Dear Friends and Family,
Ryan and Laura are married!
Laura has been involved with A Simple House since the mission was first discerned in 2003. During that first year, we talked about the need for a simple, personal, and rubber-meets-the-road ministry. It would be a Christian support for families in the projects and a place of spiritual growth for volunteers. Laura was the sounding board and discerning guide for these ideas. She was only 19 when she became Chairman of the Board of A Simple House. Her qualifications were her faith and an intuitive understanding of the ministry.
During the first years of A Simple House, Laura was in college. She volunteered and organized volunteers almost every week. Nine months after her graduation, she became the first resident of the Simple House of the Three Teresas. We did not plan for her to stay long, but someone was needed to house-sit the new house. Five years later, she is still with the ministry.
Laura has the gift of discernment. Despite the risk and strangeness of some ideas, she never dismisses them under the vague pretense of “reasonableness.” She is always daring and wise instead of overly conservative or foolhardy.
Laura also has the gift of looking for good and interesting points in people who others find loathsome, irksome, or just boring. She often says, “I met someone who was kind of being a jerk, but they are interesting because….” Or “I really like so and so. Despite [insert obvious negative], they are fascinating and good because …” She really believes that all men are created in “the image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26), and an obvious implication is that all people can be appreciated.
She even introduced me to my fiancé, Audrey O’Herron.
After Ryan graduated college, he went to Phoenix, AZ to serve the homeless for a summer. When he moved back to DC, he seemed like the perfect recruit for A Simple House. I took him out to a $5 pizza buffet and told him that he should join. After a few weeks of discernment, he did.
Ryan has been at A Simple House for over four years, and he continues to grow in love. There have been at least three turning points in his service. The first one could be called the “mosquitoes have eaten my ankles” conversion. Ryan had been suffering through the bugs, heat, and annoyance of a summer at A Simple house. Summers are the hazing period of voluntary poverty. It is during this time that someone has to tap into the beauty and logic of Christian asceticism or just suffer. Ryan’s sacrifices were interfering with his training for a triathlon, and it was wearing down his morale. He turned the corner when he decided to let Christ make these burdens light. He found deeper purpose in his sacrifices, and he even sacrificed some of his ambitions (like the triathlon) in order to serve more.
About eight months later, he had the “Jesus is the bull’s-eye” realization. No ideology (not environmentalism, conservatism, or even pacifism) is fully aligned with Christianity. No matter how close the ideology is to Christ, it is not the bull’s-eye that is Christ. We cannot recruit Christ to our ideology. We need to be converted to Christ. This orientation changes everything. Instead of reading our preferences into religion, the religion starts to form our preferences, and Christ really becomes our teacher and head.
Perhaps the greatest turning point was when Ryan started making great sacrifices to rise early in the morning for meditation, prayer, and scripture reading. He even does this after late nights of service, and it made him a coffee drinker. He is able to serve more and pray more than almost anyone I have ever met. His service and prayer do not trade off with one another. They motivate and help one another. The families the ministry serves praise Ryan. They know he makes daily sacrifices for them.
Ryan and Laura were left in charge of the DC houses when I started A Simple House in Kansas City. This made them grow in their gifts of ministry and stewardship. They became responsible for the community, ministry, and finances of the DC houses. They handled stress with a spirit of perseverance and joy. Ryan also learned how to do satirical impressions of me for the entertainment of volunteers. Ryan and Laura plan on staying at A Simple House, and they can because of the generosity of their friends and family.
Thank you for making all of this possible.
Clark Massey with full-time volunteers: Maeghan Cook, Erin Fortenberry, Ryan & Laura Hehman, Danielle Howard, Seth Miller, and Bianca Tropeano.