Living With Intention
Living with intention in the community around you provides a unique opportunity to grow and flourish both personally and inter-personally. The entire concept of being “with” our neighbors, our friends, our housemates, our family, etc., creates an opportunity for transformation. Transformation in our lives, transformation in the communities where we reside, and even beyond the immediacy of the previous two, transformation in our world to look more like the Kingdom of Heaven. We wanted to take a moment and introduce ourselves (ministers at each of the Reside Ministry houses), how we came to Reside Ministries, and our experience. So, as you read a glimpse of who we are, we hope that you can see the transforming power of living in community and what it truly looks like to RESIDE.
Justin Mulholland - Gregory House - Springfield, IL Hello! I am Justin Mulholland and I live at Gregory House in Springfield, IL. I am from Michigan, but went to college at Greenville College (now Greenville University) and graduated with a double major in youth ministry and history and political science. I love to play sports, read, read about sports, play video games, hang out with friends and bake muffins in my stud muffin apron. I came to Reside in the Spring of 2016 after I graduated from Greenville College. Previously, I worked in the neighborhoods of Flint, MI over my college summers, and I felt God calling me to continue to live with intention and lean into life with others in a neighborhood. During my senior year at Greenville, I was connected to Pastor Tyler Boyer, Nicole and Brenna who live at Laurel House. Through many conversations and a few trips to Springfield, I knew pretty quickly this was where God was calling me to reside with intention. After graduation, I moved to Springfield. I had an interview for a job at Scheels, a sports store, and no house to live in. A family from church graciously took me in and let me stay with them until we found a place. And we did find a place in December of 2016! Through that whole process, and for the last three years, I have learned about patience, and what it looks like to practice patience in daily life. Patience is not just waiting for something to be handed to you; patience is much more active. Patience is the act of leaning into a situation with those around you. Patience is digging deeper to discover the kinship at the core of our life; kinship that says “we belong to each other.” Patience combats the rush of the world around you and puts the focus of our hearts and minds on the Lord and on others. And so, Gregory House is a space for play, a space for prayer and conversation, a space for baking and eating, a place for rest, but most of all, it is a space to discover what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves for a lifetime.
Brenna Byerly - Laurel House - Springfield, IL
Hi! My name is Brenna Byerly and I have been living at what we call Laurel House in Springfield, IL. I am originally from Rochester, a small town right outside of the city. I went to college at the University of Illinois (Springfield campus) and graduated in December of 2012 with a teaching degree. The best part of my college experience was the campus ministry that I was heavily involved in, Christian Student Fellowship. That is where I learned what community looks like and just how important it is to our walk of faith with the Lord. From graduating, I went and spent a year teaching English to high schoolers in Honduras. It was the best, yet, the hardest year of my life times 100. It is also where I discovered what I really wanted out of a community. I got a glimpse of what it looks like to come together in a foreign place and be a new type of family, but I wanted more at the same time.
When I moved back to Springfield, I got involved in a small group with my church at the time that was deep and good and challenging. A friend in that group called me one day and asked how I would feel about moving out and I told her point blank I definitely could not afford that. (This is the part where I always have to laugh at how shallow this sort of sounds on paper but the heart behind my moving was pure and certainly honest.) She told me she knew about a house that was free to live in, you basically just had to love Jesus. Ha! So I contacted the other 2 ladies planning to move in and started praying about my presence in the house. It was pretty easy to see that all the things I was hoping for in Honduras were the actual goal with this house, and an added bonus: there was no language barrier! I’d say it’s going pretty well since I’ve now been living here for just about 4 and a half years.
God has been really good to this natural response to a need in a neighborhood and I am grateful every day to get to see a glimpse of that. I have learned what true communal living looks like, which is slightly more than living in a community where you get together on a regular basis. We share the same vision and desire to see ourselves become genuine friends and neighbors to our neighbors. We take prayer walks down our streets, we play with kids dozens of times when they come knocking looking for some safe and (hopefully!) fun socializing. We read with kids and help them do their homework and I see my roommate do gardening things with them, too. We have community dinners where we all gather together and eat a bunch of good food and talk together and hear more of what’s going on in each others’ lives. We have kids in our backyard in the summer learning about Jesus and the Bible. Most of all, we see kids being kids with reckless abandon. When a child can feel safe, secure, happy, AND free, that is the total package. It is also the way God created each of us to be able to feel. Our hope and prayer is that it would continue to be a natural response to our neighbors around us, to keep doing life with them, be there and be present, talk about life and about Jesus, and eat some really good food while we’re at it. It is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Nicole Barks - Laurel House - Springfield, IL
Howdy! My Name is Nicole Barks and I live as the House Leader at Laurel House in Springfield, IL. I grew up in Geneseo, IL and graduated from Greenville College with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology/Religion. I am currently working on my master’s degree at Lincoln Christian University. I co-teach a public speaking class at Jacksonville correctional facility. I am the prevention Educator for the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center here in Springfield- this means I speak to elementary school students about child abuse and sexual abuse. Also, I enjoy the interruption of knocks on my door, attempting to harvest some semblance of fruit with the neighborhood kids, summer evenings of play, reading, writing, drinking coffee, thinking about concepts, having tangential conversation, believing in the ridiculous, and being fascinated with God and his work in his humans.
The day after Graduation, in May of 2014, I received a call from one of my best friends. She told me that a couple people in her church had been praying about a way to live in a Springfield neighborhood and they were looking for anyone who might be interested in this kind of living situation. Jesus continually shows us that he is in the places where others may want to leave. He goes to the places that others may not want to go. The kingdom is not far from these places. I was curious to know more. After being connected to Pastor Tyler Boyer of Knox Knolls Free Methodist Church, I moved to Springfield and joined the prayer and brainstorming efforts. Along the way we met with Margo and Brenna and continued planning and praying toward intentional community living. In November of 2014 a house was donated to us and it was ready for us to live in by January 2015. Around this time, a young girl at our church asked me what my dream house would be. We happen to be driving by Laurel in its almost renovated state. I said “truly, I’m about to be moving into it…but of course if not that, then yes I would love a house that has slides and swimming pools and all kinds of things that don’t make sense”.
It’s been four and a half years…and every year has looked so different. Seasons, neighbor transitions, housemates. They all have had their challenges and celebrations. Every person who has joined us in residing, has had gifts to give and love to share in their own unique ways, and we are grateful. As neighbors who reside on purpose, we don’t have answers, resources, or solutions. But, we do have ourselves. And in this way, we do what we can with what we have. Sometimes this is sharing food, time, energy, prayer, bus tokens, or connecting church and neighborhood to respond to need/share in a community event. Laurel was, and is, simply a church responding to a need that was only found by time spent in a neighborhood with real people. Knox Knolls was faithful to God’s opportunity to respond to their neighbors. Through their prayer and faith we, at Laurel and Gregory, get to extend the love of Christ beyond our Church walls.
Emily Kane - House of Joy - Decatur, IL
Hi there! My name is Emily Kane, and I currently reside (solo) in the Decatur house, which we have affectionately named the House of Joy. I graduated from Olivet Nazarene University in 2016 with degrees in Christian Education and Intercultural Studies, and it was during my time there that my love for community grew exponentially. I served as a Resident Assistant for three years, and I loved every second. Post graduation, I went on a brief two year hiatus and completed a program called Teach For America in Memphis, TN. During my first year in Tennessee, I felt the pangs of loneliness and absence of Christian community in raw ways, and I realized how vital true community is for the world today. It has made my residence in the House of Joy that much sweeter.
About halfway through my second year in Tennessee, I was in my hometown (Decatur), and having discussions with some people from my church, Moundford Free Methodist surrounding this “house thing” many people were becoming involved in and the premise behind it. I learned that the house was being remodeled and would eventually become the address of someone who wanted to live intentionally in community with people around them. I remember sitting down with one of my best friends, Fadra Coates, and telling her that I would love to live in a house like that. I went and saw the house shortly after, and I think I knew in that moment that I would eventually end up living there. Everything about it felt right, and everything about the philosophy of the house is what I am passionate about. Of course, being the stubborn young woman that I am, I fought that nudge of Holy Spirit for quite some time. I had multiple conversations with people who asked me to consider living in the house, to which I would say: “No. I think I am going to live in Memphis for three years.”
In January of 2018, I was having a conversation with my pastor, Paul Alf, and he asked me one very specific and pointed question that changed the trajectory of my life: “What are you passionate about?” To be honest, I couldn’t answer that question right then and there, even though I knew. I’d been battling some deep questions in Memphis and still had some heartache that I was healing from, and it clouded my ability to answer quickly. So, instead of answering it on the spot, I went to Starbucks to get some work done. Instead of doing work, I sat there and thought about that one question. And instead of making my own plans, I let God take ahold of my dreams and passions and hopes. The answer to that question, “What are you passionate about?”, is everything that the House of Joy could be and is becoming. A place where community is fostered internally and externally, a place where the love of God supersedes all other things, and a place where Jesus can be known and be made known to others.
It has been a little over a year since moving into the House of Joy, and I have loved every second of my time here. God has worked so deeply in my heart during this time. I’ve learned, yet again, what it means to live in deep community with other people: letting them love you through your brokenness, loving them through their brokenness, and together increasing a knowledge of God and who He has created us to be. I’ve found that sometimes the community you are “called to serve” loves serving you, too, and it has been a humbling process to know that community does not equate to a one-ended transaction. I’ve been challenged in ways I did not expect. I’ve been challenged to be intentional with my neighbors, but also be intentional everyday in my time with the Lord. And also, most recently, I’ve been learning how to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and ever-yielding toward His direction. I don’t want to miss a moment of what Jesus has for His Kingdom and the ways He is asking me to be a part of His business.
We hope that by reading our introductions and stories you have gained a better understanding of what Reside Ministries is and how the ministry has transformed our lives and those around us. We are genuinely humbled and filled up to the brim with joy because of the opportunity we have to live in the communities where we reside, and we hope you know that you, too, have the unique opportunity to do the same wherever God has placed your life.