The North Hill Story
In 2010, the Hall family and the Jamison family participated in the refugee mentor training program at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth. Both families desired to find a service opportunity that could involve the whole family (including our very small children), and our intention was to "adopt" a refugee family together as a way to love the vulnerable in our community. There was soon to be a new baby in both of our families, so it took us until 2012 to pursue getting matched with a family. Although our excuse was having new babies, the Lord had a plan. He clearly had us in a holding pattern, waiting for the exact right time for us to dip our toes in.
With the support and involvement of our homegroup, we were matched with a precious Sudanese woman, who is a resident at an apartment complex not far from their neighborhood. When we met her, she had two small children and was expecting her third. Her husband was left behind in the refugee camp when she and her kids were accepted as refugees to the USA in 2012. Many members of our homegroup got to know our new friend and walked with her for about a year, loving on her in whatever ways we could: hosting a baby shower, transportation to the hospital, Christmas gifts and birthday parties. Two ladies from our group drove her to the hospital when it was time to give birth, and Mary Claire and I had the incredible privilege of being by her side when her son, Hope, was born. The Lord was slowly revealing to us that we were her family and her advocate. It wasn't easy, but it was life-changing, and we wondered what was next!
In the following spring, we felt the Lord calling us to do more. Each time we went to visit our dear friend, we met more of her friends and neighbors. As we met more and more residents of the apartment complex, we felt the Lord calling us to know and love the entire community there. To that end, our homegroup planted a community garden in the spring of 2014, hoping that it would help us get to know more people in the complex. We also began monthly hotdog cookouts as a way to engage with the community and get to know the people. (While the garden didn't last, the cookouts have become an institution and are still one of the primary ways we get to know the residents.) It turns out that going to this complex is like taking a trip around the world. There are refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad, Liberia, Burma, Russia, Iraq, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan, and more... It is incredible - the nations are right here in our backyard. Many residents are believers, and most of the ones who aren't are Muslim.
The cookouts drew dozens of kids, and we quickly began relationships with around 50 children. It was BEAUTIFUL. I'll never forget the story of when one little girl looked at Mary Claire's mother-in-law, Betsy, and asked, "Why do you come here?" Betsy said, "Because we love you!" The little girl persisted, "But why?" And Betsy replied, "Because Jesus loves you so much."
Over the next months, our volunteer base grew beyond our homegroup to include other friends and church family who wanted to know what in the world was going on. As more people got involved, the outreach kept growing. In June of 2014, we hosted our first 3-day summer camp in the evenings. It was a wild and crazy time, and each of the kiddos heard the Gospel. More and more people were asking how to get involved, and the Lord began turning this into more than just a family/homegroup service opportunity - it was becoming a way for our friends, family, and church to serve and love on the people we had fallen in love with, and it was clear the Lord was taking this in a totally unexpected direction!
At this point, the opportunities through The North Hill include: school uniform drives, back pack drives, winter coat drives, Thanksgiving dinners, Angel tree gifts, Spring Break Camp, Summer Camp, as well as outreach to and partnership with the nearby elementary school. Our hearts started with and continue to be pointed towards relationships, so while many of these events focus on meeting felt needs, our heart has always been and will always be to build relationship. Our desire is that every family at the complex will hear the Gospel and know the love of Jesus.
The Lord has taken us on a wild adventure through the development of The North Hill. He has blessed each step of obedience, covered each difficulty in grace, and turned our head in the direction we need to go next. We never, ever expected or planned for any of this. It has been his idea from the beginning, and we are so thankful he has allowed us to come along for the ride.