When I read my email on Thursday evening, I was surprised to read that my friend, Allan Tibbels had died. Allan was the founder and co-executive director of Sandtown Habitat for Humanity in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, a place I called my “second neighborhood” in Baltimore City. It was my privilege to work with Sandtown Habitat, renovating vacant shells of buildings that would become affordable homes for people. My church renovated six houses and I worked on all of them and several others. I also worked with Allan on the board of the New Song Family Health Center.
Allan was a person who, as a quadriplegic, could have sat home and collected disability. But instead, he chose to make a difference in a poor urban area of Baltimore City, into which he and his family moved in the late 1980’s. He was a well known sight in Sandtown, buzzing around in his electric wheelchair. He was a mentor to many, raised some Sandtown kids as his own sons, always living out the Gospel in whatever he did.
Anyone who has known Allen has been enriched by his passion, his faith, his caring for those less fortunate than him, his desire to bring the kingdom of God and true shalom to his neighborhood. He died with his boots on and those will be hard boots to fill. But he has left a legacy to those of us who were privileged to know and love him and we rejoice that he has been freed from the physical constraints of his body in the presence of Jesus.