April 1, 2020

​Be Our Guest

People in Seattle who face long hospital stays now find a home away from home.

Heidi Baumgartner

John and Karin McLarty were in the midst of an arranged hospital visit with a family whose young son was in the burn unit. Karin asked the grandparents, “Where are you staying? Your family is likely to be here for a while.”

Green Lake church in suburban Seattle, Washington, had recently opened a guest suite for out-of-town guests who come to the area for specialized medical care. Karin offered this service, but the family declined, so she left a phone number.

“They called me later and said their hotel rate was going up to $400 a night,” recounts Karin, who now serves as the church’s housing ministry coordinator. “This family was our first guest in the new guest suite. They were grateful and so appreciative.”

Seattle is a tertiary center for medical treatment, and patients come from around the Pacific Northwest to receive specialized treatment for diseases and accidents. Area churches frequently receive requests for housing assistance and/or pastoral visits.

Since January 2019, Green Lake church has helped a dozen families. The church now owns two furnished guest apartments, with two additional guest apartments available through the generosity of church members.

“As a family, we share the good times and the heavy times,” says John McLarty, Green Lake church pastor. “We are helping people in a time of need.”

Housing With a Mission

Most ministry dreams take time to become a reality, and this was true with Green Lake’s housing ministry. The church’s foundation for funding ministry purchased the North Gate housing property, known as the Jenson House, in 2013.

The renovation team transformed the home, the planning team finalized ministry guidelines, and the first guests were served in 2017—mainly through word-of-mouth connections.

The goal was for the housing to be self-sustaining: The main living area is rented to cover mortgage and expenses, and the separate guest suite is provided free of charge to guests for stays that average two nights to two months. Each guest, after initially contacting the Green Lake church office, goes through an application and screening process to determine needs, scheduling, and placement, since there are guest suites in different neighborhoods.

With growing needs, Green Lake Foundation purchased a second ideally located property, sight unseen, near the church.

The Meridian House, circa 1902: guest house renovation was finished and dedication held in September 2019 for use with the church’s collegiate and housing ministries.

“It took a lot of people and a lot of generosity to get to this point,” says Rhona Kwiram, Green Lake Foundation chair. “There is no way we would be having this dedication less than a year after purchasing the property without the energy, time, talent, and treasure that Don and Shirley Mehrer invested in this house and this ministry. The Mehrers are truly outstanding builders of community.”

If you or your family find yourself in the Seattle area needing temporary housing during your medical treatment, you are welcome to contact the Green Lake church office at 206-522-1330. The church would be honored to help if at all possible.

Heidi Baumgartner is director of communication for the Washington Conference. This article first appeared in the North Pacific Union Gleaner.