Back Habitat for Humanity & BBC Build Home for Single Mom
July 29th, 2009
UPDATE: After the dedication ceremony last weekend, Shantha Saragoor and her children have moved in to their new home. Thanks to all who volunteered in April, May, and June to make this dream a reality. Shantha continues to visit Brentwood Baptist, and she wrote the following note to our church family from hers:
"How can I ever forget what you guys have done for me? ... You guys have done so much for me. I don't know if I deserve that much. I am [grateful] and now I have to be reborn to repay all this because I don't think I can repay in this life time. This is not the end of everything. I want you guys to be part of my family and please visit any time. Love you all!"
If you didn't get your copy of the recently released summer edition of the Connect Magazine, which includes her full story, you can check it out below.
This is the kind of story you don’t want to miss hearing about. Brentwood Baptist members reaching out, led by the Spirit, to help those in need throughout our community. And Shantha Saragoor, a Franklin resident, was one such recipient of the kindness extended by our church family.
Shantha Saragoor was born and raised in the Hindu religion in Bangalore, Karantaka, South India. The product of an arranged marriage, she and her husband moved to the United States when she was 25 years old. Her husband enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University to pursue a master’s degree.
Frightened to leave her family behind in India, it didn’t take Shantha long to adjust to her new life. Having not completed her own education, she quickly learned English and eventually earned her U.S. Citizenship. Her husband got a stable, well-paying job as a software engineer before he completed school, affording Shantha the chance to stay at home.
In 1995, Shantha became a mother when she gave birth to her daughter, Prerana, who is just shy of 14 years old. And later, in 1999, the couple had their son, Shreyas.
The Saragoor’s had a civil marriage—except when it came to the finances in the family, which she liked to stay out of. Her husband began hiding things from her and lying about their finances—including the amount of money he began spending on credit cards in her name.
Shantha said, “He was helping his family and had good intentions, but then it went to an extent where he was buying more than he could afford. He was a good man, but because of this we started having differences. He wouldn’t let me put the kids in any activities, so I started babysitting so they could do things. Then, he became a little insecure. He was always challenging me and coming home to yell at me.”
Eventually, Shantha began searching for work to support her kids extracurricular activities. Not thinking she would ever land her dream job because of her lack of education, she did just that—all in a matter of days. She took a job as a teacher’s assistant at Lipscomb Elementary working with special needs children, getting paid very little and only working 10 out of 12 months. That was three years ago, and she’s been there since then.
In 2007, Shantha and her husband reached 18 years of marriage. In May of that year, she left the United States to take her kids on an extended summer vacation to India to see family and travel. When her husband dropped them all off at the airport, Shantha had no clue it was the last time they would all be together.
“Everything seemed to be fine,” Shantha said. “I never suspected anything. We saw so many places that summer, and I talked to my husband many times on the phone.”
Close to the end of their vacation, Shantha’s husband called to say he was in India and would call her back to explain why. “I waited all day, but he never called,” she said. “The next day...I called and asked him why he was in India when he was supposed to be in America. He said, ‘I quit my job and moved to India. Are you going back?’”
According to Shantha, his intentions were clear—he no longer wanted to be married. He moved back to India to take care of his mother, but Shantha and her children felt abandoned. He gave the house back to the bank, put all of her stuff in storage and paid for one month, and sold both of their cars.
“I told him I was going back, but it was the most depressing time for me. I didn’t know what was going to happen to us. He might as well have killed me right then and there. I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t do anything. I just sat in the corner and did nothing. I was hoping he would call back and say, ‘I’m joking,’ but he never called.”
Her family encouraged her to move back to India as well, but Shantha felt she needed to return to the life she’d made in the United States. She wanted to stand on her own two feet and raise her kids in the States.
Shantha’s husband left her no income behind, so she came home to nothing at the end of the summer. Through the help of friends, she and her children moved into a small apartment but barely made enough to pay rent and put food in their mouths. A co-worker’s father, who is a lawyer, provided her with legal services in the divorce from her husband, who made it clear he would not provide monetary resources for his family.
Since then, Shantha has struggled to keep food in her children’s mouths—oftentimes going hungry herself so that they can eat. “This has opened my eyes to many things,” she said. “Money is not everything to me, but my family’s health and happiness are.”
Shantha knew about the big church called Brentwood Baptist. She passed it every day driving on Franklin Road. And since last year, she has attended Brentwood Baptist a few times. But, she never would’ve stepped foot in the doors before several providential encounters with Brentwood Baptist members.
Her first encounter with the church came when Laura Barnes, former Brentwood Baptist Community Ministries Director and member, delivered Shantha a basket. Shantha remembered, “She brought toilet paper, detergent, and other stuff—stuff I didn’t even have at home! And she gave me a gift card for groceries. It came a the right time, the time I needed it most.”
The next time, a Brentwood Baptist member called and said she would be delivering Christmas dinner to Shantha and her children by way of our Christmas Food Basket Ministry that takes place each year through our Missions Ministry. “The first time I heard about Brentwood Baptist, I thought, ‘Oh, it’s that big church.’ The second time, I thought, ‘Maybe this is just a coincidence.’”
Then one day, Shantha came home from work to see a large SUV sitting outside her apartment. It was the same Brentwood Baptist member who delivered Christmas dinner to her family. She said, “She’d been waiting for me to get home. She handed me an envelope and said, ‘We have so much. We couldn’t enjoy Christmas knowing that you were suffering with not having Christmas.’ I waited to open it inside, and when I did, there was $1,000! I was so speechless.”
This time, Shantha knew she was more connected to Brentwood Baptist than she realized. She had just recently discovered that the church her daughter had been attending with a friend on Wednesday nights was BBC in the Student Ministry. And the icing on the cake happened when she applied with Habitat for Humanity to purchase a house and the crew that showed up at the new build on the first day was a crew of Brentwood Baptist members.
When construction began on April 4, Shantha was nervous about meeting everyone from the large church, but was shocked by how they embraced her. “By the first evening, I could talk so comfortably with them,” she said. “Everyone was so nice. They’ve treated me so good and always say nice things. They are unconditionally there for me and I don’t even know them. I’m never happy leaving them now. I just love being with them.”
Today, Shantha and her children live in a one-bedroom apartment as they wait for their house to be completed. This devoted mother is excited because her children will finally have their own bedrooms and a place to call home. She said, “They think they’re building me a house, but they’re building me a home.”
The Saragoors attend a Hindu Temple in Bellevue, but they recently attended services at Brentwood Baptist on Easter Sunday. Shantha said, “I think God is drawing me here. On Easter, it felt like the pastor was talking directly to me, out of all the thousands of people there. I always feel like there’s something more going on. I still have to figure it out.”
On June 28, Brentwood Baptist members who constructed the home and Habitat for Humanity celebrated the completion of her house in a dedication service. Shantha plans to attend Brentwood Baptist again and wants to give back to others just as the people of Brentwood Baptist have given to her.
“I do believe there is one God above all of us,” she said. “I came from a different country and have lots of friends here, but there is some kind of connection to this church. I keep asking, ‘Why would these people continue to help me? Why would God help me? He is showing me His ways through these people. I think there’s something He’s trying to tell me. I can’t put my finger on it yet. I don’t know why this is happening, but I feel like this is something good. I just know it has to hit me soon. I am so thankful and will never forget the people of Brentwood Baptist.”
About the Home: Beasley Place, located on Carter Street in Franklin, is a two-year project designed to build 13 homes for families in Williamson County. Through your giving, our Missions Ministry has donated $20,000 and supplied all the volunteers to build Shantha’s home.