Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker

S4 E13 | Disability, Friendship House, and Interdependent Community with Matt Floding

April 13, 2021 Matt Floding Season 4 Episode 13
Love Is Stronger Than Fear with Amy Julia Becker
S4 E13 | Disability, Friendship House, and Interdependent Community with Matt Floding
Show Notes Transcript

What does thriving, interdependent community look like? Rev. Dr. Matt Floding talks with Amy Julia about Friendship House, a sustainable housing model where graduate students and adults with intellectual disabilities live in interdependent communities. They focus on the beautiful work that is possible when communities refuse to believe in scarcity and fear and rather trust in the abundant love and provision of God.

SHOW NOTES


Rev. Dr. Matthew Floding is the director of ministerial formation at Duke Divinity School and a founder of Friendship House Partners USA.

Connect Online:

Website: friendshiphousepartners.com

On the Podcast:

“Safe, affordable, community-oriented housing—seminarians needed that; people living with an intellectual or developmental disability needed that.”

“…the community-building model that we hoped would build life together: eating together, praying together, and celebrating—finding every opportunity to celebrate life in each other.”

“‘It’s not doing something to someone or doing for someone. It’s life together with someone. And receiving from.’ If we really truly believe that there is this treasure in each human being who bears the image of God, then it really is about mutuality and belonging.”

“Everyone has needs to be met.”

“The skills that come with interdependent living—social awareness, self-awareness, active listening skills, this attentiveness and attending to each other—these are foundational skills for people going into ministry, but they’re foundational skills for human beings who live in community.”

“I have come to believe that person-first language is the key to my relationships across racial lines, economic divisions...before I label…with any label whatsoever, the disability community has taught me that they are a person first.”

“The belovedness and the dignity that comes with being made in the image of God—the disability community gets that.”
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Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.


Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.

👁‍🗨Accessibility: You can read the transcript for this episode here, or see this episode with subtitles on my YouTube channel.


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Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Matt (5s):
It's not doing something to someone or doing for someone it's life together with someone and receiving from, if we really truly believe that there is this treasure in each human being who bears the image of God, then it, then it really is about mutuality and belonging.

Amy Julia (27s):
Hi friends, I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division and the season. We're talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads, hearts and hands today, I get to talk with Matt floating about his experience of using his head heart and hands though. He doesn't use those words, but I think you can trace that line if you want to, as you listen to this interview, how he's using his soul self to respond to needs in his community on a personal level, this is a story of how one person bumping into some friends in a church narthex led to a decade of transformative housing situations for graduate students and adults with intellectual disabilities in various spots across the nation.

Amy Julia (1m 16s):
On another level. It's a story about all of us and how, when we refuse to believe in scarcity, when we refuse to believe in fear. And instead, when we believe in abundant love and abundant provision, there's a lot of beautiful work that can get done. I'm excited for you to get to listen to this conversation today. I am here today with Matt floating the director of ministerial formation at Duke divinity school. And I am sure that in this conversation, some aspect of Matt's professional work will come up, but I'm really here to talk to him about his work with friendship house partners. I'm going to have him explain more about what that is, but I'll give you a little glimpse.

Amy Julia (1m 59s):
It's a model for housing and forming relationships between graduate students and adults with intellectual disabilities. And it's about forging relationships of mutual giving and receiving, which is what is interesting and beautiful actually to me about it. My want to talk to him about it too. So Matt, thank you so much for being here today.

Matt (2m 19s):
Great to be here, Amy, Julia, and thank you for your support for friendship house over the years.

Amy Julia (2m 24s):
My pleasure I am have as, you know, have been a big fan almost since the inception of friendship house. I feel like, you know, I was in on the ground floor, so to speak, although the house had already been built. And I want to go back earlier than that and ask if you could talk about that time when I believe you were at Western seminary. And here's my first question though. So I don't think you had a grand plan that involves people with intellectual disabilities and seminarians that you then set out to execute. I mean, you kind of backed your way into this. I, and I wondered if you could tell us the story of how that initial friendship house came into existence.

2 (3m 5s):
Yeah. I wouldn't even say backed into it. I would say God dropped it on us because my role at Western theological seminary was Dean of students and working with field education. So internships and in my role as Dean of students, we were growing as a seminary and we needed additional housing. So I was thinking about adding some housing and wondering what that might look like and concurrently. I was reading some asset based community development theory. And this one thing had kind of stuck in my brain, which was, needs produce assets. And I thought that, well, that's really interesting. I wonder how you know how that works.

2 (3m 46s):
And I mean, it wasn't two weeks after reading that, that on a Sunday morning, this was 2005 Bob and Deb after church. And then our effects, you know, you have these conversations over coffee approached me and they said, our son, Rob. And I knew Rob who lives with down syndrome wants to live independently like his older siblings. And we don't know what to do. And very naively, I just said, well, you have a need, we have a need for additional housing. Let's put those together and see what can happen. And so I asked them, you know, do you know any other couples in a similar situation?

2 (4m 29s):
And this was one of my first learnings was that parents who have been advocating fiercely for their kids, inclusion in things in the world have banded together. And of course they knew other couples. And so we started meeting together and friendship house emerged out of that, those peripheral meetings.

Amy Julia (4m 49s):
All right. So I want to go back to a couple of these things. One, can you say a little bit more about that asset asset-based development theory? Is that what leadership, what did you say? Okay. Can you just explain that a little more? Because I do think when I hear you tell that story, what you're telling me is you had a need and they had a need and somehow in your head, you thought asset, but need plus need does not for most of us equal asset. Right. So I'd love for you to just explain that a little bit more.

2 (5m 17s):
Yeah, well that was, I think that's why it was stuck in my brain because it's so counter-intuitive, I mean, you think like in most development campaigns, well, people with resources provide assets not needs. And what I learned in, in that encounter of what happened in that encounter was just, again, it was very naive. It was kind of intuitive that there was something good here that ought to be explored. And in truth, the two needs that we had, which were for safe, affordable community, or in housing seminarians needed that people living with an intellectual developmental disability, you needed that.

2 (5m 59s):
And I soon learned that, you know, over 70% of people living with an IDD still live at home with their parents. Right. And so, you know, I didn't know that Ben, so there was this great need on both sides. And when they came together, all of a sudden this community that surrounded these folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the trustees of the seminary who caught the vision and said yes to a campaign, never allow us to, to build it allowed those needs to bring assets together.

Amy Julia (6m 37s):
So talk about how that progressed, right? You have this conversation in the narthex, you meet a few other parents and somehow, you know, the wheels start turning, but I'm, I'm curious about again, like literally how that happened. And also I know that you were able to create a sustainable model that was addressing needs again for all of these different members of the community. So I'd love for you to give us a little more detail.

2 (7m 2s):
So sort of step by step. I mean, first we started meeting in learning about what each community's needs were and housing, because I didn't know what the particular needs of people with intellectual developmental disabilities would be in housing. So we had to talk about accessibility and about close to cultural events, close to work opportunities, close to public transportation, you know, very practical, nuts, and bolts kinds of things. And it turned out those weren't really unlike the needs of seminarians. It's just that they were two different communities that normally weren't brought together. So once we had that, we started looking at properties, existing properties, wondering, could we buy one and redevelop it and repurpose it at Western theological seminary?

2 (7m 49s):
How long was she going as a residential seminary? And so people live literally in these beautiful red brick, Jordan townhomes across the street from the seminary and hope college. And so as we looked at these properties, they were a little too far away or they needed too much maintenance or the ongoing concerns for the landscaping. I just couldn't see taking those on. And so my daughter happened to be living in a pod concept department where each person had their own private space with a common kitchen living room, dining room. And so I just sort of sketch that out. And I brought it to the parents one night and said at one of our meetings and said, I don't think these other properties are going to do it for us.

2 (8m 34s):
I think we need to build a purpose-built property. And I think it looks something like this and they looked at the apartment and they got really excited. And I said, yes, let's do it. And so one of the things that they did was they raised right on the spot $10,000 to retain an architect, just to kind of flush this out. My art wasn't going to kind of area of expertise. It was to provide some renderings. And then we developed a proposal. And of course in our administrative council, I was talking about it at the seminary level. And then with the person from the trustees who sat on the student life committee, who would oversee housing, if there were any development, shared it with them.

2 (9m 24s):
And then finally brought it to the board of trustees to approve a campaign that would allow us to build a friendship house. Once we had raised enough money. So that rent would cover the mortgage.

Amy Julia (9m 36s):
Okay. And rent from both seminarians and the friend residents. Okay.

2 (9m 42s):
Core residents. So I brought this proposal and of course they had this in their minutes ahead of time, but during the agenda, so I brought up to them may the proposal. And there was one question. Question was Matt, how is friendship house consistent with our mission? Because they were having a hard time wrapping their mind around this mixed housing opportunity. Why would we do this? And so I was ready of course, and responded well, there are over 40 million people living in America at that time with an identifiable disability and should any one of us in this room live long enough, we will experience diminishment and disability.

2 (10m 25s):
And there is nothing in our current curriculum that is preparing our students to lead that particular church and mission. And that's our mission to prepare men and women called by God to lead the church in mission. And we're not doing in this area, the chairman of the board called with a question that's unanimous. We had permission to take off.

Amy Julia (10m 51s):
And so then I want to actually having, I had the opportunity to visit this first friendship house in, at Western, I don't know, a decade ago, shortly after it first opened, it's a beautiful home. And it, you know, again in keeping with the neighborhood and exactly, really what you just described as far as the pods with a common space. How, but can you tell me just how that works? Residentially who lives there? How do you decide who lives there? What's that process like?

2 (11m 25s):
Right. So our first task, you know, once the building was built, then I will tell you that not only did we raise enough money to so that more rent would cover mortgage, but the, the entire building was paid for. So that it's actually revenue positive for the seminary in generates revenue each year through rent that can be put into that operating budget of the school. Wow. So our first task though, was to folks who could, who could be residents, who were from the IDD community. And so we had focus groups in the community to kind of explain what this housing was.

2 (12m 6s):
So working with the school district, some of the special meetings where different folks, different kinds of abilities were gathering for Bible study or community building kinds of things. And we just shared the vision of friendship house. And out of that, we had people who went through an application process and that included kind of describing telling them kind of their own story and why they would want to live and why they thought they were ready to live independently and growing interdependent living skills. And then we selected folks who had applied and put them through an interview process.

2 (12m 51s):
And that interview process included a parent of a person with an IDD. I asked to hope college admissions person to sit in on it, to make sure that the, and I asked her to not ask any questions, but just to guarantee that the process treated everyone absolutely the same and that the end and that the questions were appropriate at myself, a special pay professor who that was special education and then a person from the school district who had had all of these persons in their classroom. So they were acquainted with a person and families.

2 (13m 33s):
So then we went ahead and had this interview process and ended up discerning six individuals that we a nice mix that we thought would, would work, could move in successfully. Right. And one of the things I assume, because there were six apartments, that would be three men, three women, but we discerned before women and two men or, or format to women. And I asked this troubled me a little bit, cause it didn't meet my expectations. But the special ed professor said, well, in the general population, the, the ratio of men to women is about two to one.

2 (14m 17s):
So

3 (14m 19s):
Of people with IDD. Yeah.

2 (14m 22s):
W there were more males, more males than females. And so she said, don't feel badly about this. And in particularly because the housing need is so great, just go ahead and do this and let it spark the imagination of others to maybe create more house, additional house. So we did that. And then we had an admissions process with students. And the first year we were grateful that we could fill for the apartments because you know, we're coming at this brand new. And then the second year we, because of the story, students told we had a waiting list to fill the apartments. And we designated one of the apartments as a, as a free space for a resident assistant, who would someone who lived in there to make sure that they were living the model, the community building model that we hoped would guide life together, eating together so enough, designated meals together, praying together and celebrating, finding every opportunity to sell, to celebrate life and each other.

Amy Julia (15m 23s):
Hmm. I love that. Well, and that kind of actually leads right into my next question. I once wrote an article about friendship house in which I said that it is not named social justice house or pity for the other house or helping those in need house, which of course it wouldn't be. But that sense that the name itself suggests relationship and reciprocity rather than power or charity, which I think it's very easy from the perspective of thinking of what our culture values, which is often the status that comes from, you know, being a graduate student, being a person who has the intellectual capacity to, you know, sit in class at this high level of learning all day and go out and use that in the world.

Amy Julia (16m 9s):
And yet what this is really saying is no, no, no, this is, these are relationships again, of interdependence, not of power. And I'd love for you to talk a little bit about why that mutuality is so important and also how you knew that that was the way to frame it because I'm not sure that's obvious to a lot of people who would be really well-meaning, but I think it could easily show up as more of this. You know, we are here to help you poor needy people, as opposed to that mutual exchange.

2 (16m 43s):
I don't think I could say it better than Eric Carter says it with a special education professor at Vanderbilt who says pay attention to your pronouns. It's not doing something to something, someone or doing for someone it's life together with someone and receiving from, if we really truly believe that there is this treasure in each human being who bears the image of God, then it, then it really is about mutuality and belonging. And I think that's what, even though students can hear that language, I think subconsciously that they go into and they think I'm going to do something for these individuals, but very quickly they learn because they're being hosted by these individuals, that it really is about a life together with.

2 (17m 33s):
And we really try and pay attention to that in the way that life is structured in the meals together and celebrating together because everyone has needs to be, to be mad.

Amy Julia (17m 44s):
I have loved getting to know some of the stories from both core residents and graduate students over the years. And I'm gonna come back to that in just a minute. But one of the things I'm really struck by is the idea of interdependent living rather than independent living as the mother of a child with down syndrome. I hear a lot about independent living and I do wrestle with even that language a little bit, because I would hope not just for my daughter, penny with down syndrome, but for my other children and for myself as well, that we would not be looking to be autonomous individuals out in the world taking care of ourselves, but that we would actually see ourselves as one to have something to contribute and offer, but also who always are going to have needs for whether those are emotional, physical, social, relational, what spiritual, whatever we're going to have needs that only other people can, can fill for us.

Amy Julia (18m 42s):
And so I love that idea of interdependent living and naming that rather than just calling it independent living.

2 (18m 54s):
I think, you know, the skills that come with interdependent living self-awareness social awareness, active listening skills, you know, this attentiveness and attending to each other is, I mean, these, these are kind of foundational skills for people going into ministry, but they're foundational skills for, for human beings who live in community. And I think, again, what shocks students is how sensitive their roommates, their friend residents are to their feelings and what's going on in their life and how they feel with them and reach out to them.

2 (19m 40s):
And the stories about, about that are just so moving the caregiving that is extended by friend residents to students.

Amy Julia (19m 48s):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, I'd love to talk a little bit about that experience, both for the core residents and also for the students who over the years now have lived in friendship house. Although let me actually pause for a minute because friendship house has grown beyond that first house in Western seminary. So can you just give us a little, you know, 10 years later, here's where things are.

2 (20m 12s):
Yeah. So when I was invited to come down to my position here at Duke, one, one of the conditions was you must bring friendship house with you. Wow. And there was a wonderful ministry here called reality ministries, which creates spaces for people of all abilities to be in community and friendship. And so they were, these, this Marvel was partner community already to support the vision for friendship house. And it came together literally. So I started July one, 2012. We dedicated it in August, 2013. Wow. So I mean, the community down here has been incredible, but at the same time, over at Vanderbilt Jaco, ho past professor Jaco Harmon, who had been at Western theological seminary began creating friendship houses there and to be a friendship house.

2 (21m 5s):
I mean, you have to really have to commit to, and this is what French boss partners does is help people imagine in their context, but could be a friendship house. You know, it's faithfulness to the mission, weaker that the core mission idea, which is that life together built around eating together, praying together, celebrating together we'll make a friendship house work. But then the second accountability sort of is, is your context. So each friendship house looks a little different, different, the ownership is different. So at Western it's seminary own housing, yeah. Here in Durham, it's a nonprofit reality ministries owns the French house buildings and operates them in a sense in partnership with us a non-profit owns them in, in Nashville, in partnership with Vanderbilt shortly after that had George Fox university in Newberg, Oregon ministry there out of young life called Mark two ministries that operates a camp that is, has special sessions that are devoted to persons with disabilities and all abilities heard about friendship house.

2 (22m 12s):
And they partnered with George Fox university and were able to create friendship house in homes that had been abandoned, but were at one time group homes that weren't successful. They were able to repurpose them into this very successful, effective model. And George Fox has been such a great partner with them in terms of incorporating all the residents into the life of the university. This is beautiful.

Amy Julia (22m 38s):
That is beautiful. And it does well. What I want to speak to next is that sense of mutual benefit, where again, we started with essentially mutual need and yet where this all goes, not to say the needs are erased or something, but there is a sense of mutual benefit. And so I'd love to start with the core residents in terms of what they're, well, what motivates them to live there, but then also what have you seen? Cause I know you've actually done some data tracking and not just anecdotal stories about all of this, but what have you seen that happens in their lives as a result of the experience of living in a friendship house?

2 (23m 16s):
Yeah, so that professor at hope college is a special education professor. W we invited her to consider with the family's permission to do kind of a little bit of a long tattooed and they'll study. And as it turned out there had been, had an instrument called the Annerley Seaverson Hester three, that it hadn't been administered in the public school that measured capacity. And we don't like this word alone, independent living and five domains among all their, and so we already had a baseline for where our residents had, where they've come from.

Amy Julia (23m 54s):
So that was like in the initial interview you use.

2 (23m 56s):
Yeah, we didn't use it because we weren't really quite aware we weren't sophisticated about it, but then we learned about it and she utilized that and readministered it each year. And by the end of three years, all of the friends had outgrown Mac instrument's capacity to measure in independent living so much. And I remember this is one parent is saying, my son has blossomed in ways I couldn't ever imagine because I was doing things for him that he, I, I I've learned he could do for himself. Right. So there was that, that piece of it vocationally, we invite the friend residents to have a part-time job for a significant volunteer opportunity.

2 (24m 50s):
And I mean, I, I get, so I feel so happy when I think about going into the workplaces where our friend residents are, because it's almost like they own it. They own that space. And there's, there's so much joy and community that's built with the coworkers. It's just, it's just, and I remember Megan who works at a McDonald's and Megan was very shy and reticent in terms of conversation. But after about 18 months, the McDonald's, she works at cleaning tables. I mean, clearly she knew everyone in that place. They knew her. Okay.

2 (25m 32s):
I mean, here I'll do Alex, Alex volunteers at the Duke divinity library. And I mean, again, he knows everyone, they all know him. He brings joy to that workspace. Phenomenal.

Amy Julia (25m 50s):
So I know, again that for the, you know, these residents who've been able to move out of their home gain, independent living skills in an interdependent web of relationships, which is beautiful. Get a sense of vocation, use their gifts in the community. What about for the, whether it's seminarians or other graduate students who choose to live in friendship house? What motivates them? How does it, how does it affect their lives? How does it affect their vocation?

2 (26m 20s):
Yeah. I mean, there are some folks who choose friendship house because they have acquaintance or a sibling or their church was doing something in the area of disabilities and they, and they know that they are going to be better prepared. So for them, it's, it's a sense of, this is the right thing to do at all. And others it's sort of an intrigue. And, and I think once they get into it, they realize there's some painful things. Like there are so many roadblocks in the way of people with disabilities to experiencing full life in the community and the, and they become, they become very social justice minded in terms of I'm going to go out as a pastor.

2 (27m 3s):
And I do my best to remove some of these barriers, especially at church and others. I think they ended up hearing a call or discerning a call that definitely includes this. So Dan, who, when he was he's in a call kind of thing. So he, when he was going to be called to a church, when he was invited to come interview, he said, I would like to bring my roommate. Hmm, wow. And he said he did that because he, when he talked about being an inclusive congregation, he wanted Seth with him.

2 (27m 47s):
So they understood what he meant by that. And Seth traveled through the whole interview process with them. Wow. And his church is, I mean, people in that County, no, that's the church and where they meet. And they caught the vision through that interview process because his roommate could participate. Others have created housing opportunities. Greg has created a home called corner house for he and his wife and little children live with for special needs adults. And they intend for it to be permanent housing, you know, an agent place opportunity.

2 (28m 30s):
Right, right. Yeah. Others have moved into working with nonprofits at work with folks of all abilities. Yeah. So, so there's a whole range of impacts on students, but no one goes unchanged experience.

Amy Julia (28m 46s):
Well, that's what it sounds like, because I know when I was speaking with some of the graduate students in both the Western and Duke context, what I heard about was much more in the present tense, because that's what they were living in terms of just the gratitude for friendships that felt in many ways, more honest and reciprocal and real than any friendships they'd ever had in the past, there was just a sense of this person really sees me and knows me, not for what I can produce, but for who I am. And that was a new experience for at least some of the men and women that I was speaking to. And I can certainly relate to that, that if you're in a academic environment where you're always being praised for your performance and achievement, to come into a set of relationships, that really are not based upon that.

Amy Julia (29m 37s):
But based upon who you are, that is both unnerving and freeing at the same time, at least I imagine.

2 (29m 45s):
And you're a Princeton grad. So I mean, so you know, about academically rigorous environments students here. I mean, I, I love that they call it friendship house, the summit. So divinity is seminary for the head and friendship house, a seminary for the heart. And it's, it's that integration of the two that makes it the richest divinity school experience possible.

Amy Julia (30m 7s):
That's really beautiful. I'm curious to hear about whether there've been challenges. I mean, I'm sure there have been either on an organizational level or just within the different houses, as far as challenges residents have faced or challenges in trying to figure out how to, you know, on some level, this is kind of a fairy tale story. I bumped into someone at church and all of a sudden we've raised the money in here, the people, and it's amazing and beautiful, which it is, but I'm curious about the channel.

2 (30m 36s):
Yeah. So there, you know, maybe you'll be surprised to learn. There are more challenges between students like roommates and undergrad conflicts than actually with the friend residents. Yeah. And so, so, but that's, that is this growth opportunity about learning conflict resolution styles. And, and that's what we have to do. I mean, this is this learning opportunity to reflect on our experience in life together and let's grow through it. But we have had challenges with, with front residents too, for example, one particular friend resident lives on the autism spectrum. And we needed to learn by listening to her that living with three people felt a little chaotic and it made her upset over time.

2 (31m 28s):
And so we had to figure out what, you know, what would be an appropriate situation. And as it happened in the summer, two of her roommates went to go to inter internship somewhere else in the country. So she was only living with one student during the summer and they had the most lovely experience possible. So, so we said, if we listen to her experience, she's telling us, and she's now articulating that living with one person is better for her. Right. Let's let's make that arrangement happen. And so we did, and it created another opportunity for another friend resident that for whom living with three people and this friendship house community was okay, but for whom the other it shut her down, it made her angry because it didn't feel good.

2 (32m 18s):
Right. So it is a learning to read cues and responding appropriately.

Amy Julia (32m 23s):
What about, I'm curious about the broader impact in the community. I remember that at Western, there was a sense of friendship house becoming a hub, not just for the people who lived there, but for other people as well. And I'm, if you've seen that over the years and in different places.

2 (32m 42s):
Yeah. When it happened, Holland, Michigan, when homes would become available in the next block over a couple of families bought those, intending those to be for their children. And one of the things that happened at, in, in, in the way we structured it in Holland at Western, was that it was, there was, you would time out. So it was a 10 year window of opportunity. And then moved, give that family time to figure out what would work. So some of the friends went into those housing opportunities. Two fellows moved into the seminary.

2 (33m 25s):
He said, well, we don't want to lose the impact here. And we haven't opened one of these townhouses. We could reserve for people who are timing out. And so two of the guys moved next, literally across the street and are living independently together in their town home. And I visited them and they're having a great time together in, in like that corner house that I mentioned, that's one block over from friendship house here in Durham. And I can't really speak to the, the other contexts, but there is a church honed friendship house in Terre Haute, Indiana, Indiana state, university students, or the student residents, but it's owned by the church and through the network of relationships there, it's creating a much greater awareness of the needs of people, of varying abilities.

2 (34m 21s):
And so, yeah. So I think it does have the sort of those unintended consequences to roll out from it. Yeah.

Amy Julia (34m 32s):
And then I'm also wondering, so on this podcast in general, I've mentioned this to you before we started recording that, I'm trying to ask this question, how can ordinary people respond to social divisions with hope and with healing? And one of the reasons I wanted to get you to talk is that you were not setting out to start a nonprofit to change the lives of people with intellectual disabilities or any such thing. But you were, I think, in a place of being open and responsive to what the spirit of God was doing in your life and in your community all the same, it can be kind of overwhelming. I think, to see how many needs there are in the world.

Amy Julia (35m 15s):
And to recognize that within that I am a person with my own frail and vulnerable needs and yet feel some sense of like empowerment to step forward, to participate in healing. So I'm wondering whether you have any thoughts on what it means for people who, again, are not quitting their day jobs, right. But all the same, wanting to be a part of whether it's in the area of disability or race or immigration or politics, you know, but some sort of bridging or healing these solutions.

2 (35m 50s):
I think one of the things that I learned very early entering these communities is that is the use of person first language. And out of that, you realize, cause cause one of like one of the parents delight and in their observation wise, my child's roommates don't view them as a diagnosis. They view them as a person. And I've, I've just come to believe that that person first language is a key to my relationship across racial lines, across economic divisions, thinking of the immigrant community before I label them with any diagnosis, any label whatsoever.

2 (36m 42s):
Yeah. The disability community has taught me that they were a person first and that, that, that child of God or the belovedness and the dignity that comes with being made in the image of God, the disability community gets that. And if, if I can keep that in my head person first, that that means I, one things that I can do is initiate relationships so that I will learn that person as a, as a person first. And, and I hope that that can build bridges of understanding of empathy so that I approached these, these challenges think, thinking about human beings and not the problem or a diagnosis,

Amy Julia (37m 32s):
It also strikes me, I'm thinking back to the asset based development theory and that, because I remember when we talked about this a long time ago, hearing you also say, you know, I am just going to assume that if I follow a God who is a God of abundance and not of scarcity, that is also a part of all of this, right? And that, and I think that can work on two levels. One, there's an abundance of people who can participate in this. So I've got my one small part to play. And so rather than being overwhelmed, when I think about all the housing needs of all the people, whether it's in the realm of disability or poverty or whatever, it's like, you know, what, what I've got right now is some residents of a seminary who need housing and some residents of the community who need housing.

Amy Julia (38m 20s):
And that's what I'm going to focus on. And I'm just gonna play my small part. But so there's like a humility, but there's also a trust that is looking at, or assuming that God is actually looking at the whole and that I have a small part to play. But then there's also that sense of, and without being too, I don't know, over spiritual about it, that like their provision will be made. Like there is an abundance we're not going to run out. Like, let's, let's just see what, what comes as we take the next step forward. And I think it's a, I love the story of friendship house because there have been these deliberate, thoughtful steps that have nevertheless been taken.

Amy Julia (39m 2s):
I think in faith, in a God who is an abundant provider,

2 (39m 6s):
It is an intimate, it's not about heroism because it's a team sport. I mean, it took all these families, the bigger community to embrace this people, for example, in Holland, who didn't weren't necessarily people of faith, but just felt like this dignifies, our community, it's the right thing to do. So I'm in, and, and they donated generously and followed the story and affirmed and celebrated with us. And, and it's, it's hard not to get pretty spiritual about this too, because of, I mean, prayers that were literally answered or provision at the right time to, to make things happen the way that they did

Amy Julia (39m 50s):
Right. That Western now has ha it's like the first Western seminary is the first seminary to have some sort of disability certificate program. Or am I making this up? Okay.

2 (40m 3s):
Oh, I mean, so that, so that would be another outcome and unintended consequences. Yeah. So they, they called, when they call the professor that they needed to fill in, in the theology area, they deliberately chose someone who did theology and disability. And so Ben could create this certificate in theology and disability, right. To equip people who wanted to learn more and, and be able to engage in their context. Yeah.

Amy Julia (40m 37s):
Yeah. Well, I, I love thinking about those ripple effects, which I don't think you'll know the side of heaven, all of the ones that are there, but in terms of just beginning with a need and a conversation in a church narthex and then, you know, landing in this place and knowing that that will continue. If people want to know more about friendship house, I'm sure they're going to be listeners who think, gosh, I wonder if something like that could happen in my community, what would you say? Where should they go? I mean, I know there's a website, we'll put that in the show notes and you can mention it here, but also what would be first steps?

2 (41m 14s):
Yeah. I would say go to the French boss partners, website, friendship, house partners, dot com and read some of the stories. Look at the hand, the example, the handbook, I sort of an operational manual. And just say, you know, is this, is this something that we can do in our community? And

Matt (41m 34s):
Since you've heard that it could be non-profit school, it could be church own, it can bloom where it's planted, right. If the right people just come together to see what happen.

Amy Julia (41m 49s):
Wonderful. Well, thank you, Matt so much for your time and for your faithfulness over these many years, I'm really grateful for that.

Matt (41m 55s):
Thank you, Amy. Julia, it's great to be with you.

Amy Julia (41m 59s):
Thanks again, for listening to love is stronger than fear. I do hope you'll check out friendship, house partners and let other people know about this initiative. I also want to thank our cohost breaking ground. Thank Jake Hansen for editing this podcast and say thank you to Amber Barry, my social media coordinator, who supports this show in countless ways. Thank you for being a listener for sharing the message of hope and healing in a world that is broken in so many ways. And as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The peace that comes from believing that love is stronger than fear.