History of the NH
After starting the S.A.Y. Yes! Center for Youth Development in 2001 (Click here to read that story), we were heart-broken over how many kids and families wanted to be a part of the center and yet how few adult leaders there were who could commit to long-term mentoring. We saw so very many there were who were longing to be loved and believed in, how many parents wanted to believe that our community could do more for our kids and yet so few who would invest deeply.
We called many to come and live in Pico Union in the later 90's and we noticed a revolving door among those who came. There was a 2-3 month romantic period in which the relocators thought that the community and kids were wonderful; then, once the realities of the depths of problems and the spiritual darkness set in, a despairing and discouraging period would set in. Most people would leave before getting victory over this difficult time. Similarly, discipleship and leadership development among those who grew up in the city was a long-term process with many set backs. We realized that it was difficult to see progress with only a couple interactions a week with people.
As we cried out to God for leaders to invest in long-term discipleship and community transformation, we got a vision for what became the Nehemiah House. What if we called a group of people together who just wanted to commit to loving God deeply and loving our neighbors and we committed to living in a house together and to helping each other grow in Christ and fulfill our call in the community? Perhaps as we walk through the dark times together, we could grow through it together developing as leaders called to serve the forgotten here and around the world.
We were accustomed to things happening very slowly in church ministry, so we were very surprised when the Nehemiah House came together quickly after the vision came. A first group of interns came together along with a stellar group of staff, many with community experience as a part of Inner-Change.
Financially, we decided to have the church buy a house so that oversight and accountability would remain with church leaders. We determined we would need to raise about $75,000 for a down payment and initial expenses on a 4-unit house. The church leaders were initially hesitant about the amount, but once again God confirmed that we were to go forward. All of the money came in and a 4-unit house just 1 1/2 blocks from the church was provided that was exactly what we were asking the Lord for.
So, in August of 2002, the Nehemiah House was launched. Later, in 2010, the property next door - The Emmaus House - was purchased by the church so that the community might be expanded to include space for three families in addition to up to 8 young adults.