“God’s Lighthouse” needs ongoing TLC

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Giving rest to those shining God’s light around the world

By Nicole Wells

In the middle of the city of Dearborn is a neighborhood filled with charming 1920s homes nestled snugly together. Front porch lights illuminate the fronts of many of the homes. But one house on the street emanates a different kind of light – the kind that brings rest and hope to weary souls.

We call it the Lighthouse.

Providing training and respite for godly servants

The Lighthouse — named aptly as a safe place for those shining God’s light around the world — was donated to Ward Church by Joe and Austia.

In 2004, Joe and Austia volunteered at a community center to teach English. God used this simple act of caring for people in their community to take them on a journey that led to the Lighthouse.

Two years later, they joined global partners from Ward who made regular visits to 40 non-English speaking families in the area. Joe and Austia decided they wanted to live in the same community as these families they were befriending.

After a lot of prayer and counsel — and during the housing recession, no less — they sold their home and purchased a multi-family dwelling in the community of their new friends. That way, they could live on one level and offer the other level up to global partners in need of temporary housing.

The new home became known as the “TAG” house, which stands for, “Training Apprentices to Go.” Joe and Austia hosted TAG classes in the basement, which included training, support, prayer, and lots of food. Since hospitality and large meals are part of the culture where many of these partners were working, they valued the idea of emulating that during their TAG meetings.

Lighthouse comes to Ward Church in 2009

After a lot of thought and prayer and in an effort to live like the people surrounding them, Joe and Austia made the decision to rent. In 2009, they moved into a condo and signed their multi-family home over to the care of Ward Church.

And it became “God’s Lighthouse” — that’s what Joe and Austia call it.

“In America, you’re told your home is your security,” said Austia. “The Lord is our inheritance and security. We wanted to sacrifice our home — to give it away instead of selling it.”

Eventually, Joe and Austia moved out of the country as global partners. They were able to experience the blessing of spending a few months in the Lighthouse during a sabbatical. “There’s culture shock coming back to America,” Austia shared. “Well-meaning people will ask things like, ‘what kind of food did you miss the most?’ Or ‘what stores did you miss shopping at?’ and those things aren’t really important to you when you’re assimilating back into the United States.” Having a culturally diverse, peaceful place to live has been an enormous blessing to global partners.

Just ask field worker, Amy, who’s spent time living there. “I always struggle to think of it as the ‘Lighthouse’ because I knew it first as Joe and Austia’s house and then as the TAG house. It holds such sweet memories! Also, as a worker, it’s really a blessing to be able to land in a space that is welcoming and familiar and can be made my own for a short while. There are seasons when I have literally lived out of a suitcase, so it’s so nice to be able to unpack somewhere. It also makes me feel loved and cared for by my church when I return to the States — it’s a real place of peace. The lighthouse definitely meets an important need for workers coming from the field!”

Living and loving like Jesus in light of inequality

In 2009, Joe and Austia read a book that opened their eyes to the disparity between global partners from the United States and many of the countries they’re working in. “There’s a problem with affluence in America,” Joe said, “which makes it difficult for Americans to relate to people in other countries.”

They began to grapple with the realities outlined in this book that compared the income and poverty of those living in other countries against that of workers in the United States. God was transforming their hearts in big and small ways.

Joe talked about all of the construction projects he was doing around the home after they purchased it. “I was filling up several garbage cans with materials and stuff,” he told me. “Then I looked around at my neighbors and they only had one garbage can. They weren’t making as much trash because they weren’t consuming as much.”

“We want to live incarnationally like Jesus,” Austia added. This means we are to be imitators of God, who left heaven to become fully present with man. In the same way, we’re called to set aside some of the comforts of our own lives to be fully present with others.

“Our earthly home is like a tent,” she continued. “I love gardening and flowers and I wanted to make our home look beautiful on the outside so I planted lots of annual flowers. But there’s no long-term value in flowers. You water them and when the season is over, they’re gone. I was spending more money on flowers than some of our neighbors were spending on food.”

Lighthouse needs help to recover from flood damage

Lighthouse suffered serious damage from flooding in Dearborn. The basement was once a place where people gathered for prayer, dinners and training. After it flooded, all of the carpet and drywall had to be ripped out.

“Many global partners find comfort in being able to make friends and minister like they do when on the field,” says Director of Outreach + Guest Services Sue Hanstad​. “Unfortunately, when the neighborhood flooded, so did our Lighthouse. Insurance covered the tear out of all the carpet and drywall, but not the installation. We have purchased the drywall, but need help hanging it.”

Ward Church is looking for immediate help with repairing the damage in the basement and long-term help with the ongoing maintenance of the Lighthouse. We’ve had the help of two faithful caretakers, Jerry and Peggy. They’ve helped with maintaining the home for global partners over the years. They’re looking to pass the baton to more people who can invest their time and care into the home.

To help the Lighthouse keep shining and being a welcoming home for global partners, email Sue Hanstad. Whether you’re gifted in home maintenance, enjoy styling or sprucing up a home, don’t mind yard work, or can drive screws into drywall, we’d love your help.

Shedding the light of Jesus

If you talked to Joe and Austia today, they might tell you about their adventures since they moved out of the country. They might tell you what it looks like to build relationships with people who have a different native language than you. They might share why they pray for people, whether they know them or not. And that sometimes those prayers happen in the form of song.

My conversation with them ended with a prayer. Joe, the one who gave up so many of his earthly treasures, began speaking prayers of blessing over me. No matter what they tell you, you’d see the light of Jesus emanating through them — just like the Lighthouse.

To help us transform the basement back into the condition it was before it flooded or to help the Lighthouse keep shining with ongoing maintenance, email Sue at sue.hanstad@ward.church.

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