Clarkston House Project FAQ
Why do we want to purchase this house at this time?
For more than ten years, our community has been working to serve refugees in Clarkston through job training, medical services, relationship building, English language classes, and connecting our students with theirs. From the beginning, we’ve faced the challenge of finding space to meet with the people we hope to befriend and serve. Through the years, we’ve gathered in apartment homes, manager offices, basements and outdoor spaces. But in a neighborhood of such high transience, we’ve longed and prayed for a permanent home where these projects could take root more deeply in the community and grow for the good of many. We have actively looked for a centrally-located, commercially-zoned, and easily accessible property, but nothing fit the bill until we learned about an opportunity to rent the Clarkston House in the heart of Clarkston last fall. At that time, purchasing the Clarkston House was not an option, but we felt we should experiment to see if sharing permanent space among so many fruitful organizations was even viable. Just as we were coming to the conclusion that it was, indeed, viable and fruitful, we learned that the seller was open to a six-month lease-purchase agreement that would close at the end of June. While we can still opt out of the agreement, we felt strongly that we would be able to raise the necessary funds in time to purchase the property.
What is the purchase price and how do we know if it is a good investment?
We are aiming to raise $250,000, which would enable us to purchase the property with cash. Comparable commercially-zoned properties in the center of Clarkston are currently listed for sale between $300,000 and $800,000, making the cost per square foot of this property extremely competitive. Furthermore, most of the other properties we have looked at through the years lacked the accompanying land and the welcoming, home-oriented feel of the Clarkston House on Ponce.
Why are we trying to raise the funds by May 22?
We began renting the space in November 2015 because we felt we needed a period of testing to see if it did, in fact, increase the impact of these multiple ministries. Indeed, it did make a difference—we were able to see more people in our medical outreach clinics than ever before, train new refugee women to sew for Peace of Thread, and host several community gatherings with families we had worked with in Clarkston. By early 2016, we learned that purchasing would be an option. We worked with our key partner organizations, (Peace of Thread, Grace Medical Outreach, etc.) to confirm they were in favor of moving forward. After much prayer and discussion, our campus pastors, staff, and elders decided we did want to purchase the property. We also believed the time around Pentecost (May 8-22) would fit with Grace’s history of pioneering new initiatives during this church season. The May 22 deadline enables us to make sure we have all of our documents and funds in order to close in June when our lease-purchase agreement comes full-term.
What happens if we don’t raise the funds?
Rather than using a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign organization (e.g. Kickstarter or Gofundme), we have chosen to raise funds through Grace’s regular and online giving channels. This is primarily because the fees are greatly reduced so virtually all of the donated funds will go directly to Clarkston House. This also means we have more flexibility once May 22 arrives to determine how best to proceed if we do not reach our goal. As God-fearing optimists with great confidence in our community, we believe we will raise the $250,000. Furthermore, we may be able to access some Grace funds to make up a shortfall if necessary.
How is the Clarkston House being used?
Currently, several organizations share the space:
• Women’s employment and empowerment through Peace of Thread (www.peaceofthread.com)
• Free Saturday medical clinics sponsored by our Grace Medical Outreach team and the Christian Medical and Dental Association of Atlanta (www.cmdaatlanta.org)
• Meeting space for the Lantern Project providing professional, licensed-contractor training for refugees (www.thelanternproject.org)
• Community gatherings hosted by families serving the community
• Language training
• Counseling for women
What is your vision for the Clarkston House moving forward?
We believe the current organizations will continue to use the space; but we also anticipate new initiatives and partnerships emerging as the house becomes a permanent base for projects in the community. Thus, the Clarkston House will be an anchor point for multiple already-existing ways to serve the community and also an incubator for new ideas. We can see many creative possibilities for the Clarkston House in the future, including more leadership training, community gatherings, and other types of training. But for now, we have plenty of new work and relationships that have developed since we began renting the house last year to keep us busy.
Who will manage and maintain the Clarkston House?
All of our partner organizations involved feel significant ownership and investment in house, and the Grace Family of Churches will provide staff to coordinate and oversee the work.
What if I want to volunteer? What other ways can I get involved?
Please send an email to Kamal:
How can we partner with other churches and organizations in the area?
During the last ten years, we have, in fact, partnered with many local churches and other organizations. Many of those partnerships have been very fruitful, but we have observed that going to a “church” building can be a formidable barrier for many refugees who have grown up in non-Christian cultures or religious settings. The Clarkston House, however, has proven to be a safe and welcoming space where we can interact spiritually and “be the Church” by serving the community.
Are there any other models for this kind of project/facility?
In January 2013, several of the Grace campus pastors had the opportunity to visit Homeboy Industries, an incredible organization that exists to create jobs and serve ex-gang members in Los Angeles. There we heard from gang members whose lives had been radically transformed, and we saw the powerful synergy that can occur when multiple avenues of outreach are housed in one, central location. While the refugee community has almost nothing in common with LA street gangs, the model for serving a potentially marginalized community created a powerful vision in us. What if it were possible to establish a space of service for the refugee community in Clarkston? We redoubled our efforts to pray and seek God for such a space. About two years later, we learned about the opportunity to rent the Clarkston House.
Why is Clarkston a significant city for serving refugees?
Atlanta is diverse, and Clarkston is one of the major hubs of that diversity. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports “one in 10 people in the metro area was born outside of the United States.” The influx of refugees is one driver of this diversification. According to the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, in 2011 and 2012 Georgia has received the sixth most refugees of any state in the country. In 2012, more than 26% of the refugees who settled in Georgia came from Muslim-majority nations. Many of the arriving refugees face immediate financial difficulty—the U.S. government provides each refugee with $1,875 to cover the cost of food, rent, clothing, and the fees of the support staff from the resettlement agencies. The State Department’s support terminates after three months, and though the Office of Refugee Resettlement has some other long-term assistance programs, our observation is that it is often difficult to access. Finding work is also difficult; in 2012, only 41% of newly arrived refugees in Georgia were able to enter employment. Even though their refugee status affords them total eligibility for the workforce without any special green card or work visa requirements, factors such as the lack of English language skills, a stalled economy, and (sadly) ethnic bias cause gainful employment to be scarce.
What does the Bible say about caring for refugees?
Perhaps the most direct Old Testament parallels to serving refugees can be found in the Bible’s commands regarding the “foreigner” or “sojourner.” God made a promise to Abram that his descendants would be “sojourners” in the land (Genesis 15:13), and the nomadic history of God’s people would become the controlling motivation for them to treat other foreigners with dignity and generosity. When they encountered foreigners in their land, the Law commanded that God’s people should “not oppress” nor “do him wrong” but rather “love” him/her (Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34, and Deuteronomy 10:19). This emphasis on righteous hospitality for the foreigner continues through the Psalms and Prophets (e. g. Psalm 146:9; Jeremiah 7:6, 22:3; Ezekiel 47:22; and Zechariah 7:10) and is perhaps summarized by the words of Isaiah, who writes that in the days of the Messiah “sojourners will join [God’s people] and attach themselves to Jacob” (Isaiah 14:1).
The New Testament develops and deepens this theme. Jesus’ own famous parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates his summary of the Old Testament commands to love God and neighbor, even if that neighbor is from an unexpected people group. The Samaritan, moved by pity, serves the broken man on the Jericho road by caring for his physical wounds, making sure he was socially secure by bringing him to the inn, providing economically for him by leaving two denarii (Luke 10:25-37). These practical implications of being a good neighbor and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to those in need become even more explicit in the book of Acts and the Epistles. The first words of Jesus’ great commission to his followers after his resurrection provides a telling summary: “Go and make disciples of all peoples” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In conclusion, then, the Bible reveals that God’s people are to apply God’s truth in such a way that it impacts and takes into account not only the “spiritual” concerns of the foreigner but also their religious, social, and economic needs.