A beacon is regarded by many people as a symbol. But it’s more. If it does its job, it’s also functional in the way it warns and welcomes travelers. It’s inspirational, in that it can be a harbinger of hope. And it’s motivational, too: those who have been helped by a beacon as they’ve made their way are likely to help create more of them, wherever they go.

In our land today, we need more beacons of what it is to create gospel-centered community in atypical ways – places that represent a “long view” and relational orientation in the midst of a transactional culture. We need to reclaim the iconic front porch in a day when most neighbors don’t talk much. We need intergenerational churches. We need more roundtabling, public confabs, eclectic reading societies, and discussion groups that collaborate. We need communities (or city spaces) small enough so we know other people, and know what it is to be known.

And we need to reclaim our Tables, those places where we gather to eat and drink and dialogue together with people we love – and people new or different to us. Reagan made this point well in his Farewell Address:

All great change in America begins at the dinner table.

Indeed, all these places matter! They matter more than we might think if we really want to create flourishing communities, and help encourage weary souls. Churchill was right when he said:

We shape our places; and thereafter our places shape us.

This is why we’re working together with you to create a place called Magnalia Homestead (www.magnalia.org). We think Semper Fi Hall (1775 era) can be a beacon for old-fashioned meal hall revelry. We think Walden Cabin (1845 era) can be a beacon for the importance of being quiet before God. We think a Dutch Barn (1918 era) can be a gathering place for agriculture, art and dancing – and a hub for hands-on work with those who have special needs, community members in our lives who remind us of the special grace that comes from celebrating the dignity and unique abilities of all people.

We think a Hobbit-hole pub in a North Carolina forest matters! Yes, we think we need more places that feel like a Shire: not pretentious, but humble, and warm, with gentle breezes of beauty mingled with wafts of sweat and images of toil, as people work and learn and create community together. Tolkien’s description of the Shire “in the middle part of the country” is not spectacular but it resonates: “a small but beautiful and fruitful land, beloved by its inhabitants.”

It was home.

We know that what we’re doing together with all Magnalia’s partners may seem like a drop in the bucket as we witness a society “atomizing” and unravelling. Each new month, it seems, some thread is pulled from the tapestry of community life that many of us experienced (and perhaps took for granted) in previous seasons of our lives.

But the Lord of heaven and earth is doing exceptional things. Relationships with God and man are being restored and renewed here, in the Lord’s providence. It’s a mercy to witness it. We’re grateful to have heard from many that the Homestead is a “home away from home” for them. In spite busy professional, church and family lives, consider this:

In 2021, we’ve hosted (by our best count) more than 1,000 guests from near and far with the love of Christ. And literally dozens from that number are fashioning their own roundtables, homesteads, and/or other community-creating initiatives that are bringing gospel hope to people who need it.

The budgets connected to this vision are “scrappy” but not small, and we cannot do it alone. Rachel and I have been able to gift 12 acres of land to get the Foundation started, and expect to continue to be its major donors and fundraisers as the Lord enables us. We hope (together with family members) to steward this vision and ministry until our days are through.

The incredible generosity of people like you in the past year has prodded us onward. We’re more excited than ever. And our mission has become even clearer to us this past year:

Magnalia Homestead Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to be a beacon of hope for people by fostering community-creating experiences, offering “soul care hospitality,” and curating related educational programs on its 12-acre property in North Carolina.

If this mission and work is compelling to you and makes sense as a part of your giving strategy, we’d be blessed to have Magnalia Homestead Foundation be a stewardship partner of yours. You can find a way to participate with us at https://magnalia.org/participate.

It’s fitting to close by noting that places, including our homes, are of course temporal. Instead of being idols, they’re meant to help us spiritually by pointing us on toward our eternal home. That’s why we consecrate places to God, and bring them to purposeful existence with people.

We pray that this place, and YOUR place, will be blessed by the Lord and create shalom for others in this New Year. Thank you for the privilege – the honor – of being friends with you, and partners in creating gospel-centered community, together, all around the world.

With love and affection,
Jim and Rachel

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