Last spring break, I was grieving. My college was under spiritual attack, a man had just broken my heart and I found out that I was not accepted into the Shalom Community.
The Shalom Community, which began in fall 2013, is comprised of two houses, one male and one female, as part of Housing and the Office of Multicultural Development. It exists to further racial reconciliation on campus. The houses are intentionally multicultural, and the students living there are required to take a sociology course titled “Race and Ethnic Relations.” They live together much like a normal on-campus house, but the educational aspect differentiates the Community from other houses. The Shalom Houses also meet once a week, sometimes for discussions on race related topics, sometimes to share stories and sometimes simply to have fun. Occasionally they host a campus-wide event as well.
Everyone expected I would be accepted into Shalom. I’m all about racial reconciliation, after all. Since my freshman year, the first year the houses existed, I had planned on living there. In fact, I had planned my college life around being in the Shalom Community.
Then, just before spring break, my friends and I heard the news. Iliana was in. Jen was in. Christy was in. I was not. We were all shocked.
When I ran to the bathroom to weep, I bumped into two of my friends who had just heard the exciting news that they were accepted. They graciously mourned with me even as they rejoiced for themselves.
Over spring break and in the following weeks, one housing option after another failed me. Most of my friends were in Shalom, and the rest already had plans. I asked about eleven different groups of people about joining them, but they always ended up finding a “better fit” instead. With few weeks left in the school year and no housing options for the summer or fall, I was desperate and broken. I felt unwanted and rejected.
I understood why I had not been accepted into Shalom House: They told me they had many good options and hated saying no to anyone, but they had to choose, and they knew I’d continue to pursue racial reconciliation on my own. I was encouraged despite my grief. But I still didn’t have a place to live.
I had been searching for housing both on and off campus, although off campus housing is limited to a quota and is not often granted to rising juniors. Miraculously, Housing approved the option. I continued to search, walking through nearby neighborhoods, asking church friends, even knocking on a door of what I’d mistakenly been told was an off campus house of college girls.
One evening I visited another church friend to ask if her family would have room for me. As I sat in her kitchen, crying in my fear of being homeless, she and her husband fed me fruit and shared their stories of not knowing where they would go for the summer up to the day before and how God provided. With their daughter and grandson moving in, they didn’t think it would be wise for me to live there, but they prayed over me and sent me home with money and—a luxury at the time—a couple bananas.
A few days later, that friend called to notify me about a house one of her other children had described to her. She urged, “Here’s the lady’s number. Call her now!!” While on the line with her, that number called me. I returned the call as soon as I hung up with my friend, and within fifteen minutes I was being picked up by a stranger to visit the house.
We drove four blocks through the dark, and I was greeted by a five year old girl with curly blond hair, who I learned was the youngest of six. They showed me the basement—the kitchenette with a washing machine and dryer, the bathroom, the rooms for rent. Utilities were included in the low monthly price. The house was near campus. The little girl was smiley and ticklish. I returned to my dorm excited.
A few days later, we finalized the housing deal. Two weeks later, I moved in for the summer and beheld my new home for the first time in daylight: a brick house with a row of bushes on the left side, a maple tree out front and a kindergarten sign by the door.
I have lived there for ten months now, and I have become part of the family, the Haworths. Over the summer, the oldest girls “officially fake adopted me,” and just this past week, the youngest told me I am “basically like a big sister.” My relationships differ depending on the person, but I have grown close to the family and enjoy going home each evening to hang out with them. I love having a home to which I can return on break without having the temporary feel of a dorm from which I would be expelled.
Yet I am often included by this year’s Shalom Community as well. My friends in Shalom honor me by counting me as part of the houses. When other students assume I am in Shalom, I correct them, but my friends butt in and affirm that I am basically a part of Shalom. Last semester I spent time there daily. Although we have all been busy and I have been hiding out my house a lot more this semester, they still count me as part of them. For example, the other day one of my Shalom friends asked if I was going home, and when I replied that I was indeed going to my house to make dinner, she said, “No, I meant home with me.” Moments like this cause me feel loved, although I praise God that I am part of the Haworth household as well.
For many months I did not realize why I had not been accepted into Shalom House. As new friends wait to see if they are accepted into next year’s Shalom Community, my emotions are flavored like salted, bittersweet chocolate chips. I am sad that I will graduate from Wheaton College without having lived at Shalom — or at least that I will never be able to say I lived there. But I know now that I could not afford to live on campus. I know I need the space to get away and be alone off campus. I also know I love living with the family. At last I can see how God’s plans are infinitely better than mine.
To the new Shalomers, congratulations! God is going to work awesome things in and through you via the Shalom Community. And to those who are not accepted this year, I understand and am sorry. If you are sad, take time to grieve. Continue to pursue racial reconciliation via education and life style, e.g. social circles and future decisions. Trust in God’s faithfulness and provision even as you grieve. For all of you, God is at work, and he is with you.