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We disabled our doorbell when our daughter was born, because with her birth we instantly became conservators of a precious resource: baby sleep. Since we live in a hospitality house where many gather, rest, and take shelter, not having a doorbell was a challenge at first, but we have all become fluent in the language of knocks. There are the loud, hard, pounding knocks that describe numb hands or agitation. There are the soft knocks on the storm door that whisper anxiety and timidity—perhaps a sister who’s not sure if what she’s heard about this place is true. There are the insistent, rapid knocks that seem to scream loss or desperation. There are the rhythmic knocks—“shave and a haircut” being the favorite by far—that promise a friendly conversation and maybe a cup of coffee on the porch.

Our household—both families and those staying in the hospitality room—fall easily into a game of guessing who might be at the door by the knock we hear. Some of our brothers and sisters have knocks as distinct as their personalities. I’ve learned another important thing by learning the language of knocks—something important about myself:

I don’t always want to answer the door.

As covenanted members of Grace and Main, we have committed ourselves—both individually and as an intentional community—to opening our homes to the folks God introduced into our lives. But, after a while, hospitality ends up meaning much more than spare bedrooms and open chairs at dinner tables. As we made our home and life in a place with the commitment to be open to who and what God brings us, we’ve found that hospitality also means opening our lives to others and their stories. We’ve had so many great stories that begin with a knock on a door—stories of lives changed and overflowing redemption and resurrection. We’ve also had our fair share of heartbreaking stories that begin with a knock. After a long day or right after the baby has gone down to bed, the stories of heartbreak are what feed my imagination when a knock announces a visitor.

In the practice of hospitality, we’ve learned that it can feel like a holy opportunity to prepare a hospitality room for another guest to join the house and, simultaneously, a frustrating imposition to have to answer the door yet again for another brother or sister while you’re trying to dust, make the bed, and clean up the baby’s toys. In the space of a breath, our quiet confidence and faith can turn to anxious doubt and “what ifs” when we hear a distinctive knock that promises one of our brothers or sisters who has relapsed or threatened someone we love.

Yes, we’ve learned to speak the language of knocks and found that we don’t always like what it has to say about us.

We’ve also discovered that it’s not just our sisters and brothers who wait for us on the porch with hopeful expectation in their hearts, but the Gospel waits for us there, as well. With each knock comes a summons to hear the good news that God is at work in this messy world and that sin is being undone by love—sometimes gloriously fast, and sometimes agonizingly slow. Each knock is an invitation to place our faith and trust in God and be born again. Each knock is a call to prayer, inviting us to pray to the God of the widow, orphan, stranger, and outcast. Each knock is an occasion once again to prepare the way of the Lord and make His paths straight. Each knock is a chance to welcome Jesus into our lives once again. With some knocks, we welcome Jesus into our home in the guise of a friend. With other knocks, we find Jesus waiting on our porch, looking like a stranger.

The folks waiting at our door certainly want us to answer their knock, especially when it’s frigid. We don’t always want to open the door, but we do it—not because we are “good people,” but because salvation is on the other side of our storm door, knocking and waiting.

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Key Victories from 2014

This month, we’re not sharing a new story from our work, but are instead sharing a report on some of Grace and Main’s and Third Chance Ministries’ most important victories from the year 2014. In a way, these short descriptions of success tell a story of their own and we’d love to hear what story you think they tell about the work to which we’re committed and which your donations make possible. Thanks.

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Grace and Main Fellowship’s 5th Anniversary
This November, Grace and Main Fellowship (the intentional, Christian community of which Third Chance Ministries is a ministry and which is the foundation of all of our work so far) celebrated its 5th Anniversary!

Hospitality and Housing Security
Over 30 people increased their housing security through the work of Grace and Main Fellowship and Third Chance Ministries in 2014. In many cases, this increase in housing security is most accurately described as moving from homelessness to having shelter. In other cases, this increase is more accurately described as moving from an unstable living situation (e.g., slumlord owned property, living in an abusive situation, living in unaffordable or unsustainable shelter, etc.) to a stable living situation. The largest and most critical steps in this work were taken by the seven Grace and Main homes that provided shelter in their extra bedrooms and living rooms as part of their commitment to hospitality and a shared life.

52 Feasts
Grace and Main Fellowship hosted 52 dinners at various locations in 2014, including our homes, church fellowship halls, in the courtyard of apartment buildings, on a farm, and in a few different parks. Some of these meals were large affairs, like our Thanksgiving meal at Ascension Lutheran with turkey and all the sides for 126 or Christmas dinner at First Baptist with ham, veggies, and dessert for 136. Others were small meals where we gave thanks for all the places where the Kingdom of God was popping up and ate in the homes of formerly homeless people while conspiring together about where next God was going to work a wonder in our midst.

Breakfast and the Coffee Pot
In 2014, we served nearly 4,000 meals through our weekly breakfast on the Northside. This breakfast—started by two formerly homeless Grace and Main members—is sustained by the work of Bruce Hopson and the surrounding neighborhood’s desire to offer hospitality and grace in the midst of hunger, poverty, addiction, and homelessness. Furthermore, through our community coffee pot and water cooler—set out each morning—we provided over 800 gallons of coffee, water, lemonade, sweet tea, and Kool-Aid to any and all who were thirsty or in need of something warm. In an unexpected turn, the coffee pot and water cooler has become a community gathering point, as well.

The Tool Library
Due to the generosity of a number of supporters, we’ve been expanding the capacity of our “tool library” on North Main St. This year, we added new trimmers, new lawnmowers, new power tools, and new hand tools, along with personal protective equipment. In the spring, summer, and fall, the tool library was utilized by neighborhood residents nearly every day of the week. In the winter months, it was still put to excellent use multiple times each week.

Jefferson Apartment Building
After four years of developing relationships, building trust and community, and lots of lunches and parties, we were able to help the tenants of an apartment building on Jefferson Ave—a building called “unfit for humans” by the media in the aftermath of its condemnation—organize together to obtain their rights.

This year, some of our leaders mediated more directly between the tenants and the landlord: helping the tenants to send letters, organizing and facilitating meetings with the landlords, and working with Legal Aid to get the legal support the tenants needed to attain their rights. We worked with the tenants and other community organizations, including Virginia Organizing, Legal Aid, STEP, and DPCS. Eventually, the building was condemned.

Through the hard work of the tenants, Grace and Main leaders (both among the tenants and not), and our summer “missionary in residence” from Student.Go, all of the former residents of the building now have a secure place to stay that is healthier and far, far better. Two of the former residents are now “developing leaders” within Grace and Main following their success on Jefferson.

3rd Annual Jubilee
Our 3rd Annual Jubilee in Doyle Thomas park (on Green St) was a success again this year. We partnered with five different congregations to make this event possible and over 220 people joined us for a cookout, celebration, and community building day of games and sharing.

ELCA Hunger Grant We applied for and received a grant in collaboration with one of our congregational partners (Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, VA) to address hunger and food insecurity in the neighborhoods where we live and serve. This included a number of individual projects directed at not only providing urgent and crisis hunger relief, but also long term systemic changes to the way food is acquired in the neighborhoods through gardening, education, and resource provision.

House of Hope Lunches
As part of our ongoing commitment to our local homeless shelter, the House of Hope, we once again packed a lunch for every resident of the shelter every day of the year. This year, that means we packed and delivered almost 4,000 lunches through a combination of partners, mission groups, and personal work. This brings our total to over 17,000 lunches pack since the beginning of the Grace and Main.

Outsider/Insider Art Show
We were able to host our first ever “Outsider/Insider Art Show,” highlighting the art of folks who are struggling or have struggled with homelessness, poverty, addiction, and/or hunger.

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It always happens after we’ve already described the bounty on the table in all of its delicious variety. It happens while the welcome knowledge of a soon-to-be-full stomach mingles with the smell of macaroni and cheese over the promise of second, eighth, and seventeenth chances at a loving family meal. It happens with an assurance that nobody will look at you funny if you’re not ready to participate yet. It happens when we take a few pieces of bread from the banquet laid before us and break them for everybody to see and pour a little grape juice into a cup as a reminder of what has been shed to unite us as family. In that moment—when we proclaim again what Jesus did and is doing for us—something changes and the meal becomes a sacred thing, set aside for God’s use and God’s people.

As each member of the crowd makes his or her way forward, plate in hand, they join the feast. For some it happens because they are sharing a meal. But others join the feast first by taking a piece of bread, dipping it in the cup, and partaking in the Lord’s meal. It is my privilege (a privilege I’ve written about before) to speak a promise into that holy moment of communion, a promise that I give as it was given to me: “The body of Christ broken for you, sister” and “the blood of Christ shed for you, brother.” That last word, that familial “brother” or “sister,” is as much a promise as the more theologically laden language that precedes it, and it is all too often the harder promise to make. Jesus demonstrates time and time again in our scripture that his body was broken, his blood was shed, and his life was given for sinners like you and me. But my own ego and pride often stand between me and that final promise; between me and the promise that taking up the cross of Christ means laying down all illusions of division and separation.

So, while it is with great joy that I call Tomas as my brother, it is with an ego-stained sense of obligation that I say the same for William. When Tomas pinches a piece of bread between his fingers, I can so easily recall the sacrificial gifts he has made and the meal he hosted in his home even though he has only recently gained secure housing. When he dips it in the cup, I give thanks for the vigor with which he maintains his sobriety and the people he has led from bondage to freedom. But, when William does the same, it is far too easy to remember the broken trust, the suddenly empty hospitality room in our home, and the night filled with bloody faces, screamed epithets, and shaky voiced ultimatums. But, somehow we profess to believe that God is knitting all of us together anyway.

It is easy to give thanks for young Katie, not quite three years old and new to the community. Katy, who is eager to serve pretend coffee, juice, and grits to a table full of our people—some homeless, some housed, some addicted, and some recovering. When she and her family come through the line, it is easy to offer a blessing for her and call her “little sister.” But, it’s not yet as easy to give thanks for Mary, who sometimes forgets to make room for other folks around our shared tables and is quick to fill up her own plate even if it means that others might get less food. Having already carried away enough food for multiple meals of leftovers before everybody has been through the line, it’s hard to call her “sister” when she comes to partake of the body and blood of Jesus. But, somehow we profess to believe that there’s room for both Katie and Mary in Jesus’ Kingdom.

The truth is that most often we find a strange mixture of blessed and broken in any of us. When Brent shuffles up to the plate and cup, we have a wealth of stories to draw on in those too short moments. Maybe it will not be the Brent who  opened his life, home, and table to those in dire need that will gather a piece of bread from the plate, but the Brent who relapsed in secret and had to be restrained from violence who will dip that bread into the cup. But somehow, Brent is our brother regardless. When Heather prayerfully contemplates the cup, she is not just the woman whose anxiety sometimes drives her to say things she doesn’t mean. She is also the Heather that volunteered to sell a treasured possession to provide shelter for a homeless brother last winter. But somehow, Heather is our sister, regardless.

At the end of the story of the Prodigal Son, the elder brother describes his brother—the one we’ve learned to call prodigal—to his father as “this son of yours.” But, the Father is very careful to correct his eldest son and describes his younger son to the elder as “your brother.” God, our Father, will not permit us to disown any of God’s children and still call ourselves part of the family. God is teaching us to call each other brother and sister, not because God is going to make it so, but because that’s what we already are if we dare to claim the cross of Christ: brothers and sisters made so by God’s broken and bloodied body. The words may stick in our throats at times since we are still being remade, but somehow we must learn to profess that ours is a God who loves the doubter and the self-assured, the addict and the advocate, the ragamuffin and the righteous, the misfit and the hypocrite. Even more, our God teaches us to call them all family.

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The following story was written by Matt Bailey, a leader at Grace and Main, who has been a part of the community from its beginning around five years ago. 


I’ve always been struck by the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and how beautiful it was that Jesus was filled with compassion for the empty stomachs of ragamuffin sinners. But I was taught that Jesus’ concern was not for the bellies of those hungry people. My well-meaning teachers insisted that the food was just a way to get an audience. But, my friend Jessie taught me better. When Jesus fed 5,000 folks on a hill somewhere in Judea, he was showing us that he cares not just about souls and sin, but also about hunger and our physical needs.

I first met Jessie at a run-down apartment building with trash for a lawn and boarded up windows for insulation. Jessie was really quiet and somewhat hostile when I first met him. He would talk to me rarely and only if I had food. When I would knock on his door, he would demand angrily, “Who is it?!” After I announced myself again, he would crack the door a few inches and peek out to see whether I had food or not. If I didn’t, the door was quickly slammed. If I did, Jessie would reach out through the crack in the door, take the bag of food wordlessly, and slam the door a little more politely.

After several months of knocking, getting yelled at, and him taking the food and closing the door, Jessie began venturing out on his porch to talk while we ate near each other—not quite together, but closer. Typically, I would talk ad he would listen. When I had talked too much for his taste, he’d go back inside without a word. Eventually, I learned the hard way to leave silence for Jessie to speak if he wanted to. From the silence blossomed togetherness and often wordlessly Jessie opened up a little more each time I visited him.

Over those lunches, he told me stories of growing up in the projects with his single mom who worked several jobs to take care of him and his siblings. He told me all about the kind of mischief he got into while his mom worked, and eventually he even told me about his struggles with mental illness and homelessness. Over countless turkey sandwiches, Jessie shared with me the pain and frustration of his schizophrenia. He told me how he hallucinated and grew anxious around people he didn’t know, so he trusted no one.

On one occasion, Jessie recounted through hot tears how he regularly didn’t have food for the last week or two of each month because his food stamps only stretched for three weeks—a woefully honest refrain we’ve heard time and time again from so many of our sisters and brothers. Jessie told me and helped me understand what that kind of hunger feels like for days on end, his isolating hallucinations and anxiety intensifying with hunger. The wall between Jessie and me was beginning to crumble, because he could see that I wasn’t trying to manipulate or take advantage of him. I just wanted to be his friend and eat lunch with him—together.

After becoming friends with Jessie, I and other Grace and Main leaders began talking with Jessie about ways we could make sure Jessie didn’t go hungry at the end of the month. Though Jessie was still hesitant, he did allow some assistance from friends during the direst parts of the month. Jessie would go with several of us to the grocery store and would educate us on how to make money stretch a little father. We’d all go shopping for bulk items together and split them between us. And sometimes, on special occasions, we’d go get some good, greasy fast food. After all, we can’t forget that justice is our goal, but stomachs are growling now. Relationships are what create real change—not great programs or just education—and relationships are built together, slowly and often over meals. Jesus never forgot that either.

One particularly long month Jessie was without food for longer than usual. He didn’t want to call and ask for help, but after he couldn’t handle the shakiness, the weakness, and the hallucinations any longer, he took a leap of faith and called me. “I don’t want to ask for help, but I’m out of food and I really need to eat something,” Jessie lamented over the phone. So we went to one of Jessie’s favorite fried chicken joints to get some food into him fast. He ordered a small portion, but I ordered a larger portion for him, knowing he needed more than the one piece of chicken he thought it was okay to order. Sitting in the car in the parking lot, Jessie couldn’t wait any longer. He ripped open the box of chicken and began eating ravenously. He ate one piece, then the next, taking few breaks for breaths. He licked his fingers between pieces of chicken. After his third piece, he lay his head back against the head rest, and with eyes closed, face up to the ceiling, he started mouthing, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!” Tears began running down his cheeks and mingling with the grease on his chin. His soft cries of praise became racking sobs of thankfulness and appreciation to the God who cares about empty stomachs and feeds not only 5,000 with loaves and fishes but also the one with fried chicken.

Seeing the effect that simple meal had on Jessie helped me realize how interconnected our physical bodies are with our souls. Jesus told us that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and take in the homeless, we do so for him. Jesus also tells us that when we deny food, shelter, and clothing to our sisters and brothers we are denying Him those things.

After years of food insecurity and hunger, the image of God in Jessie was being stripped away. It’s no stretch to say that with each missed meal, the image of God in Jessie was slowly being starved and tortured—crucified even—reducing Jessie to something less than human. Jesus tells us in Luke 6:9 that we have the power to destroy life, but we also have the power and the obligation to restore life. In sharing food and our lives with Jessie, the image of God we find in Jessie was gradually being revived and healed—resurrected even.

Behold the good news: God’s compassion and abiding love for humanity is so profound and limitless that Almighty God, the Ancient of Days, the Holy One of Israel feels and hears even the growls of empty stomachs, and we eat—together at last—in celebration of the Kingdom that has no end.

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There is no easy way to take Robbie home from our house. If you ask Google, Robbie lives 2.1 miles away and we should be able to get there in about 8 minutes if the lights cooperate and there’s no construction. If you ask our friend Roland, Robbie’s home is “not more than a couple of miles, probably make it in 45 minutes if it’s not raining.” Ask Robbie and he’ll tell you it isn’t far—sometimes he walks, but he prefers to catch a ride from one of us. But being friends with Robbie for years now means that we know that the path to our house a harrowing one for him.

Robbie is our sometimes-recovering, sometimes-using brother for whom addiction has made the neighborhoods around his home, our home, and the other homes connected to Grace and Main into a minefield of temptation. Numerous corners, streets, and porches between us stand as mute memorials to Robbie’s struggle and captivity to drugs. He may only be “not more than couple of miles” away, but his way home is a long one.

165677_792859316968_55714273_42080296_5297505_nSome Sunday evenings, Robbie joins the gathered community for prayers and singing in our home. Most weeks, he stays with us in the room we’ve made a chapel as long as he can before taking a break on the front porch. He rejoins us once his nerves are a little better under control. Robbie rarely misses any of the singing and is eager to pray and sometimes lead us in a prayer. He’s sensitive and insightful, but also anxious and wary. He loves to bake for others and makes a banana pudding like you wouldn’t believe, but sometimes speaks quickly in anger. He believes strongly in the power of prayer, but has some justified doubts about what well-meaning people say. Like all of us, he’s complicated.

Robbie has been taught by the streets between us that there’s always another shoe just about ready to fall and his best hope not to be caught unawares is to keep moving and to stay one step ahead.  What Sister Dorothy Day might have called the “filthy, rotten system” has offered Robbie no way out of the endless cycles of poverty and addiction, so he’s learned to leave before he’s asked to leave and to hurt before he is hurt.

Those of us who moved downtown in the early days of Grace and Main did so not because God was calling us to a particular ministry, but because God was calling us to a people and a way of life. So, we planted ourselves in the place where God was moving and started listening for what God was calling us to do with—not for—our new neighbors. But, Robbie has taught us that there were still barriers not overcome by a change of address form and turning our homes into hospitality houses.

Trust is not built easily or quickly. Indeed, genuine and reciprocal relationships are not managed, but lived out with mistakes and missteps alongside the celebrations and conversations. We’ve scared Robbie away for a few months before when we’ve tried to find ways to help. Robbie has hurt our feelings and scared us, too. No amount of relocation or planning can break down years of carefully built distrust overnight—the way home is long.

your identity is at riskFor Robbie and for us, the quickest route is often the hardest one and it is full of temptation. For Robbie, the temptations are crack and believing the world’s lies that he’s all alone. For us, the temptation is to prize efficiency over intimacy and to think more about logistics than calling. In the end, we’re all haunted by the neighborhoods that we call home.

So, we take the long way home—a circuitous route that doesn’t take us past a certain crackhouse, or past an abandoned home that holds particular meaning for all of us. At first, we came up with excuses for why we took the long way home—“Hey Robbie, you mind if we stop by the gas station first?” “If I got you some bananas from the grocery store, would you make a banana pudding for Thursday night’s meal?” “Hey Robbie, I heard there was a house over in this neighborhood that was for sale, you want to go check it out?”

Sometimes it was Robbie who came up with the excuses—“Kyle wasn’t there tonight, can we stop by his place to make sure he’s okay?” “I need to get some milk if I’m going to make that cake for Saturday.” “I heard Mary got kicked out of her apartment and is sleeping on Jackson Ave., want to go check?” But, nowadays, we try to take the long route home without explanation. We don’t need to make excuses for the right way home and, most of the time, the long way is the right way—especially if it means going there together with the people to whom you have been called. After all, it’s the journey together to which we’ve all been called, so why shorten it?

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This month’s story comes from 3CM missionary and Grace and Main leader, Ben Wright. Ben is also the Director of Youth Ministries at local partner congregation, First Baptist Church. Email us at thirdministries@gmail.com to let us know what you think of Ben’s story and to get more information about supporting Ben’s work.

In college, I discovered the convenient culinary magnificence that is the Cook Out tray. If you’ve never had one, let me spell it out for you. For roughly the same price of a combo meal at any number of other fast food places, Cook Out offers a veritable feast with an entrée, two sides, and the option to upgrade to a custom milkshake instead of a medium drink.

Every other Tuesday, I spend a big part of my afternoon with Pinky. Sometimes we play board games, other times we watch a movie, and others we go for a walk around the neighborhood. I do this not only because I love Pinky, but because I want to provide her some relief from the emotional demons that feed Pinky’s substance addiction. One Tuesday Pinky was especially down and ashamed of herself—she had broken a 21 day sober streak by drinking a beer. Though we mourn when one of our brothers and sisters relapses, what matters most is how we respond and how our addicted sister or brother responds. This particular time, Pinky relapsed when the morning AA meeting she had been looking forward to was canceled.

Pinky was heartbroken at her own fall and was once again afraid that we’d get tired with her failures and “give up” on her. After talking through the situation, reminding her that we loved her, and reaching some kind of resolution, I took Pinky to run some errands across town since she does not have access to reliable or self-directed transportation. On our way out to the car from her apartment, I was stopped by a brother living on the streets named Dirk with similar struggles and demons. Dirk mentioned that he too was having a difficult morning and was seeking solace at the bottom of a 22 ounce aluminum can.

If I were a more flippant man, I might say, “when it rains, it pours,” but the truth is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed by need when you are in relationship with those who live along the margins, who live where life is often unforgiving and passersby think they know all there is to know about your problems. So, absorbing the energy and anxiety of the situation, I found myself starting to descend into a familiar darkness.

That’s when I decided that somebody was getting a milkshake.

After we finished the last of Pinky’s errands, we took an unexpected detour to the Cook Out drive-through. I paid for and received our food and we drove back to her apartment. Sitting in that room with its smoke stained walls and meager furnishings, we shared the tray. When we gave thanks and broke this meal, we found that—from one single priced menu item—Pinky received a double chocolate milkshake, Dirk got a double cheeseburger with fries, and this health conscious vegetarian had a dozen of the best hushpuppies ever consumed.

It made me think about that famous story we have from scripture where Jesus fed a great multitude with the leftovers from several of those gathered. One of the many lessons given to us in that story is that when great compassion is applied, a little can go a long way. That Tuesday, a milkshake shared with Pinky the good news that neither God nor we had given up on her. The burger and fries were Dirk’s first meal in three days and told him that his story was not being read alone. The hushpuppies served to remind this broken thirty-year-old that God can use even me for the work of the Kingdom.  Compassion is that thing that turns the ordinary into the transformational.

With heightened awareness of the link between heart disease and diet, it can be said that in certain instances, fast food kills. However, on one dark Tuesday morning, fast food saved.

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One of our community’s teachers passed from this world to rest with Christ in God just a little while ago on August 21st. During the few years we spent with her on North Main St., Joann taught us some of the finer points of gracious hospitality by living it out with little consideration given to laying out a complete, cohesive, and persuasive theology of hospitality. Simply put, Joann practiced hospitality because it was the “right thing to do” and because offering grace in a hard place gave her joy. She taught and reminded us that sometimes we should open our lives to others in hospitality not because it will help accomplish some particular kind of social change, but because it is a joyful and blessed thing to do.

Joann not only welcomed folks like Bruce, Linda, and Robert off the streets and into her home, but also welcomed a fledgling Grace and Main into her home and yard when we had a problem with no clear solution. We felt called to continue our work and our “roving feasts” on North Main, but our work depends on a foundation of relationships and consistent presence. Unlike we had downtown, we didn’t have a home on North Main Street. However, Bruce, our newest leader at the time, lived with Joann and thought she would let us use some of her space to serve. It was exactly the kind of opportunity we were looking for, so we hoped that our existing relationships with Joann and the folks on North Main were enough to form a new partnership.

Joann welcomed us eagerly into her home and onto her porch. Though we were anxious at the time about whether or not she’d welcome us, we can look back and laugh at ourselves years later. This woman who never drove more than 55 miles per hour—regardless of how high the speed limit was set—wasn’t afraid to take risks in the name of showering her neighborhood with grace and love. So, she took a risk on a fledgling intentional community that wanted to learn how to love and welcome the marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed.

When Robert and Linda wanted to start a breakfast out of the kitchen, she not only allowed them but she cooked the eggs. When Bruce wanted to start a tool library out of the old tool shed behind the house, Joann bragged about the work we were doing to her friends and coworkers—not pointing out that it was her hospitality that made a place to provide tools for the neighborhood to borrow. When one of our brothers relapsed, she welcomed him back when he had asked forgiveness for the relationships and trusts he had broken in his relapse. When we planted an expanding garden in the backyard, Joann joined with us in eagerly waiting for the first tomatoes and watermelons. When Linda was tragically struck by a car and killed, Joann joined with us in mourning. Joann is one of us and one of our teachers and we give thanks for her and her many sacrifices and gifts.

When the word was passed that Joann’s long fight with illness was over, we were heartbroken. We were thankful that she went peacefully, surrounded by her family, and under the dulcet tones of some of her favorite hymns and Elvis songs. All over her property are flower boxes that Bruce had made for her because of how much she loved flowers. All over the Northside are changed lives that Joann’s hospitality helped make because of how much she loved her neighborhood and its people. So, we give thanks for Joann though we are heartbroken, and we consider what it must have been like when Jesus welcomed her into Heaven the same way she welcomed so many into her home and to her table.

This I promise you: Joann of North Main St, beloved by God, her family, and her friends, helped teach us how to follow Jesus, so not only do we call her sister, but teacher as well.

Meanwhile, we look forward to being reunited with her and all those who have passed from our community. We know they rest with Christ in God and that even death itself cannot separate us from our beloved. Amen.

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