Warm spring sunlight streamed through the stained glass window at the Hearth recently, bedazzling the cozy chair beneath it.
For 18 years, tired travelers and busy community leaders have enjoyed respite here. It’s not a guesthouse; it’s a creative center and it’s also the subject of Linda Lawrence Hunt’s latest book, “Soul Space: Creating Places and Lives that Make a Difference,” (Tasora Books, 2019).
Hunt, author of “Bold Spirit: Helga Estby’s Forgotten Walk Across Victorian America,” and “Pilgrimage Though Loss: Pathways to Strength and Renewal After the Death of a Child,” found inspiration for this project in her own backyard, where the Hearth is located.
“I was inspired by reading what people had written in the guest books at the Hearth and seeing how our hopes have emerged” Hunt said. “It’s also the 20th anniversary of the Krista Foundation, and I wanted to keep the story of the foundation alive.”
It’s a story that though rooted in tragedy, now blossoms with hope – just like the gardens and the orchard surrounding the Hearth.
In 1998, Hunt’s daughter, Krista Hunt Ausland, 25, was killed in a bus crash in Bolivia where she and her husband were serving a three-year commitment in community development with the Mennonite Central Committee.
Devastated, Hunt and her husband, Jim, struggled to make sense of the loss.
But losing Krista would never make sense, so the Hunts, along with Krista’s husband, Aaron, decided to create something in her memory. In 1999, they launched The Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship.
Modeled after the Fulbright Scholarships, the organization provides mentoring support and service and leadership development grants for young adults who are engaged in a sustained period of voluntary or vocational service as an expression of their Christian faith and values.
Participants are called “Krista Colleagues.”
Two years later when the second-year Krista Colleagues gathered in the Hunt’s backyard, Hunt said they realized it would be helpful to create a centering place for the foundation.
“We thought if we could root the idea of the Krista Foundation in a tangible place that encourages community, this might offer a further sense of support,” Hunt wrote.
In 2001, they tore down a dilapidated barn behind their home and invited friends to join them for a “Blessing of the Hearth.”
As they walked the footprint where the Hearth would stand, they prayed for comfort, counsel, challenges, conversation, contemplation, compassion, confidence and courage.
“Soul Spaces” features 180 beautiful color photographs illustrating the result of those thoughts and prayers. Profits from book sales will go to the Krista Foundation.
From the old red barn door, dotted with Krista’s childhood handprints, to the stained glass window featuring the foundation’s logo, the space evokes memories of the smiling girl who loved sharing a cup of tea with friends or preparing a simple meal with the Bolivian women she met.
The book features inspiring stories from those who’ve spent time at the Hearth, including Krista Colleagues, members of Spokane community groups and visitors from around the world. Their reflections on how their spirits were strengthened at the Hearth attest to the human hunger for pauses, for peace, for beauty.
“This is a place that nurtures the human spirit,” said Hunt. “I think we all need that. We all need pauses in our techno-centric world.”
Walking through the grounds reveals the delightful surprises illustrated in “Soul Spaces.” A Japanese stone lantern illuminates the Asian waterfall and pond each evening. A secret garden beckons beneath a towering cedar. Apples, cherries, pears and plums grow in the orchard on the terraced hillside above. And the Latin American courtyard offers space for conversation or contemplation with three patios and a smattering of tables and chairs.
“This is a place in which human dignity flourishes. And the earth itself!” wrote guest, Michael Barram.
Within the Hearth, warm welcoming colors and a huge stone fireplace evoke feelings of coziness and relaxation. True to the foundation’s mission, the Hunts incorporated global themes throughout the property and rooms are filled with artwork from around the world.
While Krista Colleagues find respite here, the Hearth is not owned by the foundation.
“This is our labor of love, created with help from friends and family,” Hunt said.
And the hospitality of the Hearth isn’t limited to Krista Colleagues. The space has hosted weddings, nonprofit meetings and corporate retreats.
Hunt is quick to point out you don’t need to own a building or grounds to create a soul space.
“Soul spaces can be in tiny apartments – our Krista Colleagues have seen it in the smallest of places when they’re offered tea and hospitality,” she said.
That’s the message she hopes readers will take from the book.
“It doesn’t have to be where we live. It can be taking people on a walk that you love,” Hunt said. “Any place where we open our hearts can become a soul space.”