Bob inside his “sacred home” after a locksmith opened the door under police protection.
As part of both the Mercy Junction and Occupy Chattanooga communities, I had been involved in Bob Smith’s long fight to save his St. Elmo home from foreclosure by FSG Bank. We had organized, protested, petitioned, called the bank’s CEO – all to no avail. The bank would not come to the table and work out an agreement with Bob.
Bob was asking the bank to give him payments he could afford so that he could repay the remaining $20,000 he owed on his loan. The bank had refused and demanded the entire amount immediately. Bob was unable to meet their brutal terms and the bank, which has yet to repay any of the federal bailout money it received, refused to show any mercy.
Two weeks ago FSG Bank changed the locks on Bob’s house and had since refused to allow him inside, even to get his possessions.
Earlier this week, there was no doubt the fight was coming to an end.
I think we all, including Bob, had – for the most part – accepted defeat. While we planned a last stand on the morning of his scheduled eviction — two days before Thanksgiving, we also borrowed vans and trucks and were prepared to load his belongings after they were removed.
A freezing rain began during the dark hours when Monday was becoming Tuesday — the day FSG Bank had promised to evict Bob using “a police presence.”
Mercy Junction organized a prayer vigil on Bob’s porch for Tuesday morning, planning to be with our friend and neighbor as a system of vicious capitalism tore him from the place he calls his “sacred home,” a house he’d renovated with his own labor and love.
As I drove down the interstate to attend the prayer vigil, the weight of what was about to happen was heavy. I imagined a short prayer vigil in the bitter weather, the police ordering us off the bank’s property, Bob’s possessions being tossed into the mud, my friends and I scrambling to load the trucks and vans before Bob’s things were damaged.
I imagined Bob’s heartbroken expression as he watched it all unfold.
I imagined no other outcome.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
On Bob’s porch, we joined hands in a prayer circle.
It didn’t get any warmer and the rain didn’t stop.
The clock slowly passed 8:30 – the time FSG Bank had said it was coming with police to put Bob’s possessions on the street.
The morning continued to pass and still no one came.
Bob began making phone calls.
A process server told Bob the bank had illegally changed the locks on his house and had not gone through the proper process.
When Chattanooga Police Officer Eric Milchak arrived, the first thing he said was, “We’re not going to make you leave.”
Officer Milchak took Bob’s report regarding the bank’s illegal lockout. He talked to the process server. He and the process server told Bob he could do whatever he needed to do to get into the house.
We called a locksmith.
By lunchtime, Bob was inside his sacred house and now the key to the front door is in the possession of the man who loves and renovated the home.
We celebrated with vegan tacos and coffee on the front porch.
Mercy Junction is a community of faith rooted in social justice, devoted to alleviating systemic food and housing inequality. We are guided by the Holy Spirit to express God’s unbiased love to all people through action in our community. – Statement of Purpose
As a new ministry, the Mercy Junction community defined its statement of purpose through the consensus process earlier this month. We named housing justice as one of the primary areas in which we work.
As preparation for housing justice work, we traveled to the first Housing Justice Academy hosted by Occupy Our Homes Atlanta in late October. We participated in training for running a foreclosure defense campaign as well as non-violent direct action training.
The housing justice work has seen Mercy Junction Pastor Brian Merritt preach on the porches of two foreclosed homes over the last two months. Both times Brian has used this scripture from Micah as a reminder that abuse of power and oppression by the rich are not unique to our times.
Woe to those who plan iniquity,
to those who plot evil on their beds!
At morning’s light they carry it out
Because it is in their power to do it.
They covet fields and seize them,
And houses, and take them.
They defraud people of their homes,
They rob them of their inheritance.
But, Micah also reminds us:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
This is why we stand with Bob and others in their fights for housing justice. This is why we ask you to stand with Bob.
Bob’s fight is not over. He has a reprieve that will hopefully extend through the Thanksgiving holiday. But, he knows that the bank will continue their plans to evict him.
You can help Bob by signing his petition.
Also, please call FSG Bank CEO Michael Kramer at (423) 308-2080 and tell him to keep Bob Smith in his home!