Down Home with the Napiers

We’re made in God’s image, and He’s the ultimate artist. by Commissioners Kenneth & Jolene Hodder

Ben and Erin Napier, hosts of three popular home renovation shows, recently sat down with Commissioners Kenneth & Jolene Hodder to discuss how their faith impacts their daily work. Committed to using their gifts and abilities to bring beauty and a sense of community to their hometown of Laurel, MS, the Napiers have also donated their services to their local Salvation Army shelter, which they renovated this past fall. 

The following is an excerpt of their interview with Commissioners Hodder:

Commissioner Kenneth: I have to begin by asking the two of you to tell us more about your faith and how it is working in all the different dimensions of your life.

Ben: I feel like as Christians, as the church, a lot of times we put more emphasis on professional ministers, preachers, youth directors … and think they’re doing the real work. It’s great to be able to be on this side of ministry and see that even TV stars can be part of the ministry.

Erin: We get a lot of messages from people who tell us they can see our faith even if we don’t talk about it. You wish you could say more about your faith when you have a public platform and it often gets edited away. It’s so lovely that people are still finding light and optimism and positivity, which, for us, comes from a relationship with Christ. But for them, it may be the first step to wanting to learn more about that. 

Commissioner Kenneth: That is just tremendous. In the Salvation Army, this year and next, the theme is Love Beyond, which is based on John 13, a passage in which Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” And of course, He gave everything for us. So, when we love people in ways that are above and beyond what they expect, it just overflows. What you’re describing is a situation in which you are projecting a love that’s going to attract people to Christ.

Commissioner Jolene: Even in your show, I see every time we watch it that you love beyond. You always go above and beyond and make people feel special and comfortable in their homes, and that’s loving beyond. When we think of you, we think of loving beyond.

Ben: Thank you.

Commissioner Kenneth: I want to talk about your attention to notions of beauty and grace. You take what the world would say is old, useless, and should be torn down, and you bring to it love and attention to what it could be. That really is very, very powerful. Your relationship with art, in my mind, comes from this association of beauty and grace, and love that is part of your faith. 

Ben: It makes me think about what we just did. We just finished revealing the family room we renovated at The Salvation Army shelter in Laurel, MS. During the renovation, we asked the team,  “Do you mind if we go over to The Salvation Army thrift store and pick out some things that we can use in here?” We found an old desk and we found some artwork and Erin implemented it into the room.

Erin: We’re made in God’s image, and He’s the ultimate artist. We’re trying to be a little like God in creating something that has beauty and something that has meaning. That is always the ultimate goal—to reflect beauty and love and joy in the things that we do.

Commissioner Kenneth: Ben, with your gifts in terms of construction, you go out and you find scrap pieces of wood, and then turn them into something that is incredibly useful and beautiful. 

Ben: You kind of start off like, trying to make something, trying to build something interesting and beautiful. In my wood shop, we find ourselves more and more trying to simplify what we are doing to showcase what God did in this piece of wood. Everything that will be visible on this piece of furniture has to come from this because there’s no way that we can do what God has already done over time to this piece.

Commissioner Kenneth: Well, that’s so similar to what the Army does. People come to The Salvation Army in despair or they’re lonely or in difficult circumstances, and we try to say, “Look, God loves you so much that He sent His son for you. He cares about you. He knows everything about you. You are a beautiful creation of God.” At The Salvation Army, we’re trying in a lot of ways to help them see how God views them. We want people to know that they can serve Him and live lives that are full and meaningful and have purpose and make a difference in the lives of other people. When that moment of realization happens, that’s one of the things that we really have enjoyed in our ministry because so much follows from it.

Ben: It’s that simple. God loved you so much that He sent His son for you. That’s all you need. It covers everything, and I think that that’s the hardest thing for people to see. I think that this is the most powerful thing that Satan and the world have. It’s hard to look past what you’ve done—the wrongs according to the world, the wrongs that you have done—and how could you be forgiven for that. [But] you are.

Commissioner Kenneth: You’ve recently been working with the Army here in Laurel. You have done some terrific work at the shelter. Tell us a little bit about that experience and what you think about the Army’s work, both in Laurel and across the country.

Erin: I just saw the statistic that 33,000 meals were served at this Salvation Army in Laurel, MS. That is mind-boggling. What if they hadn’t? Thirty-three thousand meals would not have been served. That’s unbelievable to think about, and you just don’t think about a place like Laurel having that many people in need, but they are.

Ben: I think that the world looks at … people who don’t have a home and think, “Oh, well, they’ve made some bad decisions.” Maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. Maybe some of those decisions were made for them and then they spiraled from there. What we’ve talked about several times today is seeing that family room and knowing that is a great thing for the community and for those families when they need it. 

Erin: As a parent, I think what would happen if I were in those shoes and here with my daughters. How would that feel? And what kind of environment would make it feel better? And that’s what we wanted to help with today, to find ways to make it feel more like a home, less like a dorm.

Ben: Like the captain said, “It’s homey and hopeful.”

Erin: It is, and it was all done with super-budget goods. We worked with a local furniture store to see if they could help us get a good deal on a really durable sofa and chair because we know it needs to hold up when the kids are there. We got a lot of things out of The Salvation Army Family Store. You don’t have to have a lot of money to make a place feel softer and more welcoming, and that’s what we wanted to help with.

Ben: That’s the thing. It’s not about money. My parents didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. They’re a minister’s family, but it still felt like home. My parents’ house always felt homey for me, so I think … the big thing for us was seeing the fact that it is a shelter, not just for homeless people, but for families who are going through something really hard. Nobody wakes up and says, “You know what? In six months, we’re going to be in The Salvation Army shelter. We’re going to be spending some nights there.”

Commissioner Kenneth: That’s right.

Erin: We want to make sure that any child who visits here feels like it’s not such a big, scary grown-up world. That there are cozy places, and there are places to be taken care of. That was nice to get to help with that.

Ben: The other thing is we wanted people to feel like someone cares enough to freshen this up. One of the things we talked about was how these are cinder block buildings, and that is a good thing that says “strength, stability and safety” in a storm. We didn’t want to necessarily take away from that. We just wanted to warm it up a little bit, and then we added the coffee bar and worked on the kitchen. It really does makes it feel a little more homey and hopeful.

Commissioner Kenneth: What message would you have for Salvationists? The folks who are on the front line trying to help people and families who come to us for help? 

Erin: I hope they always remember that God chose them for this position in this exact time [in] the history of the world to be the light. That’s a great big honor, and we see them, and we appreciate it so much.

Ben: Erin talked about how for both of us, the first idea of charity is The Salvation Army. 

Erin: That was the first donation I ever made in my little life, putting change in the bucket when I was a little girl.

Ben: And it was our daughter’s first, too. She asked what the bucket was and we explained it. Then she said, “Well, can I put some money in it?” Sure, absolutely. 

Erin: That was her first introduction to how there is a great big world out there that’s bigger than yourself. And you have the power to help somebody.

Ben: You all are the frontliners of that. Thank you.

Commissioner Kenneth: Well, friends, before we let you go today, I’d like to just offer a word of thanks from all of us at The Salvation Army, for your friendship and your kindness, for your work in Laurel, in support of The Salvation Army’s work, and for the ministry that you have as Christians, as followers of Christ across the country.

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