God Uses a Tiny House in Virginia

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Building God’s Kingdom with a Tiny House: A Virginia Calvary Chapel Raises Mission Funding

Story by Jonathan Erdman
Photos by Christina Showalter unless otherwise noted

When Aaron Showalter of Horizon Christian Fellowship (HCF), a Calvary Chapel in Harrisonburg, VA, set out to construct a tiny house, the project was never really about the building. It would be about something much bigger. He had no idea at the time how extravagantly God would use it to support mission work, unite believers in the church body, and connect with the community.

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Framing day! Volunteers from Horizon Christian Fellowship (HCF) Harrisonburg, VA, construct framing for what would eventually be the interior and exterior walls of a 290- square-foot Tiny House. The vision for the small home came to HCF member Aaron Showalter, who looked for a way to work on a project with young men in the church and develop deeper relationships. However, God had bigger plans for the project.

The Vision
In the fall of 2021, Aaron felt a burden to spend quality time with young men in the church. Some “shop time” would afford the group the opportunity to work through a project while also developing deeper relationships through fellowship. After prayerful consideration, one project idea stood out–build a tiny house.

It quickly grew into something much bigger. The small group that would oversee the project began to envision something more than just constructing a fashionable home. “If we’re doing this, we’re doing it for the Lord,” Aaron challenged the group. So they began by asking for donated materials. The idea was to build the house with no overhead costs, then auction off the house and give 100% of the proceeds to missions.

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Aaron Showalter (red hoodie, right), who oversaw the project, interacts with the team of HCF volunteers on framing day. God enlarged Aaron’s vision for the Tiny House, using it to unite more and more people from the church and even from the community. All of the money raised from the sale of the house would fund missions. “If we’re doing this, we’re doing it for the Lord,” Aaron challenged all who worked on the house.

The team united under this vision. It was the beginning of what the Lord was about to do through this small but faithful group of believers.

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Psalm 127:1

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Volunteers working on the Tiny House, ranging in age from 10-91, rejoice over the project before the walls go up. William Shonfelt (red T-shirt, second from the right) provided many hours of construction work. Those overseeing the Tiny House project called themselves “The Nisi Group.” Nisi is the Latin word translated as “unless,” found at the beginning of Psalm 127:1. Everyone knew that unless the Lord built this house–almost literally–that it would all be in vain.

The “Nisi” Group
The group overseeing the Tiny House project called themselves “The Nisi Group.” Nisi is the Latin word translated as “unless,” found at the beginning of Psalm 127:1. Everyone knew that unless the Lord would build this house–almost literally–then it would all be in vain.

“We prayed for lumber, and we got lumber. We prayed for glass, and we got glass,” shared Jacob Marshall, a young adult at Horizon Christian Fellowship. He added, “Everything we prayed for came not only just to meet the needs, but also at just the right time.”

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William Shonfelt cuts lumber for what would be the framing sections of the Tiny House. All materials were donated by various suppliers in the Harrisonburg, VA, area. “We prayed for lumber, and we got lumber. We prayed for glass, and we got glass,” shared Jacob Marshall, a young adult at HCF. “Everything we prayed for came not only just to meet the needs, but also at just the right time.”

Aaron admitted that he was “quite nervous” about asking suppliers to donate materials. “When I would share the pitch with suppliers, everywhere I went, people were excited about it,” he relayed. In fact, he started to enjoy asking suppliers and was always amazed at how the Lord would use it to spark interest and begin spiritual conversations. He acknowledged that “with the economy we’re in now, getting items donated should not have happened. Clearly God was working in peoples’ hearts.”

The group met every Saturday in the fall and even into the winter, doing as much as they could before rough winter weather arrived. “There were times where it seemed like things were taking forever,” admitted William Shonfelt, also of HCF. William was integral in the construction of the project and helped construct much of the home.

                  

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Virginia’s winter weather proved to be a real challenge throughout the project. Here, Aaron is working in the snow to keep progress moving along.

When the winter weather broke, it was time to get back to work; this is when the excitement began to build even more in the church and community. Mostly small groups would come and help on those Saturdays. Helpers ranged from anywhere between 10 to 91 years old, and for Aaron, that was the whole point. “We were aware of the ministry aspect and what it could potentially do for missions, but this was a way to get the church together,” he stated.

The group set a completion date for June and called the day of the auction Nisi Fest.

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Men prepare the insulation that would later be installed in the Tiny House’s newly framed floors. Aaron’s vision from the very beginning was to have a reason to bring the church together in fellowship.

 

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HCF volunteers cut lumber and prepare the framing for the Tiny House.

 

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Aaron’s daughter Elita (left) and son Sam (right) eagerly get into the action.

Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify one another. Romans 14:19

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Aaron and William spend time in prayer dedicating the remainder of the work to the Lord, as well as for the individuals who would later purchase the home. Photo by Jonathan Erdman

 

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The day before the drywall would go on the interior walls, Aaron invited volunteers to come to the Tiny House to write Bible verses on the walls, floors, and even the ceiling.

Nisi Fest
The house was finished. At a whopping 290 square feet—more like the size of the average living room–the Tiny House became the centerpiece amidst a scene of festivity on a sunny, warm spring Saturday in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. There were food trucks, Christian musicians, bouncy houses, face painters, and even a car show. Vendors paid to line the field with homemade goods, from candy to guitars to home decor. Over 60 volunteers from Horizon were at the ready to serve and share the love of Jesus with the visitors.

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The Tiny House is completed after thousands of labor hours and dozens of Saturday work days. The time had come to go to auction, which would be the highlight of Nisi Fest on June 4. Although Nisi Fest culminated in the sale of the Tiny House, visitors enjoyed many other activities—games, fun, silent and live auctions, a prayer booth, and live Christian music.

 

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The design of the house was mostly dependent upon the items that were donated. The team did a nice job of making the 14-by-21-foot house look cozy and inviting. It includes three separate rooms and a storage loft, a spacious kitchen and great room with ample floor to ceiling windows, a full kitchen and bathroom, and a bedroom with space for a queen-sized bed.

But would anyone come? When Senior Pastor Ronny Breen met with Aaron in the “early idea phase” of the project, they talked about that and prayed to the Lord, asking that He would be glorified through the Tiny House; that whatever amount was raised at Nisi Fest, God would increase it a hundredfold for the building of His Kingdom. Both men concluded that it never really was about the money to begin with—and the festival proved that to be true.

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During Nisi Fest, a local Christian music group leads the festival patrons in a time of worship. The volunteers from HCF wanted to emphasize that this day belonged to the Lord.

 

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Nisi Fest raised over $7,000 for missions through the silent auction and other vendor donations. Guests could bid on anything from antiques to chimney sweep services.

 

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Sisters Kendra and Sarah Gordon take a break from volunteering at Nisi Fest to enjoy a highly competitive game of gaga ball. Photo by Jonathan Erdman

Looking back on Nisi Fest and the project, Ronny shared how “the Lord used it to help Horizon Christian Fellowship go deeper into relationship with one another, in community with one another, serving the Lord, loving the Lord, and walking in the Lord together. The Holy Spirit is really moving through Horizon.” This was evident on every excited face on the festival grounds that day.

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Even the youngest of visitors at Nisi Fest found fun and activities for their age group.

 

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Face painting was offered to guests at Nisi Fest.

Most patrons came out for the silent auction and vendors. Visitors knew, however, that this was something the Lord had put together. A booth was set up among the vendor tables for anyone who needed prayer. And everyone was eagerly waiting for the big auction item—The Tiny House.

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Horizon volunteer Josh Crawford (center on porch) leads the crowd in an evangelistic message and time of prayer just before the live auction begins.

Going, Going, Gone!
The silent auction had come to an end, followed by a live auction which included various items from kayaks to antiques. But just before the live auction began, Josh Crawford, a volunteer from HCF, addressed the crowd. He shared about the house, the project, and all that went into it. Then he noted how the Lord brought everyone together that day. His words of encouragement emphasized the main point of the day–Is God building your house?

Finally it was time for the day’s highlight, the auction for the tiny house. Bidding opened at $100,000, but the crowd fell silent. It wasn’t until the price dipped down to $20,000 that the bids began: $50,000, $60,000, $90,000, eventually climbing to $100,000 as two families volleyed back and forth. As each bid rose higher and higher, the crowd reacted in awe.

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And we’re off! Auctioneer John Bowman of Bowman Auctions kicks off the live auction. William Shonfelt (right) assists with items such as kayaks, camouflage-themed spike ball sets, and a 1970s word processor/typewriter. Photo by Jonathan Erdman

Going once. Going twice. Sold! The tiny house that had fostered hundreds of hours of fellowship, thousands of dollars in donated goods from the community, and many conversations about Jesus sold for $101,000. At the end of the day, the total amount raised at Nisi Fest was just over $108,000. And every penny would be sent out to the mission field.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1

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Aaron Showalter stands with his wife Christina in front of the Tiny House, which was sold for $101,000. Christina shared that one of the highlights for her was watching the Lord use Aaron, his giftings, and his work tools to impact the Kingdom of God. With all sales, over $108,000 was raised for missions in one day. Photo by William Shonfelt

The Uttermost Parts of the Earth
“The Tiny House, a vison the Lord gave to Aaron that came to life in so many hearts, will touch Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world, and it started in our ‘Jerusalem’,” Pastor Ronny declared, referring to Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8. “Many who do not know Jesus got to experience Him the day of the auction, and there are missionaries around the world right now praying for the Lord’s provision. The Lord is going to use this to provide for them in ways they can’t even see yet. Thank You, Jesus!”

Aaron stood in the crowd with his wife Christina in his arms, a huge smile across his face. “I go through seasons with my faith and what I see the Lord do—seeing him move and prayers answered and all—but during this whole process from the very first conversations, I just [received] an inexplicable gift of faith. I just knew God was going to come through.”

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Aaron and Josh pause for a photo after the auction and Nisi Fest, truly a momentous occasion for all the HCF volunteers. Looking back on Nisi Fest and the entire project, HCF Pastor Ronny Breen shared how “the Lord used it to help Horizon Christian Fellowship go deeper into relationship with one another, in community with one another, serving the Lord, loving the Lord, and walking in the Lord together. The Holy Spirit is really moving through Horizon.”

                  

Enjoy this video, which shares the vision Aaron Showalter had for the Tiny House project.

                  

Learn more about Horizon Christian Fellowship at: Horizonhburg.org
Visit the Nisi Fest website at: nisi.group

                  

 

(To learn more about Calvary Bible Institute, visit their website or read our past coverage on the school)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.