It’s THE NEIGHBOR PROJECT now, and before that it was Emmanuel House. But when Rick and Desiree Guzman started a living memorial to Rick’s youngest brother, Bryan Emmanuel Guzman, they just called it Bryan House. That’s where it all started: this passion to help lift the working poor out of poverty so they could become equal partners in creating a better community for all of us. In 2016 Emmanuel House was named one of “The Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world for its efforts.
I used to refer to Bryan House as our “family’s” foundation. I remember us building walls, painting, installing cabinet doors, painting, fixing bathroom floors and fixtures, painting some more. But very soon so many people had joined us that long before it grew to become Emmanuel House, it had already gone far, far beyond the family. It’s gone even further beyond us now.
So it’s good to be reminded where it all started: just Bryan House. A new video from The Perennial Plate never mentions the Bryan House name, but any who know our history will recognize the place immediately. You see glimpses of the inside almost from the beginning. Then about 1 minute: 30-seconds into THE VIDEO BELOW, you catch your first glimpse of the larger building. The video is about a family seeking to live out Jesus’ teachings—especially about welcoming the stranger, the refugee—instead of just listening to them Sunday mornings, then going about your week as if you’d hardly noticed them at all. They’re then introduced to a Syrian family staying at…Bryan House. A deep friendship soon forms. It’s the kind of story we need to hear more and more, especially these days. It would be easy to get into politics right now, but the video doesn’t. These days our politics so often trumps the deep core of religion. It prevents us from connecting. It favors disconnection, polarization, us vs. them mentalities. How powerfully politics would be transformed for the better if we started not with political ideology, but with deep, genuine, human bonds instead. At The Neighbor Project liberals and conservatives have long worked together to reduce poverty and build wealth and investment, and they’ve discovered that those labels mean less in practice than they thought they did.
Rick and Desiree started Bryan House with a focus on helping refugees, and Bryan House maintains that focus. But as their small program became more successful and showed promised of scaling up to help more families break the cycles of poverty they were trapped in, it expanded to include all the working poor they could reach. They changed its name to Emmanuel House and acquired more houses and apartments, now naming them Emmanuel House houses. But Bryan House remained Bryan House and will always remain so. Then with the merger of Emmanuel House and its long-time partner, The Joseph Corporation, the name changed to The Neighbor Project. More important, that merger more than tripled its capacity to help families escape poverty through home ownership, education, neighborhood involvement, and equitable development.