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Better Than a Bailout

Foreclosure disaster drives California churches to launch home rescue efforts.
2009This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

Pastor Johnny Murillo had often empathized with his congregation members at Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, California. But when one member came to his office during the 2006 Christmas season, panicked and desperate to keep his home from foreclosure, it hit too close to home.

"Dude, I know what you are going through," Murillo told him. "There is a way out."

He really believed there had to be a way out. The only problem was that at the time, he didn't know what it was. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Murillo was also facing foreclosure. But not only was his house threatened: the church was struggling to pay its rent.

In California as well as a handful of other states, home foreclosure rates are spiking as prices slump. This fall, prices nationwide dropped 11 percent from one year ago, triggering a boom in distressed sales of single-family homes. In Sacramento, the situation is much worse than in other areas. Homes are selling for about 37 percent less than a year ago, and foreclosure rates are more than three times the national average. The Sacramento area has had 29,000 foreclosure filings since 2007, climbing to 3,640 in October 2008 alone.

Christian leaders around the nation admit they were not well prepared for either the burst housing bubble or the credit crunch. Nobody was, in fact. But many of them have discovered during this season of pain how the church as the body of Christ functions as an agency of last resort (even for its own clergy and members) in times of financial emergency. This seems to be about the only thing giving these leaders a new sense of hope.

"Like Job said, I came naked into the world," Murillo says. His first father was an alcoholic drifter who was run over by a train. His next father was in and ...

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