Living with 28 men through lockdown

Jayden Battey on why he and his wife chose to move into community housing with 28 men at the start of the pandemic.

In June 2020, a few months into the pandemic, my wife and I moved in with 28 men. They were a diverse group of people doing life together in a home run by Servants Community Housing – an organisation supporting people on low incomes to experience safe, affordable housing. 

Our residents have experienced acute mental illness, disability, domestic violence. They’ve lived through obstacles I can’t begin to comprehend. They’re people you walk past on the street, or shy away from at the train station. They’re often treated like this – held at arm’s length by people who forget their humanity. But they’re people. They walk life’s highs and lows, just as we all do. Their challenges are significant. Their resilience is astounding. 

Moving in was daunting, but we settled into a beautiful rhythm alongside the residents. We learned the most powerful thing we could offer was ourselves. The gift of steadfast time, patience and love is something everyone has the capacity to give. We moved in to follow Jesus’ invitation to ‘love thy neighbour’. We hoped we would be able to help but hadn’t expected the gift would go both ways. 

What I hadn’t anticipated was that as we lived with those who have been marginalised and excluded, we would experience what genuine love means. I’m getting a glimpse of the community I’ve always wanted, which grows as people afford forgiveness and compassion to each other every day. I’m learning the meaningful life isn’t found in the achievement, consumerism and busyness that can easily rule my time. That when Jesus said ‘love God and love your neighbour as yourself’, he meant that this would change our lives just as much as those we serve. Can confirm: it really is more blessed to give than to receive.