Foothills Mennonite Guest House: 15 years of hospitality

August 17th

Peace lamp photo credit: Louisa Adria. Sketch of the Guest House: Robert Johnston. Quilt (which hung in the Guest House and now hangs in the back of the Foothills sanctuary) Ruth Bergen Braun


The first guest arrived at the Foothills Mennonite Guest House (FMGH), Calgary, Alberta, in October 2007. The last said goodbye at the end of June 2022. For 15 years FMGH provided hospitality to those who were dealing with uncertainty and very difficult health situations.

The Guest House grew out of a need observed by then pastor, Doug Klassen while volunteering as a chaplain at Foothills hospital during a sabbatical. While there, he noticed that in order to spend time with loved ones, people were sleeping in their cars or drawing from their savings to pay for hotel rooms. He had a dream, and then a proposal, that Foothills Mennonite Church could meet this very specific need.

This dream led to the purchase of a house and, after renovations, became reality. Over fifteen years, 16 hosts, some as couples, created a space where guests could feel at home. Some hosts stayed for months, others years, Each host contributed to a place where small acts of kindness were the hands and feet of Jesus. The Peace Lamp was carried from the church to the Guest House by each host, a symbol of the light of the congregation being carried into the home.

Guests learned of the Guest House by word of mouth, through pastors, social workers, and Alberta Health Services. They came as individuals, couples, and sometimes families. They came for one night. They came for weeks.

The Guest House was well equipped to meet the needs of each guest. Comfortable beds. A spacious living room with cable TV, movies, and music. A serviceable kitchen with fridge and freezer space. Clean washrooms. Efficient laundry appliances. In addition to the host’s suite, the house had four bedrooms downstairs — one with a queen-sized bed and three more, each with two twin beds. A roll-away cot could be moved into a bedroom as necessary. The backyard was shady and inviting when weather permitted and, there was free parking!

Hosts cleaned daily, prepared tea, put out breakfast fixings, and, most importantly, listened to the stories of each guest. Hosts heard about fears and losses but also celebrated births and rejoiced in healing. Hosts did many many loads of laundry and became experts at bed making. In the comments left in the guestbook, hosts were graciously thanked and even referred to as angels. Darrel Heidebrecht, FMGH committee chair for all of these 15 years, reflects saying that the gratitude of the guests was both humbling and heartwarming. He is grateful that the Guesthouse could make a unique contribution the lives of many. He thanks the hosts for being the face of the Guesthouse but says that in the end, it was always about the guests.

One guest very deliberately paused when leaving, thanked the host and then said “and please thank whoever had this idea and all those who care for this home. It’s obviously well taken care of.” The Guest House committee, always working behind the scenes, met monthly both to support the host and keep on top of what else needed to be done. Other Foothills volunteers, cleaned, painted, did yard work and repairs. Some provided baking for the freezer. Many encouraged the hosts with their support.

A summary of two meetings in June 2022, concluded that the proceeds of the sale of the property would allow the congregation flexibility for future ministry. Therefore, Foothills Mennonite congregants voted on July 19, 2022, to sell the property.

Questions continue: Which doors will open next? How will a ministry of hospitality continue in this congregation? What else fits in with providing hospitality? The proceeds of the sale are intended to stay with the original intention of the mission of the Guest House, a transformation of its mission, not the end.