By Jonathan Kleppinger
3:01 PM EST, February 20, 2013
Steve and Andrea Kohlman are magicians.
Look in their garage now and you’ll see old dressers, chairs and signs as neatly kept as they can be in a two-car space. But they will soon transform that used furniture into food in the bellies of Haitian children — just as they have been doing for the past year.
Andrea began making regular trips to Haiti in November 2009 to work with the Christian mission Waves of Mercy. The ministry feeds 165 children daily and houses street boys, but Andrea has done a lot of work with medicine; she graduated from the University of Kentucky with her nursing bachelor’s degree in December 2012.
Waves of Mercy founders Larry and Diana Owen started the mission a few years ago after three decades running Northwest Haiti Christian Mission. Andrea said she was moved to find additional ways to support the mission when she came home a year ago and several of the project’s main donors had passed away.
“The thought of coming home back to normal life and then realizing some of those babies might not be able to be fed was just too much for me to handle, so I told Steve, ‘We’ve got to do something,’” she said.
Steve said he has always had hobbies of art and interior design and jumped at the idea of using it for ministry and giving the proceeds away.
“I enjoy doing this stuff anyway — that’s why it’s great for me to give 100 percent of it away, because I love to redo stuff and find stuff,” he said. “It’s even more rewarding to know that whatever is purchased is going to help people.”
The Kohlmans began looking everywhere for unique used furniture of all kinds — garage sales, estate sales, Goodwills, flea markets, Craigslist — “any and every way imaginable” to find affordable pieces, Steve said.
They named their ministry Repurposed Soul, utilizing a common term in furniture restoration but adding a Christian meaning specific to Waves of Mercy.
“In a lot of ways, because of what the mission is doing, they’re providing somebody that may be lost and doesn’t know God an opportunity to be made new, to be created again,” Steve said. “It’s repurposing a life in the same way.”
As the Kohlmans worked and got the word out, people started to buy the furniture; Repurposed Soul raised $7,300 for Waves of Mercy last year.
“I think people get excited that they can get a unique piece of furniture, knowing that the money they spend on it is going to help folks — all of it,” Steve said. “I think that has helped us, and I think some people prefer to look and see what we have first before they go to the store and purchase it.”
The Kohlmans’ garage is packed and arranged right now for their spring sale March 1-3, when they invite the community to buy all manner of items right from their driveway and learn more about Waves of Mercy.
The spring sale is open 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 1; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 2; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday, March 3. It features furniture as well as decorative items donated from Lancaster Home and Holiday in Nicholasville, which also donated to Repurposed Soul’s Christmas sale.
The Kohlmans also advertise items on their Repurposed Soul Facebook page and their blog at repurposedsoul.tumblr.com. They said they are always looking for donations.
In all the details of sales, paints, tables and crowded garages, the point of Repurposed Soul is not lost for the Kohlmans.
“We repurpose furniture, but we do it all for Jesus, really, with that in mind,” Andrea said.