There are times in all our lives where we must ask for what we need, where we hope for answered prayers and look to lean on others. At other points, we are given the strength to support those individuals who might be struggling. We are able to pay back the good that has been done for us with the empathy we gain from hardship. In this season of giving, Amber Courtney is compelled to do exactly that while bringing the PLNU community into her mission of hope. 

Courtney graduated from the university with a B.A. in interior design and has returned to work as the kinesiology department assistant. During her senior year, she became involved with a non-profit called Humble Design as they were establishing their roots in San Diego. Humble Design covers several cities across the country and works to furnish houses for families transitioning from homelessness. Courtney joined the team as they did their first project in San Diego and hasn’t slowed down since. In fact, in the last year alone she has done 50 different home projects with them. 

As Thanksgiving was approaching, Courtney learned of a family who was struggling after an especially difficult year. They did not fit the profile of being previously homeless though they had been sleeping on air mattresses for months and had faced many hardships as of late. Using her experience with Humble Design as an inspiration, Courtney took it upon herself to reach into the San Diego community and ask for help, knowing they could still use the support. For several weeks she gathered donations for the house, filling her garage with beds, dressers, sofas, lamps, dishes, and other furnishings from individuals all around San Diego.

She realized that this mission was not one she had to fulfill on her own, so she reached out to the staff and faculty within the university in hopes that she could get some additional support. The response was incredible. Courtney says people who worked at PLNU who she had never met were reaching out to donate. 

Courtney posing with donated furniture.
Courtney was inspired by the work she was able to do through Humble Design.

“This is the first time I’ve put [a request like this] out to the school,” she said. “I really felt like I was answering a calling of what God wanted me to do.” Whether it was donating furniture, putting together the family’s meal, or helping move everything the day of, the campus came together to help her do something special for the family in need. 

When the holiday arrived, Courtney loaded up a moving van and furnished the space in four hours with the help of many volunteers. When the family returned, many necessities they hadn’t had the means to obtain were now a part of their space. They also had a meal provided for Thanksgiving and, as Courtney explained, this act of giving “brought hope back into [these] people’s lives.” Her volunteer team was moved by the difference they were able to make for this family. It is an experience that humbles those involved because it reveals the universality of their struggle. She says this need is huge. “They’re just like you and [me],” she said. Everyone goes through their own type of struggles, but in cases like this, “once dignity is restored into their homes they can move forward.” 

The team who designed this home posing for a photo.
Courtney and her team of volunteers prepared this house in four hours.

Isaiah 61:3 is a quote that drives the work Courtney is doing. It reads: “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning.” She explained, “I’ve gone through those ashes, but that’s what’s led me to where I am today. God was preparing me to meet these people with empathy.” It is this capacity for compassion that allows her to make such an impact in the work she is doing.

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning.”

Courtney intends to continue on this path. She has recently been a part of the first few episodes of “Welcome Home,” a show hosted by the co-founders of Humble Design who are continuing on with this mission through a new medium.

“I’ve fully realized that my creative gifts can be used as a vessel to where God wants me. Additionally, I want to move forward giving purpose to the emotions within our community, whether broken or thriving, and form them into tangible spaces of hope and dignity.” 

Related Story: PLNU professor Mark Mann provides some historical and theological perspectives on the issue of homelessness.

Micah Renner is a writer with a passion for helping people tell their stories.