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A Needy Family With Their New B1B1 Home

Featured Article

Buy One Build One:

Brush Arbor Homes Looks to Scale Its Work to House The World’s Poorest

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by Jonathan Smith

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

Buy One, Build One ( It’s a profoundly simple yet impactful concept that comes from Jonathan Smith’s desire to glorify God for all His blessings. For every custom home he builds locally with his company Brush Arbor Homes, "B1B1" will build or donate the funds to build a home for a needy family overseas.

After college in the late 1990’s, he lived abroad working with a Christian organization in Uganda that ran a secondary school for orphaned boys – a kind of leadership academy to equip them for life in the war-torn country. He and his wife then lived in Central and South America with other missionary organizations doing relief work and Evangelical Christian outreach. For five years following his return to the U.S., he was in financial planning, but yearned to return to building.

Having concluded that NVR, the parent company of Ryan Homes, had the best local training program for construction, he interviewed several times before being accepted. “At 27 I didn’t fit their typical profile because I didn’t apply right out of college,” he explains. Leveraging personal contacts with the company and his proficiency in Spanish, he finally succeeded in signing on and worked there five years before starting his own firm.

Brush Arbor Homes was founded in 2006, and now builds 15-20 homes annually, mostly in D.C., Arlington and McLean, with its now 15+ employees. After the first 10 or 20 houses the company built, it donated money to build five homes overseas, and things grew from there. “I’ve worked with many different missionaries and pastors in five or six different countries, so at first we just sent them money,” to build homes for deserving families, Jonathan explained. “They would send us a profile of a widow with a family – just like the Bible says, we’re to support widows and orphans and the disabled – and we would donate to fill the need.” He added, “It’s not like here where churches take offerings. [Ministers typically] are paid to be full-time pastors and then they have to support themselves. We would ask our missionary contacts to identify somebody in need or who is giving their life to serve other people, and that’s who we built the house for.”

“My hope is that people will see how few resources it takes to make life-changing differences and that all of us will enjoy the heartfelt blessings of turning a life around.” Jonathan Smith

Occasionally, Jonathan visited the home construction, but for the most part they sent the required funds necessary for the local church community to do the actual construction. That was how the first 10 or 20 homes were built before Jonathan established a 501(c)(3) through United Charitable so B1B1 could take donations from others to try to do more. Now both customers and other builders and lenders can participate in the effort, which has grown to build more than 100 homes and other much needed infrastructure around the world. Working with Compassion International, “We’ve built churches that serve as schools the other six days a week” – as well as places where families can come for clothing and other necessities – for example.

One project near and dear to the charity is a birthing center it recently built in Guatemala. For background, Jonathan explains that home birthing in many third world countries can lead to the birth of children with disabilities, whose families can’t support them. One of Buy One Build One’s partners in Guatemala runs an orphanage for such children. When a donor gave that charity some land near a landfill in Guatemala City, the orphanage manager Daryl thought the best use of the property would be to build a birthing center. The center would give the city’s poor women better care and avert the cycle of birth defects that so often led to the abandonment of children with disabilities. Jonathan says he asked Daryl, “Well, what can we do? We’re ready to help.” Hesitantly, Daryl said, “Well it’s a lot more expensive than a house,” which typically runs $5,000 or so. “Well, how much?” Jonathan responded. “It’s like $15,000,” said Daryl. Said Jonathan, “I was blown away,” meaning that he was surprised that the price was so low. For an eventual cost of around $18,000, Buy One Build One built a hospital that functions as a birthing center for poor women, many of them prostitutes, who could not otherwise afford medical care.

As Jonathan explains on the website, “My hope is that people will see how few resources it takes to make life-changing differences and that all of us will enjoy the heartfelt blessings of turning a life around.”

He says, “I strongly believe that unless there's a spiritual aspect to it, that the effect you can have is very temporary and may be not as not as far reaching,” which explains why his missionary contacts are so vital to the non-profit’s work. He also hastens to add that Brush Arbor Homes doesn’t market the donation aspect of his custom building. “We do tell people that, while we’re building their house, we’re going to build at least one home for another needy family, and later share the photo of that construction when it’s finished.” Before and after photos of where the beneficiary family formerly and now lives serve as a lasting legacy for clients who already are delighted with their new home construction.

Jonathan’s family has grown to include an adopted son from Uganda, and he helps lead mission trips for fellow parishioners at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg. This year they’ll go to both Honduras and Guatemala. “What I tell people is that God can change the lives of people overseas without you, but He wants to change your life through the experience of helping people.” It’s a lesson particularly beneficial to the financially fortunate in Loudoun County: that their lives can be enriched by seeing the changed lives their giving has benefitted.

Going forward, Jonathan hopes to scale Buy One Build One to include other builders and realtors nationwide who want to help but don’t have the experience and contacts that Jonathan has developed over the last dozen years. “Anyone can email me and I’m happy to share the process with them. There are many generous builders and other Christians who want to help people, but they don’t know how to set it up. We can make sure the money is getting to the right people and even set up their websites so their customers can see the families they’ve impacted.”

“All we want to do is glorify God and serve those in need around the world,” Jonathan added. “That’s all that matters.”


  • The Smith Family
  • A Needy Family With Their New B1B1 Home
  • The Newly Constructed Birthing Center
  • A Beneficiary of Birthing Center Services