Heather, who had moved into the guest room over Labor Day, worked with children at the mission's homeless shelter. This evening, she drove a van through streets rutted with potholes, past dilapidated trailers and barking pit bulls straining at their chains. Little kids, some barefoot and coatless, ran up at each stop to grab a peanut butter sandwich and a cookie.
"You guys need a place to crash?" he asked. "Because we've got a lot of room in our house. If you want, come over. We're just a few blocks away."
The women hesitated, then agreed. Ashley Tremont and her 3-year-old, Zyan, and Ashley Marcha and her 7-year-old, Kedrik, had left bad men and bad luck in Louisiana and were driving north to a new life.
For the first time since they had pledged a life of service, the monastics welcomed guests who had nowhere else to go.
Jake went to hunt for sleeping bags. Debbie dug out four sets of clean sweats and T-shirts. Phyllis got Kedrik a bowl of cereal. After, he and his mom sat on the carpet to work a jigsaw puzzle with Debbie.
In the morning, Jeromy gave the travelers two bags full of sandwiches and snacks. Marcha, 21, took them with gratitude -- and a question.
"Was this something you were raised up knowing?" she asked, her gesture taking in the lunch, the sleeping bags, the hospitality.
"And why are you doing it?" asked Tremont, 24. "You could get hurt."
Jeromy shrugged. "We just found that it's healthier to live with other people," he said.
Marcha looked at him. "We so appreciate you all," she said. "I think God stopped us here for a reason."
When they left, Debbie admitted she had been nervous with strangers in the house; to her chagrin, she'd felt an impulse to lock her son's door. Jeromy said it too: "Last night was uncomfortable."
But the evening had been invigorating as well. No one felt they had done an especially noble deed by welcoming the two women and their sons.
They had simply served, as they were able.
On the cold November day when Phyllis and Kyle moved out with their children, Jeromy stood in the foyer, overwhelmed with sorrow. He had been so consumed with the conflicts in the house, he said, that he had not realized how close they had all grown.
Later, he wrote it down, as if to remind himself: "In just 11 short months we had grown to love a family with whom we really had very little in common. Genuine, honest, sacrificial love. The Kingdom of God revealed itself to me in that brief moment -- an ideal realized through the fog of messy lives."
Jeromy had no illusions as he prepared for his second year as a monastic.
He and Debbie had invited several single friends to move into the house; they were also saving a bed for a meth addict they knew, hoping he'd move in when he got out of jail.
New faces meant new frustrations and more fights about mopping the floor. Jeromy knew it would be exhausting, exasperating.
But this was how he felt called to live. He still believed the house could be a blessing.