When I was eleven or so, a boy around my age or maybe even a little younger made it into the news because he had begun bringing meals to homeless people in some major American city–New York or Chicago or something. I’m pretty sure up until this point, the only poverty I had been aware of was in what was then called “third world countries”–like the one I lived in until I was eight.
I don’t remember the name of the kid, but I still remember sitting at the dinner table in the house where I grew up, some adult visitors talking to my parents about this story, and The Dream being Born.
Well, how about this? Two years later, our surprisingly creative math teacher assigned us to create a scale-map of our Dream House. Mine was a “mansion” “in England” which I was going to buy and partition off into small bed chambers or apartments in which I planned to house all the homeless people of London that I could haul out there in a bus. Because I had read books like The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and The Secret Garden and for some reason this seemed like a plausible modern-day use for houses like the ones described in those stories. I seem to remember writing a paper about homelessness (and another one about the ozone layer) in high school, and then doing a bit of research on Jane Addams, after which I realised that maybe a little more planning and thought would have to go into this communal housing idea, but that I still liked it.
A little later, I heard about some Christian orphanages in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Morocco, but somehow I never ended up working at any of them. I have, however, as I mentioned to the Youth Group a few weeks ago, been working with other people’s kids since before I was 16. And for some reason the “providing a home” thing has never really gone away. In London one of my roommates and I once took in two different friends who were going through domestic violence issues at the same time, and at various points in my adult life, I have applied for jobs as a residence director at colleges and stuff.
So maybe Number 12 isn’t an accident.
Number 12 is the house owned by Now Church for the past few years, lived in by Pastor Ron and Mrs Dona before RevCD showed up, and now just kind of waiting to be loved. Meanwhile, the Youth have no room of their own in the church, and there are plenty more Youth in the neighbourhood outside of the church, and so for the last few months I have been crafting a proposal to give to the Trustees, asking them to let us turn Number 12 into a Youth and Outreach Centre. The idea is that the extant Youth Group activities will mostly take place there now, and that eventually–I hope in the autumn, pending a few structural adjustments and other reddish tape–the house will be open in the afternoons for local twelve- to eighteen-year-olds to come in and get homework help, spiritual help, and referrals to other centres that assist with more specific issues.
I have been working hard on this proposal, and I am really excited about it. This doesn’t make Number 12 into a homeless shelter. But . . . I think there are different kinds of shelters. There are plenty of kids who need a place that feels like their own, and if we can provide a house that feels like a home even for just a few hours in an afternoon, that has to be worth something.
Just over a week ago, the Trustees approved the proposal.
I was a child when I first thought of opening up a home to people who weren’t my family, in hopes we’d become a family. TWCN is a much younger child, but recently she drew a picture for school that pretty much sums up what I’ve been thinking and feeling lately.
There’s another Bible passage that says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain” (Psalm 127.1). I’m praying God’s building this house. I’m trying to have faith that He is. I’m grateful for what He (and the Trustees) have done thus far.