Project Neighborhood

Photo by Liza Gunnink.
Photo by Liza Gunnink.

“I live in Project Neighborhood.” Often this sentence is greeted with a look of recognition, but not understanding. Project Neighborhood is one of those Calvin programs that most people have heard of, but don’t know much about. Here are the basics: Project Neighborhood is a Calvin-sponsored off-campus housing option for upperclassmen who are interested in living in an intentional Christian community. On a practical level, this means committing to making time for both the internal and external community through Bible study, organized dinners, house meetings and service in the community. The houses also have mentors who serve as leaders and facilitators. Learn more about each house below, and read about the experiences of those who live or have lived there:

Peniel (“For I have seen the face of God” in Hebrew)

425 Eastern Ave SE

Number of Students: 5

History: Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church donated their former parsonage to become a Project Neighborhood house in 2001.

What Students Say: “Since we only had several months to live in this community, it was difficult to know if we would make any difference in our neighborhood, but I have come to accept that living in a community like this is about learning how to live intentionally much more than affecting the neighborhood here and now.  Peniel has been the first step on a journey of a life lived intentionally for God and his kingdom.” Mitch Vanderzee.

Harambee (“Pulling together” in Swahili)

656 Bates St SE

Number of Students: 6

History: The former parsonage of First Christian Reformed Church, Harambee has been a Project Neighborhood house since 1999.

What Students Say: “Living in Harambee is the best because of the people. Mike and Rachelle (our mentors) are fun and full of insight, and the other students in my house are amazing, thoughtful, just all-around great people. First CRC has also been a huge blessing. They have been extremely welcoming and inclusive toward us.  We feel very at home there. Also, we get baked goods almost every week from them — it’s amazing! Overall, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the people in my house as well as others in the community. It’s definitely a different atmosphere than the dorms, but I think it has been a good difference for me. I’ve learned to live in a more selfless, loving, encouraging way and try take make deep, genuine relationships with my house and those in our community.” Liza Gunnink.

Koinonia (“Fellowship” in Greek)

1230 Lake Dr SE

Number of Students: 9

History: Koinonia was the first Project Neighborhood house, after it was purchased from Wedgewood Christian Services in 1998.

What Students Say: “Living in Koinonia last year challenged me to grow in a lot of ways.  It taught me how to live well with people who are very different from me, and it also gave me the chance to develop deep relationships with my housemates.  What I enjoyed most, however, were the times when we would all get tired of studying and just goof off and laugh for minutes on end. Living in community has its challenges, but it can also be lots of fun.” Anthony Meyer.

Nizhoni (“Beautiful” in Navajo)

1335 Buffalo Ave NE

Number of Students: 6

History: Nizhoni is connected with Creston Christian Reformed Church. Students have been living there since 2007.

What Students Say: “It is refreshing to live in a neighborhood of mixed ages, ethnicities and classes, among people quite different from myself who have become my dear friends. Creston Church invests in students deeply and the Nizhoni house has been a safe space for me to grow, learn, make mistakes and just be myself. The experience has shaped how I want to live the rest of my life and has given me lessons no classroom could teach. After two years of struggling to find my place in Grand Rapids, I am grateful to call Creston home, and I don’t think I’ll be leaving anytime soon.” Linnea McLaughlin.

Travis Street

232 Travis St. NE

Number of Students: 6

History: The Travis house was donated by Gordon Food Service in 2009.

What Students Say: “The Creston neighborhood is fabulous! I fell in love with it almost immediately upon moving there. It is home to so many beautiful, committed people working hard to make it a great place to live. They’re finding a variety of creative ways to love their neighbors, and getting to know them was an enormous gift. Their stories came from perspectives which were new and inspiring to me and challenged me to look at life a little differently. It was a joy to call Creston home and to be accepted as neighbors there even though we were college students committed just to one year in the house. Our neighbors bravely got to know us anyway, and we learned from each other. Project Neighborhood on the whole stretched and grew me in several dimensions. Over the course of the year there was a gradual broadening in what I saw as important and a deepening in understanding of why those things mattered to me. For me, PN was not easy, but difficult and challenging much of the time. Yet despite rough starts and patches, I love the people I lived with. Through all the highs and lows that year they taught me much, listened much and accepted me as I was. For that, I thank them.” Leah Hoogstra.

 

Fuller House

1241 Fuller Ave

Number of Students: 5

History: This is the first year of the Fuller House as a part of Project Neighborhood. It formerly served as the parsonage of Fuller Avenue Christian Reformed Church.

What Students Say: “One thing that is different about living in a PN house versus any other off-campus house is that typically the PN houses share food on a common grocery budget. We don’t eat meals together every night, but that enables us to grab any ingredients and cook a meal for the two or three people who are around at dinner time and that way share a meal together rather than not.  That just doesn’t seem to happen in most college houses. It gives you more freedom to be hospitable with your housemates and friends who come over, because it expands your options beyond the meager fixing a college student might have around given their limited budget.” Ellie Price.

About the Author

Catherine Kramer

My name is Catherine Kramer and I am a senior hailing from Grandville, Mich. I am the features section editor for the 2013-2014 school year. As an English literature major and writing minor, I have a love for words and people and the ways they interact.

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