By Luann Jennings
My husband Chuck and I have now been settlers at the Good Neighbor House for 9 months. We’ve seen a huge change in the house, as it went from mid-renovation to open and functioning, and we’ve seen the vision for the house begin to spring to life. Chuck and I live in the cottage behind the house but participate fully in the operation of the house.
The two settlers who live on the top floor of the house will both be moving out in August, and the board of directors is looking for two new settlers to join our community then. The board asked me to talk a bit about what it means to be a settler, and what someone who might want to join our community could expect. After reading this, if you’re interested in learning more about becoming a settler, contact our board member, Julie Small, at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please forward the information to anyone you know who might be a good candidate. Settlers must be 21 or older and have the desire and time to serve the house and our neighbors.
So, based on what I’ve experienced here, and can see the beginnings of as we continue to discover what the Good Neighbor House (GNH) is about, here are my:
Top 5 Reasons to be a Good Neighbor Settler
5. Cheap rent. Although this might be the first thing that attracts a potential settler, it really should be the last (which is why it’s #5). But, yes, a portion of our rent is subsidized as a “thank you” for our service to the house. We each serve the house and its operations for 20-30 hours per month, which may be difficult for someone who has a full-time job or otherwise has significant, structured time obligations elsewhere. Settlers in the main house pay $250/month each, which includes rent, utilities, and wifi. Because GNH is a registered non-profit organization, settlers can even raise support or ask for donations from their personal circle to help cover their rent and reduce their need to use student loans or funds earned in outside jobs. Settlers with varying schedules or who sometimes work from home tend to have an easier time with the service commitment than those who are required to be away from home all day Monday-through-Friday.
4. Living in community. Because we live, work, and serve together, settlers get closer than neighbors or even roommates. We meet weekly for prayer, study, fellowship, and to run the business of the house. Once a month we have dinner with neighbors to get to know them better and to hear their perspectives on what a “good neighbor” is in our neighborhood context. Because settlers don’t choose each other, we learn to love one another without the benefit of an existing relationship. We have the opportunity to really be the Church to one another in the ways that Christ asks of us.
3. Experience. This is a great place to get experience in ministry, social service, non-profit management, fundraising, and just about anything else that someone might want to get experience in. GNH is a blank slate for what we can do here. For instance, my husband Chuck is a jazz musician and he’s working on a concert series at the house. I’m really interested in vegetable and flower gardening, and environmentally sustainable practices, so I’ve created a community garden here and am working on a rainwater collection program. Anything you do here can go on your resume.
2. Investing in the neighborhood and the city. “Place” is important. We are not disembodied “minds” or “spirits” floating around in the ether – we are physical beings connected to a specific, tangible place. Waco is thinking about who we are as a city, and what kind of place we want to be for ourselves, our children, and those who will live here one day. Sanger Heights is one of Waco’s oldest and most diverse neighborhoods, and it has a strong neighborhood association (with which GNH is very involved) that is working hard to make Sanger Heights representative of the best that Waco can be. By planting roots at Good Neighbor House and investing your life here (even for just a year), you will be helping to make Waco a better place to live for everyone.
1. Serving Christ. Scripture contains plenty of references to hospitality as a way we can “love our neighbors as ourselves” (the second Great Commandment), including the famous example of the Good Samaritan who Christ uses as an example of what it really means to be a neighbor – selfless sacrifice and care crossing religious, cultural, and economic lines. GNH opens our home to all of our neighbors and serves them through providing opportunities to gather and other kinds of hospitality and care, regardless of their ability to pay. It’s not always easy to invite strangers in – to clean up after them, to reach out to them, to live among them – but Christ says that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)
[photo of Luann by Rod Aydelotte for an article in the Waco Tribune-Herald.]