Editor’s Note: After living in the Casa San Salvador for three years, Amanda Saunders reflects on the gifts and lessons received through living alongside many FMS volunteers, missioners, and guests. As her time as House Manager comes to an end, Franciscan Mission Service extends our gratitude towards Amanda for her service and dedication over the years.

On July 2, 2016, after I completed my first week as a DCSC volunteer, I wrote in my new journal. The last lines were “I have found myself praying for the ability to love those that I don’t like.” 

At that time, I had just moved in with my first 15 community members. I had no idea what the year was going to bring. And I sure as heck didn’t realize it would lead me to three years serving Franciscan Mission Service and more specifically the Casa community. Since then, I have had 74 community members, and man, I didn’t realize how that simple prayer would follow me for three years and become an integral part of my Christian experience. 

One of my favorite sayings to throw out there when talking about the FMS volunteer house is “if these walls could talk.” If these walls could talk, they would tell you the story of a scared, lost, and optimistic recent college grad moving to a big city to give up a year to serve the Church in a new way. It would tell you that she cried for the first two weeks she was here and they would reiterate to you the negative self talk that she spewed saying that this wasn’t where she was supposed to be and that this couldn’t have possibly been the right decision for her. Luckily, the walls would soon loudly echo back her cackling laughter after she settled in and realized she had a place at this dining room table. 

After that first year, when my role switched from volunteer to House Manager, the walls held my anxious whispered prayers for God to guide me and help me do the best that I could. The walls might share with you the late night conversations, the munching of snacks over a movie, or the many times I would remind people to do their dishes or take out the trash. 

“This house has shaped my faith to be a faith of empathy, of diversity, of being uncomfortable, and of loving unconditionally.”

If I were to tell you what these walls mean to me, I would tell you that this house is the epitome of radical hospitality. This house has shaped my faith to be a faith of empathy, of diversity, of being uncomfortable, and of loving unconditionally. I am no where near the same scared, lost, and optimistic recent college grad that I was when I moved in. I have been shaped by every person who has come into this house and I have learned to love and live in a radical way.

Thank you to everyone who has played a role in this journey. It has been a fun one that I know I will never forget.