteer on build sites, then progressed to crew leader. Simultaneously, I was invited to serve as a writer and editor for Habitat GTA’s marketing and communications department and as a member of the organization’s Interfaith Outreach Committee. When the prospect came up to join Habitat GTA as its manager of faith engagement, I jumped at the chance.

Habitat appealed to me as a wonderfully unique vocational environment wherein I might see my faith put into measurable action. I was very much inspired by a notion coined by our founder, Millard Fuller. In his “Theology of the Hammer,” he suggested that despite differences in belief or social orientation, most people – and particularly people of faith – can do God’s work by coming together under the impetus to serve those in need in the most menial of ways. It’s through this unifying notion that Habitat’s presence around the planet has thrived over the past 40 years.

I was raised in the African American Baptist tradition and grew up in an area of suburban Cleveland that boasted what was then the densest Orthodox Jewish community between New York and Chicago. At the same time, my public school district was probably the most diverse in the Greater Cleveland Area. I enjoyed the friendship of classmates from any number of faith traditions – Islam, Sikhi, Buddhism, etc. From very early, my spiritual imagination was roused by the mosaic of traditions around me. I believe it was in university, though, around the time of the Gulf War, when my appreciation of faith began to evolve from something chiefly aesthetic to something utterly transformative where issues of social dysfunction and restoration are concerned.

Habitat for Humanity is a global federation from which I would be honoured to retire. Its vision, its mission and values, its history of radical inclusivity, its Abrahamic foundation of caring for those in the margins – they all resonate deeply with me. In coming years, I would love to extend my personal ministry with Habitat, working with our affiliates in nearly 100 countries to maximize regional interfaith partnerships in service to families in need.

Having lived, studied, and worked among such a diversity of people throughout my life, I’ve come to really appreciate the extent to which well-considered communication – or the measured restraint therefrom – sets the tone for the lives we build with each another. Proverbs 25:11 offers, “[Like] golden apples in silver settings, [so] is a word spoken at the right time.” There’s such beauty and practical wisdom in that, I find.


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