The Smith House for Ministry is ready for full scheduling by FPU groups and programs. Located about a six-minute drive from the main campus, it has already been used for several major events, including the annual trustee dinner. This dramatic gated estate that adjoins Fancher Creek in Southeast Fresno was the residence of Ted and Joyce Smith and their family. The house was also an active center for Bible studies, prayer meetings and a wide range of activities for hosting and supporting people and organizations engaged in building the church and advancing Christ’s kingdom around the world. The Smiths donated the property to Fresno Pacific with only one requirement: their house would always and only be used for our Christ-centered ministry.
After considerable renovation by the facilities staff to maximize the flexibility and functionality of the facility, an open house in December 2014 allowed members of the FPU family to suggest best uses for this spacious, park-like property. Ideas clustered into five categories:
- Academic and student life meetings and special events. These included training and preparation of mission teams; planning and evaluation days; prayer and Bible study groups; training and professional development sessions; fellowship, celebratory and teambuilding meals and activities; thanks and encouragement events for faculty, staff, students and trustees; and special seminars and workshops.
- Meditation and spiritual formation retreats, especially in the library/study that overlooks the flowing back yard pool where multi-colored fish swim with peaceful grace.
- Meals and other special events to thank, and build relationships with, friends and supporters of Fresno Pacific University, and to present our mission, vision, values, achievements, plans and needs.
- Hosting special FPU guests and speakers.
- A primary or occasional residence for the university president.
All five purposes are now being fulfilled. The furnishings and final arrangements of the Smith House for Ministry were provided by many special donations from faculty, staff, trustees and friends. In addition to a large master suite for the president, a detached guest house with its own garage provides comfortable accommodations for long-term guests. Two other guest rooms offer sleeping space for shorter stays. The dining room has room for 12 people at a classic, hand-carved banquet table overlooking the rose garden. Total indoor seating capacity for meals is 36.
The glass-walled living room overlooking the back yard and fish pond doubles as a meeting room seating more than 40 people and featuring a grand piano and a giant video screen. There are up to six breakout rooms with a capacity matching the living room when configured as a meeting room. The tree-encircled back yard can accommodate 144 guests at tables of eight. With its large kitchen and outdoor paved patio areas, Smith House for Ministry provides a marvelous expansion of the ministry and hospitality of Fresno Pacific University.
Matthew chapter 21 recounts Jesus’ instructions to his apostles as they approach Jerusalem at the end of his earthly ministry. He tells them to go into the nearby village, find a donkey and its colt tied there, and bring them to him. If anyone questions them, they are to simply say, “The Lord needs them.” A donkey with a colt was a very valuable asset in that culture. With no assurance of ever receiving it back, the owner let go of the donkey, simply because the Lord needed it.
Ted and Joyce Smith had a very valuable asset, but instead of following the values of the dominant culture and hanging on to it, they responded with generous philanthropy to the whispering of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement of a faithful member of the FPU Board of Trustees. They let go of it, simply because the Lord needed their “donkey” to help carry forward the ministry of Fresno Pacific University. In our culture letting go of things tends to be harder than hanging on to them. Whatever your donkey is, if the Lord whispers that he needs it, respond by letting go. Then watch to discover what King Jesus does with it.