Ten years ago, we published the following article about a new, unique community that was just getting started at Western Theological Seminary. Did you ever wonder whether it “worked?” Stay tuned for next week’s blog to find out!
When a ceremonial shovelful of dirt was dug from the site for Friendship House on September 12 , ground was broken in more ways than one. The Western Theological Seminary (Holland, MI) project, named in honor of Friendship Ministries, is an innovative new Christian living community that provides inclusive housing for seminary students and adults with cognitive impairments.
Eighteen seminary students and six adults with cognitive impairments will live together in Friendship House, with the space divided into six apartment units, each housing four residents and including common living, dining, and patio areas. The facility will also include space for a Resident Director and an apartment for visiting guests.
Throughout the planning process, designers kept in mind the project’s goal of being “a safe, affordable, independent environment where individuals value and support each other.” An essential contribution to this environment will be a weekly Friendship Bible Study group which will meet at the house.
Dreams Coming True
For Bob and Deb Sterken, this opportunity for their son, Rob, represents a dream come true: “Since Rob’s birth, we have always been concerned about his future, especially housing. He has far fewer options than our other children have had. He requires a unique environment so he can live semi-independently, and we are confident the Friendship House can provide this. We see living at the Friendship House as a terrific opportunity for Rob that will enable him to take his rightful place in God’s Kingdom. The future looks bright for Rob, and this is both a comfort and relief for everyone in our family.”
The urban location of Friendship House on the grounds of Western Seminary is ideal. Not only will residents have easy access to seminary facilities, but an easy walk will bring them to downtown services as well.
Something Like Grace
Says Matt Floding, Dean of Students at Western Seminary, “Friendship House is something like grace—completely unexpected and amazing. Out of two sets of needs, additional student housing for Western and safe and community-oriented housing for persons with special needs, has come one incredible opportunity. The inclusion of these new friends in WTS housing will impact everyone in the seminary community. And every pastor graduating from Western will carry in their heart a heightened awareness, sense of compassion for all persons with disabilities and basic ability to minister to them and their families. That’s good news for the Church and its ministries.”
Friendship Ministries is honored that this exciting new venture bears our name. It is the hope of everyone involved in the project that the Friendship House model will be duplicated to benefit other communities. Perhaps one day the only new ground that will be broken by a project like this will be the literal dirt beneath our feet!