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Missional Wisdom Foundation

Life at the Bonhoeffer House: A Boy From Missouri’s Adventure in Dallas

February 26, 2014 | Found in: Epworth

Bonhoeffer House's Peter Norton shares a letter he wrote for the newsletter of their anchor church, Grace United Methodist Church:

My name is Peter Norton. I grew up in Missouri in a house next to a corn farm. I would swim in the lake with my brother and friends and play paint ball on the weekends. Never when I was cutting the large yard did I think that I would be called to live in a house in East Dallas committed to forming positive relationships with the area homeless.

More than two years ago I was called by God to be a pastor in the Methodist Church. I spent several months discerning what kind of minister I would be and what learning opportunities would help me develop skills to make a positive impact in God’s kingdom. At an event for young people considering the ministry in St. Louis I met Brandon Lazarus who told me about an intentional living community he was a part of called the “Bonhoeffer House.” He explained to me their rule of life. How they prayed together in the mornings, invited people into their home every week for a meal and conversation, and how they volunteered at minimum four hours in various ways, all as part of an effort to create community in East Dallas. The part that struck me the most was the Bonhoeffer House intention to seek out relationships with people on the margins. Brandon explained how there were several Epworth houses throughout the Dallas Ft. Worth area and that each of them had a different focus of ministry based on the community they were a part of. The Bonhoeffer House had thought that they would work with victims of torture and African refugees but within months of their moving in they began to establish relationships with members of the homeless community who lived within blocks of Grace UMC.

I had never had an extended conversation with a homeless person but the idea of connecting with people outside of my normal daily interactions fascinated me. In the spirit of the church I grew up in it seemed so simple. Invite people to come and welcome them with smiles and kindness.

Two years later I have developed relationships of mutual trust and respect with many people from the East Dallas community. We meet once a week on Saturday mornings at 11 am for brunch which we all cook together and serve. Throughout the week we meet for coffee appointments and talk about our aspirations. At Perkins School of Theology I am working to earn a Masters of Divinity degree.

As we discuss how to welcome the stranger in the spirit of Christ as a church I am able to draw on the experiences I am gaining at the Bonhoeffer House.  Our community of the members of Grace UMC, local residents in the neighborhood and the roommates at Bonhoeffer House seek to create an environment of welcome, mutual support, and Christian love. The importance of radical welcome I am learning from the people of this community will guide me as I go to different communities and different churches as an itinerant pastor.