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The Architect Serving Refugees with His Work

TGCvocations with Rodman Ricketts

Rodman Ricketts is an architect with GFF Architects in Dallas, Texas. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin. Rodman and his wife, Becky, live in Old East Dallas and are members of New St. Peter’s Presbyterian Church.


What do you do every day?

I work for an architecture firm that designs a wide variety of buildings. As a member of the planning team, I’m often one of the client’s first points of contact for multi-family and mixed-use projects. If a developer is considering a property, for example, she comes to our team before she bids. She wants to know how many square feet can be developed, how many units can be created, and what’s required to comply with zoning laws and building codes. We create a conceptual site plan that informs her bid, helping her determine whether to go forward with the project.

As an image-bearer of God, how does your work reflect some aspect of God’s work?

An architect’s work is inherently creative, and I appreciate the challenge of putting my creative faculties to work, especially in service to my community and city. In many ways, this reflects the work of our creative God, who built the world to love and serve his creation.

Architects are also responsible for coordinating a diverse group of professionals—designers, engineers, contractors—to reach a common goal. As a coordinator, I want to encourage peaceful and productive relationships and reflect God’s heart of love for people as we work together.

Where have you seen brokenness in your industry?

In Dallas, as in other cities, many neighborhoods near the center of the city have seen long periods of neglect and under-investment. The process of making these areas once again attractive to new and current residents and businesses can be slow and difficult.

Another sign of brokenness relates to the cultural expectation of home ownership. Part of what led to the housing crisis was the widespread belief that everyone should be able to own a single-family house with a backyard. That assumption led to risky borrowing and lending that caught up with us a few years later. Because many growing cities are becoming increasingly more expensive, the dream of owning a home is becoming harder to imagine for many people.

How are you working to heal that brokenness?

Our firm designs urban-infill apartments and mixed-use buildings in inner city neighborhoods. Increasingly, people are choosing to rent apartments close to where they work, and we’re doing the best we can to create buildings that will last a long time, work well, and be beautiful. We try to create meaningful places like courtyards, amenity spaces, and thoughtful streetscapes (with front stoops and ground-level retail, for example), to foster atmospheres where people can interact with their neighbors. Most of our buildings won’t get noticed by magazines or by anyone outside our city, but we’re doing our best to serve the communities we design for.

How have you been using your pro bono hours to serve refugees in your community?

Many members of our church volunteer with For the Nations: Refugee Outreach, a nonprofit founded by one of our fellow church members to serve refugees in the Dallas area. For the Nations offers a wide variety of educational programs to help refugees adapt to life in the United States. Staff members often use the Scriptures to teach English, explicitly connecting their motivation and identity with their Christian faith.

A couple years ago, For the Nations acquired a tract of land and needed help designing and developing their first permanent home. For the past year, a small group of New St. Peter’s members have been donating time to plan their new building, which will have classrooms and a sanctuary space for a future church plant. At the groundbreaking ceremony a couple months ago, there were refugees from Iraq, Burma, West Africa, and East Africa—all seeking jobs, homes, and community here in Dallas. No matter how educated they are, they’re limited by lacking language proficiency and the right credentials. For the Nations seeks to bridge this gap, and it’s been my joy to help them in that endeavor.


Editors’ note: TGCvocations is a weekly column that asks practitioners how they integrate their faith and their work. 

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