Imagine walking into your home at night to find a stranger sitting in your living room. You didn’t invite him. You didn’t open the door to welcome him inside your home.
For most people, this sight would create panic and immediate fear. But for Gail Berger, this view is a normal one. In fact, she quite enjoys walking into the living room to find people of all ages and different backgrounds making themselves at home.
The Cries of the People
Gail has lived in crises most of her adult life. She watched as her first husband struggled against his love for alcohol and as one of her sons gave into his love for drugs. She watched as her first husband died, as her second husband died, and as that same son died — all within seven years.
Despite the confusion of those years, wondering what God was up to, Gail said she believes everything happens for a reason. So she set to work redesigning an old home, turning it into a teaching center.
That’s when God asked her a question.
“When I was turning 70, the Lord said to me, ‘What if you gave everything back to me that I’ve given to you?’ And that was the start of a whole new life.”
This concept of stewardship — along with teaching through her home — gave her the idea to build an even larger home. A home to bless those who have no place to call home.
After a year of planning followed by the difficult task of transforming four acres of land into a nonprofit property, Gail found herself in the process of building a 6,500-square-foot home in Minnesota. Which was no easy process. When the skeleton of the house had risen, Gail found out her builder was fraudulent. She lost all her money.
“(I thought) ‘What have I done? I’ve spent all the Lord’s money and hired the wrong guy,’ ” Gail remembered. “It was as though the Lord said, ‘Take your hands off of this; it’s mine. … I heard the cries of the people, and so many people have no home.’ ”
With the help of Gail’s sons, the Blessing House turned from broken plans to reality. Its doors opened in 2013. And they’ve been open ever since.
Open Door Policy
The Blessing House is not a ministry. It’s not a retreat center. It’s a home.
“It’s open all the time, even at night,” Gail explained. “We answer the doorbell after 10 (p.m.) if we need to. People can just come in. It’s true, (the sign) says ‘Welcome, come on in,’ and they open to a beautiful, orderly, wonderfully comfortable home. And they just make themselves at home. So we just walk in on strangers all the time. And that’s the brotherly love of strangers. That’s what hospitality is.”
Gail said the mission of the Blessing House is to create spaces for God to work, and whomever He brings to the door, He wants to bless. And Gail has worked hard to ensure this space is as beautiful and comfortable as possible.
“Spaces are very spiritual to me, and what happens in a space and how you create spaces for God to work is the theme of my life when I think back on my whole life. So the Blessing House has an old-world garden on the main level. And downstairs it’s like a grandma’s house, old-timey, very nostalgic. So the idea is that those create waves of memories when people come in, and they’re very at home.”
Running this as a nonprofit, Gail does not own any aspect of the Blessing House. She and two other women live there, but they depend on nonprofit help to continue this blessing. But she doesn’t fear the doors closing.
“What (not owning it) does is give you opportunity to live in freedom from fear,” Gail explained. “Because if you don’t own it, you’re not afraid of losing it. That’s the price of ownership. … God owns it lock, stock and barrel.”
The Blessing House is in its sixth year, and Gail said people’s lives change daily as they walk through the door. Over the years, they have welcomed Vietnam veterans with their wives, couples in need of a rest from the mission field, groups helping people overcome their addictions, and even couples on first dates. Some people simply come to read in the garden or play the piano sitting in the living room.
“What I love about this experience is that it opens up a world to people that they cannot even believe exists because there’s no fear here,” Gail said. “It’s all the Lord, and it’s saturated in prayer and beauty and harmony. … If (people who come) want to talk to someone, there’s always someone here. Sometimes they want prayer. And oftentimes there’s someone here from somewhere else that is the exact person they need to talk to. We can’t make that up. So people walk in the door who are answers to our prayers. And we’re just stunned at just how fast God would walk someone through the door. But it’s His house. We understand that whoever comes to the door is because He’s invited them.”
Gail’s dream is that this Blessing House would spark others to do the same in their own homes. That churches would one day open Blessing Houses throughout their neighborhoods and on university campuses.
“To do a blessing house, you have to be a blessing house,” Gail explained. “This isn’t for everybody. But … we have to regard our lives as very valuable. All our experiences, when given back to the Lord, will bless the world.”
If you’re interested in learning more about or donating to the Blessing House, visit their website.