Four junior high girls who participate in our after-school program had been practicing during the week: "Hello. Welcome to Sojourners Neighborhood Center. Please sign the register and fill out a name tag." They were preparing to receive guests for the open house celebrating the completion of the center on Sunday, May 20.
Early in the morning on the day before, I was outside hanging the banner announcing the open house when some people waiting in the food distribution line received their invitations. I heard murmurs of excitement and the remark, "I'm going to be there early!"
As the open house began, two young boys I had found in our tree on Saturday were on the porch. "Can children come?" they asked. "We're scared to come in alone. Will you show us around?" Others arrived saying that they lived across the alley or up the street.
For six years we had lived and worked in this Washington, D.C. neighborhood, Southern Columbia Heights, without a place of our own out of which to do our ministry. On Good Friday of 1983, after a nine-month struggle and wait, we purchased this boarded-up house and began to raise the $70,000 we needed to rehabilitate it (see "A New Home," Sojourners, June-July 1983).
It had been a year of raising funds, making decisions, coordinating volunteers, and working on Saturday paint crews to finish up the renovations. Our office and ministries had to move in last August when only three rooms in the building were complete. We had no inside doors, and the water barely ran. Now it was time to celebrate the completion of the work.