God Just Bought Us A House 🏠
This is a crazy story
First off: Merry Christmas! I have a book due in five days and worked straight through the 25th (luckily, my Finnish in-laws celebrate on the 24th and my family is celebrating on the 28th.)
I normally keep “churchy” stories off Surviving Tomorrow and post them over on Future Faith, but this is really too wild a story to not share, and I know most of my readers are open-minded enough to indulge me with this one, especially because we share a common care for legitimately progressive economics, affordable housing, and the end of shelter exploitation.
First, some context. For more than twelve years, we've been saving to buy a house so we can stay put in one community for a while. During that time, housing instability has been a constant companion. We've had more than a dozen landlords, lived in all sorts of spaces (some nice, others cold and moldy) – but all with the instability of having to move constantly. We're still actively dealing with the financial and health fall-out of a mold outbreak in our last rental from a year ago.
We have never qualified for a mortgage because of my variable income, and I had a mortgage as an 18-year-old and have since felt strongly called to avoid ever going into debt again. So, we managed to put together a decent savings pile since the early 2010s, but in the past twelve years, the average house price in my hometown went up over $650,000.
There was NO WAY we could out-save a greed-inflated market. House prices kept rising, and rents kept rising even faster. We were completely rent-trapped. Then, the housing crisis hit so hard after lockdown that we simply couldn't find anything safe and healthy to rent in any price range. (I queried something like fifty rentals one month, only got to see two, and started offering above-asking as a joke, and still got turned down because there were more desperate renters outbidding us.)
It got to the point where we could not physically find a way to rent anything. So, for the past year, we've been staying with some incredibly dear and long-suffering Christian friends, Chris and Kate.
Enter "Mr. Christian" (a friend of mine who does not want to be named).
On one of our regular man-date Zoom sessions, Mr. Christian lost it (in the best way possible): "Jay, why can't Christians just act like the Acts 2 Church and just buy you a house? Wait... can I just fundraise you guys a house?!"
Michelle and I are used to being the ones fundraising for causes. It was weird and deeply uncomfortable to have it go the other way, especially with something so personal. We wrestled with it for months. It felt embarrassing and humiliating, and we felt undeserving. If this was something God had called our friend to do, we had to swallow our pride and let him do it.
It was a Herculean task, but Mr. Christian raised C$100K, and he and Mrs. Christian carried much of the load at a very real personal cost.
As a result, added to our own savings, we had C$200K in total, which buys you a literal shed in Guelph and maybe a one-bedroom hovel in AirBnB-stacked West Wales. We intentionally wrestled for about six months at the prospect of having to leave Cardigan, but one day, we felt a release from God to go ANYWHERE we could be debt-free home stewards.
We looked online everywhere.
-The Canadian Prairies
I looked at more than 6,000 listings in total. The amount of discouragement was massive.
We felt lost. Adrift in a sea of no leads.
My son Concord and I drove 2,000kms all over the UK and the Isle of Man, dropping hundreds of letters in mailboxes, including in the poorest postal code in the nation. We wanted to be open to wherever God would open a door, literally anywhere.
Eventually, we narrowed our search to a relatively affordable area in the northeast of the UK about 20 minutes outside the stunning cathedral city of Durham, England.
We put in an offer, which got accepted, and then gazumped, and we lost C$1,000. We bid on a second place. This time I had tea with the owners and explained our vision for hospitality and kingdom projects like writing books, making documentaries, starting to teach about Christian economics, trying to adopt a kid once we're legally allowed, etc. Our offer was accepted.
18 weeks later, the deal closed. We’re currently replacing the moldy walls and rotten floor. It’s going to be a wonderful joy to be able to resume practicing intentional hospitality. Like breathing again. (One winter in Wales we hosted people for something absurd like 83 out of 89 evenings. We won't go that crazy, but it will be great to coalesce a new community here.)
The plan is to say goodbye to our community in Cardigan over Christmas and the New Year, and then, on January 8th, God-willing, Michelle, Concord, and I will pile into our little car and head North to our new home.
All that to say, by God's grace, the tenacious prayers of many, and the incredible kindness of a handful of generous Christians, we have escaped from the rent trap and are now debt-free home stewards.
God-willing, this won’t be the last time you’ll hear a God-house-story like this from us. Michelle and I got to help a Ghanaian friend buy a house during COVID so she could escape the rent trap, and we've already started shooting a new documentary on the worldwide housing crisis caused by for-profit land-lording.
We hope inspirational stories like these become a daily occurrence. If the modern church acted more like the Acts 2 church, ALL Christians could be debt-free home stewards, and use all those wasted trillions of rent/interest dollars to further the kingdom of God instead.
I need to express my extreme gratitude to Chris and Kate for sheltering us during this stormy year, along with the handful of wonderful and generous friends and family who sacrificially made this God story a reality.
This house belongs to Jesus, and His people literally paid for half of it. So my biggest thanks goes to Jesus for giving me Mr. Christian, and for giving Mr. Christian the authentic, radical, active love, generosity, and patience to be friends with an idiot like me.
My hope is that in the bleak landscape of this world’s injustice and hardship, this story sparks a creative hope in you. May we all foster a greater imagination for what it looks like to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.
More pics in January once we’re settled and have walls and floors!
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