Our Story: How Peace Trail Village originated

“This is a new meetinghouse for the people of God:  for people seeking courage to be kind and honest and loving to everyone; really to do these things at home, at work, as citizens and not just to play games in their minds.”

 –Arthur Roberts, Dedication for North Valley Friends Church, 1972

North Valley Friends Church (NVFC) is a Quaker community of ministers who seek to follow Jesus Christ faithfully, love each other deeply, and continue His ministry in the world. Since its inception in 1972, NVFC has tried to be faithful to this mission. Stewarding our resources, including the land around our church, has been part of our ministry. The development of the Peace Trail Village continues this 50-year effort to discern and be faithful to God’s calling. 

 

Some Important History

Between 1878 and 1906, Quaker pioneers established Friends churches in seven population centers in and around Newberg.  In 1972, North Valley Friends Church was formed from Chehalem Center Friends and Springbrook Friends, after a fire destroyed their building.  We will celebrate our half century anniversary this fall.

For around 30 years NVFC has been involved in Equipo, a large group service trip that goes down to San Luis, Mexico.  A Friends pastor in Eugene had a vision to build 300 homes for folks in this area of the world, and Newberg area Friends churches have built at least 50 of those homes, providing homes in San Luis for hundreds of individuals.  

About eight years ago, Pastor Leslie Murray realized she knew many city officials in San Luis – the mayor, the mayor’s wife, the key people in the social service agency – but did not know any of the city officials in Newberg nor was she active in this way in her hometown. She felt convicted by God to change this about herself, and the idea for a Peace Trail Village started to form. 

In some ways, though, the church had been dreaming about this kind of ministry since the church’s beginning. 

 

Stewarding the Land

About 25 years ago, NVFC went through a full-scale visioning project, asking God what to do with the significant acreage surrounding the church.  At that time, the church approved a couple of ball fields, a walking trail, a social service building, a duplex, and selling a portion of our property below market value to a Christian school.  There was and is a sense that God has been generous with the church, and the church feels called to share this largesse with others.  

All the outdoor spaces—the trail, the playground, the labyrinth—are not locked up and “saved for us” but are made accessible to the community. The church rents its building to many groups for a reasonable rate. The building and space get used often, for everything from a preschool to people making gyoza to quinceanera and graduation parties. NFVC also hosts a free clothing closet for all, because one of their core values is generosity.

The church’s partnership with Veritas School reflects these core values as well. While NFVC sold part of its land so Veritas could build a school there, the church also welcomes Veritas into spaces that are not owned by the school, including the gym, the Peace Trail, and some of the outdoor space. NVFC is grateful for these neighbors, and for the opportunity to extend hospitality to Veritas in this way. 

 

The First Tiny Homes

In 2017, Matt Miller, a teacher at Newberg High School, reached out to Pastor Murray. Miller taught a class called Integrated Design Systems, which investigates a particular need in the community and discerns how they can help. That year, the class was trying to address homelessness in Newberg, and decided to build a tiny home as a response. They wanted to give the tiny home to NVFC.  

After much prayer and discernment, the church felt clear to receive their first tiny home. The church’s first guest, Alexis, was able to stay in that space during forest fires. The high school class built two more tiny homes, and other members of the broader community were invited to live on North Valley’s land.  In March 2022, through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Angela took ownership of one home. 

NVFC also began a partnership with the Providence BOB program, where they would discern criteria for particular guests in our tiny homes and then offer wrap-around care for the guests in our homes. 

 

Discerning a Bigger Call

NVFC needed to develop a comprehensive plan for the property, and so created a task force of congregation members and people from the community, hoping to develop a design for what a tiny home village might look like. Through prayer and discernment, NVFC heard the call to use the gift of their land and other resources as a way to confront Newberg’s housing crisis.

In Spring 2021, the congregation approved a concept design of nine cottages, each about 300 square feet. Each cottage will have its own toilet, shower, sink and a bed. In the center of the cottage cluster there will be a covered gathering space for community, shared meals, and connection. 

In creating this conceptual design, a congregational task force walked all over the property and discussed different areas of the property for the village. One idea was to have the village near College Street, in the vast space owned by the church. Homeless advocates pointed out that having the village nearer to the church building adds safety and security to the enterprise. 

After looking at grading and water/electrical accessibility, the church felt clear about building Peace Trail Village in the space to the north of the gym. It has a minimal grade, it’s on the water and sewer lines, and the parking lot can count as our parking spaces for the cottages. At every step, the NVFC community has felt assurance that God has shown them a way where there was no way, a continued answer to prayer for their faithfulness.

 

The Role of Providence

Providence has two meanings in the context of the Peace Trail Village. First, NVFC is partnering with Providence, the healthcare organization, to alleviate the suffering of people in Newberg’s community. But the church has also been astounded by God’s providence in this initiative, helping to provide funds that will take the dream of helping to alleviate Newberg’s housing crisis and make it a reality. 

In March 2022, NVFC and Providence applied for a grant through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021. Pastor Murray, with the blessing of church leadership, believed applying for a grant would not likely reap the needed funds for the Peace Trail Village, and so were astounded and amazed when they received the entire requested amount: $400,000, an affirmation that the church is heading in the right direction.  

Out of these funds, NVFC hired Michael Pender as a project manager. Pender will apply for permits, serve as architect, and contract for electrical, sewer and water civil engineering. Pender has deep roots in Newberg, and is a faithful Christian committed to the vision of a tiny home village.

The church has also been working with Providence for over a year. Their extensive community work and experience will help NVFC create policies ensuring that the Peace Trail Village will be a safe and secure place for its inhabitants as transitional housing, welcoming guests to stay for six to twelve months as a bridge to more housing stability. 

Already, NVFC has had several short-term visitors in its extant tiny homes, each channeled through Providence hospital. This includes a woman who needed a double hip replacement and who had been living in her car, an impossible situation for someone who needs extensive rehabilitation. By living in a NVFC tiny home for eight weeks, she was given space to heal. Another woman lived in a NVFC tiny home for several months while receiving dialysis three times a week. Having a stable living situation helped improve her kidney function and made it possible for her to move into a more permanent space with family. 

This is the primary goal of the Peace Trail Village: that the cottage cluster will be transitional housing for people identified by Providence. They will move from insecure to secure housing, using the Peace Trail Village as one step in that process. A Providence case manager will work with each guest, helping them apply for housing or other services they might need. 

 

A Step Forward In The Way of Faithfulness

At every stage of this process, NVFC has faithfully and intentionally considered the challenges of completing a tiny homes village. The congregation has met for discernment, and has grappled with whether this meets their stated mission. Because they have seen every door open and every need met, they are compelled to take another step forward in the way of faithfulness, continuing the partnership with Providence to meet a significant need in Newberg. NVFC looks forward to working with friends and neighbors to give those experiencing homelessness the safe, secure housing that everyone deserves, based on their inherent worth as images of our Creator. 

 

  • by Leslie Murray and Melanie Mock, spring 2022