In 2010, MacKenzie Brown, then a junior at Western Oregon University (WOU), sought a place to belong and to grow her faith. The year before, she’d begun attending Praise Assembly of God in Monmouth, Oregon, and got involved in their college ministry. But she wanted more.
Brown knew a friend who lived in a thriving women’s home connected to the church called Harriet House. Brown thought it might be just the kind of full-on spiritual experience she needed. She applied and moved into the house, located only two blocks from the WOU campus. Soon she found herself surrounded by a dozen other young women searching for the same experience: a safe place to live, be discipled, and grow into a strong, fully devoted follower of Jesus.
Brown became part of the first generation to live there and is now one of more than 130 alumni who have called Harriet House home through their college and early adult years. In fact, for Brown, who graduated in 2012 and then earned her master’s in clinical mental health counseling, Harriet House played such a significant role in her life that when an opening came to serve as the house manager and discipleship pastor, she applied in 2018.
“It gives me an opportunity to speak into these women’s lives,” says Brown, 31. “We have fun, we build community, and we help each girl prepare to launch into her individual calling.”
What Brown and the women who live there are doing is the reason behind Harriet House. When Harriet House started, Praise Assembly — under the leadership of founding pastor Joe G. Pearson — envisioned a place dedicated to strong spiritual women.
“We wanted to provide women with the challenge to fully embrace the call of God in their lives,” says Pearson, 63. Pearson, raised by a strong spiritual mother who also happened to be a single parent for many years, understands intimately the power a woman can have for the kingdom of God. As a tribute to her and the impact she made on his life, as well as on so many other lives, Monmouth Praise Assembly named the house after her: Harriet.
“College students and young adults need someone to be in their lives who cares,” he says. “That’s why Harriet House works so well. They are surrounded by caring people.”
Charayah Lewis Keesey agrees. She came to the house in 2010 in desperate need of a secure and stable place. She’d recently left an abusive relationship and felt suicidal. When she found Harriet House, her life began to change for the better.
“I moved in as a broken young woman and found healing through those girls,” she says. “I experienced God in a fresh and deep way.” She credits God working through late-night conversations, monthly group meetings, impromptu prayer times, and Bible studies in a safe environment for her transformation. “I went from being weak to being strong and more confident,” she says.
The residents come from all walks of life. Some already are strong Christians, some need more disclipling, and others are still investigating faith. But everyone is welcome.
“All the girls are so different, and sometimes our personalities clashed, but everybody loves one another and is committed to showing up for one another,” says Keesey, now 31. “That experience taught me so much that I still use in my life as a wife, mom, and teacher.”
Though operated by Praise Assembly, Harriet House is a financially independent ministry, requiring its occupants to sign a yearlong contract and pay rent, as well as cover utility and cleaning fees. To be accepted, each applicant must agree to live by house rules and go through an informal interview with Brown and a church board member.