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January 31, 2013

Portland couple discovers something more satisfying than owning a dream home.

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Portland area couple reads inspirational book … downsizes, simplifies, finds elusive measure of happiness.

Background: (from James Addis, World Vision Magazine)

The house was beautiful.  It was located in the upscale neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, and for months its owners, Jeff and Kari Patterson, had studied the plans and pored over every detail of its construction.  Once building commenced, they visited the site almost every day, fantasizing about what it would be like to live in the house they had always dreamed of owning.  After they moved in, they finalized the color scheme and completed the landscaping. The icing on the cake was an enormous outdoor playhouse for their two children — Dutch, 6, and Heidi, 4. It did not seem to matter that their mortgage payments were through the roof.

Then the Patterson’s read The Hole in Our Gospel  by World Vision president Richard Stearns. Like tens of thousands of other readers, the Pattersons were broken by the plight of impoverished children around the world.

In some ways the book’s message was not new for them.  Apart from the house, the couple had always lived modestly in order that they could give more to organizations such as World Vision to bring practical and spiritual help to the destitute.  But the more Kari meditated on the book, the more convinced she was that it was not enough. “Our current giving costs us nothing,” she reflected. “The bottom line is our current giving does not require us to live by faith.”

In the book, Rich refers to Moses. God asks Moses to throw down his staff and it instantly becomes a snake. What is in your hand? Rich asks. What is God asking you to lay down for his glory?* For Kari, there was no doubt about the answer.  Much of the couple’s income was tied up in mortgage payments to pay off their home — money, Kari reasoned, that might more profitably be diverted toward people who might not even have enough to eat.

Coincidentally, her husband Jeff — the assistant pastor of a local church — was thinking along the same lines. One week after finishing The Hole in Our Gospel, the couple put their home on the market.  The idea was to move into more modest accommodation and, over time, allow the couple to donate as much as $500,000 to those in need rather than invest it in a house.

More details:

Rich Stearns is currently at work on his latest book, Unfinished, schedule to be published later this year.

It took exactly a year for the house to sell. (The house showed 90 times in that year.) The Pattersons first moved into a rental property and more recently bought a more modest home in a poorer neighborhood. Slashing their mortgage payments by 75 percent has allowed the couple to give away a fourth of their income. They hope one day to up that to half their income.

Kari considers it is the best decision the couple ever made. She says it as though someone had turned on a faucet to receive more from God: “I just felt like in prayer I could hear him more clearly,” she says.

Even more importantly, Jeff felt God prompting him to establish a new church in a low-income neighborhood. It meant the couple’s income dropped by two-thirds. But without the pressure of maintaining high mortgage payments, it wasn’t a problem for them. Pastor Jeff heeded the call and became the founding pastor of Renew Church in Oregon City.

Even so, the reaction from fellow Christians has not always been favorable. Some said the couple was making a negative judgment about people who live in nice houses. Kari disagrees. She stresses that just because God told her to give up her dream home does not mean he is asking the same thing of everybody.

*The Hole in Our Gospel, p. 91. Kari roughly paraphrases the text.

Notes from Kari: We put our house on the market Oct. 8, 2010 (a week after finishing The Hole in our Gospel). We moved out October 8, 2011. Yes, exactly a year. We had decided ahead of time, because of the poor market, that we’d try to sell it for a year, and if it didn’t sell we’d keep it.

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