[Over the next few posts you'll hear from Josh Shepherd, who leads our QuadW Kansas City efforts and who, along with his wife, Tricia, lives in Christian community WITH our QuadW interns and others who are involved in the work God is doing in and through the Mission House. Listen to Josh share the story of God weaving together this beautiful Kingdom work....]
Our Story & The Mission House Story: The Intersection
The house that is now Mission House was built in 1910 near downtown Kansas City, Kansas. Today, the surrounding community is multi-cultural, consisting mostly of a Hispanic/Latino population. Next is a large African-American community, while several blocks away are large clusters of refugee communities, mostly from Bhutan and Burma. Many refugees also live close to the Mission House, and their presence is a welcome and vibrant contribution to the recently-waning vitality of our neighborhood. I want to share a little about how we came to live here, at an address that often elicits puzzled looks from locals in-the-know, but one in which we happily call home.
I always start with Sam McCord, because it all was started by Sam McCord. By the time Sam, a fellow white guy in his early 30s like me, stepped inside the house ten years ago, it had been abandoned for years and was a home for raccoons. A KCK resident by birth, Sam first had the dream of opening a Mission House as a training center for young people to come and live together and serve the local community. So he bought the house for $30,000 and with the support of a large suburban congregation called Westside Family Church, he invested $90,000 in the renovation with the conviction that it would one day be filled by young people on a transformational journey together. Before that dream could be realized, Sam and his new wife had to move out for reasons beyond their control. The house sat empty once again, and the Mission House vision was in peril.
This was in 2012. At that time, I didn’t know what was next for me, having recently transitioned from my work on staff at a large suburban Methodist church. My mandate there had been to “reach young adults”, a task that I pursued wholeheartedly at a time when my generation was leaving the church in droves. This effort meant trying to understand what exactly it would mean to reach a younger generation, and why exactly they were leaving. Did reaching them mean convincing them to attend our weekly worship gatherings, or was there something much deeper at the heart of their departure? Through sustained observation and careful reading, I began to suspect that trendy buildings and better coffee were not the answer to the question that I now knew would be central to my life’s work.
During that time, I had the opportunity to lead many “mission trips” to places ranging from Galveston to Guatemala. On these trips, I saw first-hand how action and service made young people come alive in ways I had never witnessed in the events and classes it was my job to promote. I, too, was changed — especially by Guatemala — and began learning Spanish after realizing the tragedy of not being able to communicate with Guatemalans or the millions of Spanish-speakers back home.
Of course, my wife, Tricia was already way ahead of me. She had earned a Spanish degree in college long before she met me, and was already working exclusively with Spanish-speaking families in the Parents as Teachers program. Her cross-cultural passion and enthusiasm for this work was something I’d always admired about her, but it was only when I took to learning Spanish that I began to understand the nature of our shared call. Now, Tricia and I both love and live for engaging with the many cultures of Latin American and Hispanic people. I realize the danger of such a broad comment, but it’s the only way I know to speak of this cross-cultural passion that seems to have emerged from our relationship together. We see this passion as the work of God in our lives, and now seek actively to embody it in the concrete reality of our daily lives together.
Eventually, we joined a Spanish-speaking Methodist congregation, which is our church to this day. And we began exploring more and more the nature of our shared vocation and where that might lead us. One night in particular in 2012, we sat at the table for a serious conversation. Our suburban apartment lease would be up soon, and we wanted to be as thoughtful and specific as possible about where we should live. Before us was the simple question of where our combined gifts, talents, and passions would most align with the community around us. We knew there was important work to be done in the suburbs, but acknowledged that we were not naturally suited to it. So at that table we began to articulate with specificity what such a place might look like — agreeing that it would ideally be urban, economically poor, and mostly Hispanic. Knowing many neighborhoods like that around Kansas City, but not sure which specific one was for us, we said a prayer and left it at that.
One week later, two mentors of mine, who now serve on our board, shared with me about the Mission House vacancy. They sensed it might be a perfect fit for Tricia and I, and encouraged us to consider moving in and continuing Sam’s work there. I immediately agreed, and after 5 minutes on the phone with Tricia, so did she. As a result, we moved to the Mission House in September, 2012, not exactly sure what would happen, but committing to take one step at a time together in our new place.
It is now three years later, and we have since lived with around 50 college-aged and other assorted folks, for as little as 8 weeks and as long as 2 1/2 years. Our housemates have been White, Black, Hispanic, Bhutanese refugees, African students, Brazilian, Trinidadian, and Asian-American. Much of this diversity is largely thanks to our partnership with QuadW, which began about 6 months after we moved into the Mission House. I cannot stress enough how providentially aligned our lives and our callings now seem to be. It is not easy by any means, but living with and seeking personally transformational opportunities for such a diverse and international group of young people is simply our sweet spot together.
And because of this, what we are doing has never been just about the summers. Where we live, there are year-round opportunities for mutually-transformational service work, and we have structured our lives and the Mission House organization around this permanent endeavor. In addition to the incredibly fruitful 8-week summer internships, we offer a 9-month residential program with content mirroring that of the internships, as well as opportunities for the right people to commit even longer-term.