Abundant Generosity

I was reading the scripture for this coming Sunday and realized that our community at the Hope House can really relate to this Sunday’s second reading

Brothers and sisters:
As you excel in every respect, in faith, discourse,
knowledge, all earnestness, and in the love we have for you,
may you excel in this gracious act also.

For you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Not that others should have relief while you are burdened,
but that as a matter of equality
your abundance at the present time should supply their needs,
so that their abundance may also supply your needs,
that there may be equality.
As it is written:
Whoever had much did not have more,
and whoever had little did not have less.

2 COR 8:7, 9, 13-15

Friends and strangers are supplying our needs with abundance! Not a day goes by without a phone call (or two or three) from people who are enthused to be a part of the Hope House and offering donations, services, and support. It is evident that the generosity that spills over from our friends and acquaintances comes from a desire to reflect the “gracious act of our Lord” and we could not be more grateful to them.

Indeed, the vision for the Hope House is catching on: a vision that sees the Hope House as a place of abundant love and generosity spilling over into the wider Back of the Yards neighborhood, fostering hope and rooting itself in mutual relationship.

To all our friends: thank you for witnessing to God’s rich abundance! We look forward to continuing this journey alongside you all!

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On Friday we marched for peace.

We at the Hope House joined St. Sabina’s faith community to declare a summer of peace on Friday, June 19th, 2015. We rallied in front of St. Sabina church and heard many motivating speakers. Purpose over Pain, a group of parents who have lost their children to gun violence named the 100+ children under 21 who have died this past school year as a result of gun violence in Chicago. The Justice Choir performed, along with a fabulous kids choir who blew us away. Peace workers who were former gang members implored us to join forces with them. One young man challenged us with the question, “what would you do if you didn’t have fear?” To our excitement we were also addressed by Spike Lee, Jennifer Hudson and John Cusak who were joining the march because of their work on the film, Chiraq.

The rally led into our five mile march along the streets of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. It was a beautiful experience witnessing to peace that evening along with so many inspiring individuals. We chanted, we sang, we became a singular force for God’s love and peace that night. And now, as we go back to our more mundane work of getting the Hope House off the ground, we do it in the spirit of the hope we were filled with last Friday.

*Want to read more? See Dannis’ Daily Theology article!

Collaboration, Books, Tacos: A typical day at the Hope House

Amazing things happen every day at the Hope House. Friday was particularly amazing. The day started out with a community meeting among three major catholic ministries that serve the Back of the Yards. We called together Su Casa Catholic Worker, which serves undocumented women and children, and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, who work with youth, offering alternatives to violence, and started the conversation about how we can work together as a catholic presence in our neighborhood. We agreed to meet monthly for collaboration and support.

We then met as an internal community, just those of us living at the Hope House, to talk about how we envision our life together as an intentional community. We talked about how we might put practices in to place such as weekly prayer together, as well as what our community meetings might look like. We continue to strive to let God lead us as a community and to trust in the movement of the Spirit.

Then, the books happened. We donated about forty boxes and bags of books to Open Books, practically filling the van they brought. Removing the millions of books unearthed more furniture, which we were able to finally place on Craigslist to help us fundraise for our much needed plumbing renovations, etc. Simultaneously, boys played basketball at our weekly open gym.

Tacos from La Internacional were eaten and then we headed to the Peace March with the faith community of St. Sabina. But that’s a whole other blog post….

Health goin’ up, On a Tuesday

This past Tuesday, Hope House community member, Molly (BSN, RN), who coordinates volunteers at the Port Ministries‘ free clinic, took the lead on a new initiative that takes healthcare out to the community. Molly recruited Dr. Fletcher, a dedicated volunteer physician at the Port, Adriana with Aid for Women, and Anthony, the Port’s Bread Truck coordinator, to drive around the Back of the Yards with a healthy dose of bananas, watermelon and apples (generously donated to us by Innovaflavors thanks to our Young Professional Advisory Board member, Daniela). The group of health care providers surveyed the community about their health needs and promoted the Port’s Free Clinic to those who are not eligible for public health care. They read blood pressure, and they gave general health advice to those with questions. One of the most successful encounters happened in a spot where many undocumented workers wait for jobs. Many of the men were very excited to hear about the free clinic, and said they couldn’t wait to spread the news to their families.

By the end of the afternoon, the fruit was gone, and many people left the Port Bread Truck knowing they can always receive care at the Port if their options are limited.

Another Hope-filled day in the Back of the Yards.

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We’ve only been here a month…

…and we have a weekly open gym on Fridays with these young men (pictured above) who are connected with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR). In an effort to connect with other ministries in our neighborhood, Tom and Molly went to PBMR about a few weeks ago for a community meeting. At the end of the meeting, each person was asked, what are you going to do to work for peace in your neighborhood this summer? When it was Tom’s turn, he mentioned the gym we have, here at the Port, and how he’d like to see an open gym at the Port as an alternative for young people to get involved in. After the meeting a few young men approached Tom anxiously. “When can we do it?!” they asked him. One young man told Tom he is really excited to have opportunities like PBMR and our open gym, because he is committed to making a U-turn with his life.

And there you have it. That same week, our gym was filled with motivated (and sweaty) young men from the Back of the Yards.

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Selling saints

Selling saints.

It is something we have our hands in these days. We are rich in religious statues of every size which we inherited with the house. They peer down at us from cabinets in the dining room as we eat our dinners. They peep around corners and pop out from behind basement doors. We even found Our Lady of Fatima perched on the roof! And now, they are featured on Craigslist among the many other items we are desperate to clear out of the house so we have space to welcome new community members.*

It is an odd thing, selling saints. These plastic men and women simoulaneously represent our faith and clutter our rooms because of their great number. We love them, but we cannot afford to keep them. As they disappear one by one, I think each of us laughs a little at their gawdy tones and we let out a sigh of relief. But at the same time we quietly part with them, assuring them not to worry; we will take over their main job of representing faith.

*Interested in taking some of these saints off our hands? Click here!

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We got more than we bargained for…

After about three weeks living at the Hope House, I think Tom, Molly and I would all agree that we got more than we bargained for. Indeed, we got more than we bargained for in many ways! We got more good food than we bargained for – we enjoy amazing tacos from La Internacional Tacos Y Supermarcado more often than we probably should. RU Hungry, the burger joint on our corner, takes care of us very well too. Tom will be the first to recommend their double tilapia sandwiches. We got more good and friendly neighbors than we bargained for as well. Tom and I walk Paulie every day in the local park, and we are greeted with many smiles from adults, and kids running up wanting pet Paulie. Even our direct neighbors at the Port have been more than generous and welcoming as we work on acclamating ourselves to the house and to the organization.

…we also got more than we bargained for in terms of the work that is needed to be done on the house. Each day, we make an attack plan and work on eliminating unneeded furniture, decor, pots, pans, peeling paint, mouse remnants, bookcases and bookcases of old books, etc, etc, etc! Because our house has been inhabited by various communities, throughout many years, it has collected Stuff (with a capital S) for many years. This Stuff has stayed and has not found its way out of the house. Until now. We are facing the fact that if we want to more community members, we need to  make adequate room for them and their stuff. And so, we spend our days moving Stuff, lifting, scrubbing, clearing, painting, setting down mouse traps, vacuuming, mopping, posting photos of unwanted furniture on Craigslist, delivering the furniture, and moving more Stuff. All before we are really able to unpack our own things! Admittedly, there are a few doors that we just don’t open, and won’t, for our own sanity.

So yea. We got more than we bargained for. But we still hold out hope, because, as we have seen, God’s generosity is always more than we bargain for too.

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A Timeline of Hope: How it all started…

November, 2014: David, Director for Development at the Port Ministries, invited Tom and I to join the Port’s Young Professional Advisory Board.

That evening, David took us on a tour of the Port after the meeting. Although we had been bringing college students to the Back of the Yards neighborhood to volunteer at the Port’s various services, we had never actually been inside the Port’s third large building that they own. David escorted us through a building full of bedrooms, a kitchen, and a small chapel. The Holy Spirit must have been jumping up and down, waving at us frantically during that tour, because she had to to get us to see beyond the dank, dishevelled, dusty appearance of the house. Her song and dance worked, though. The seed was planted. The moment Tom and I stepped outside after the tour, we looked at each other and smiled. Tom said to me, “Should I just tell David we will move in there?” And that’s just what we did that same night.

December, 2014: We started to dream…

For the next few months, together with David another friend, Molly (she’ll have to tell you how her seed of Hope was planted!), we dreamed and planned and wondered if something like this would really be a possibility: an intentional community that asks very little rent, and in return, community members would provide volunteer service to the Port.

February, 2015: our plans were approved…

May, 2015: We moved in!

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