NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (BP) – Mike and Susan Phillips have a long history of involvement in missions. Through years of local and international mission trips, the couple has built friendships with many of the missionaries they have met. They learned that often these families struggled with finding housing when they came back to the United States for an extended stay. Either there were no houses available or the housing they found was in poor condition. One family reported staying in a house where the beds provided were in such bad shape the family chose to sleep on the floor instead.
Burdened by this need, the Phillipses began to ask God to show them a way to help. They originally thought they might be able to find a house to purchase that they could offer to missionaries rent free. So, in the summer and fall of 2019, they looked for a house to purchase but they were unable to find anything to meet the need.
Then on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2020, as Mike was sitting in the worship service at the Cross Church Pinnacle Hills Campus, he had what he called a combination between a Nehemiah and Noah moment. Phillips said he didn’t hear a single word of the sermon that day as God spoke to him and gave him a clear and specific vision.
“God said one house isn’t enough,” he said. “He said that you are going to build 10 houses over 10 years, and you are going to do it debt free. He told me that there was a land developer in the church who would be our partner and help develop the land. He also said He would put people in our lives in the order in which we need them to complete the project. He said we would have caretakers who would live on site, specifically in home 4 or 5, and that they would take no salary to manage the grounds.” God also told him to give Caesar his due, and no more. Phillips said he interpreted this last part as his instructions to begin a 501c3 nonprofit company so that anyone wishing to donate could also get a tax break.
Mike couldn’t wait to talk to Susan after church and share what God had revealed to him. As it turns out, Susan had also received a message from God during her recent quiet times. She said she heard God repeating three words – “stream, mountain and community” – but she had no idea what it all meant. Mike told her that he knew what it meant and then shared with her what he’d heard God tell him that day.
The couple immediately went to work shopping for land. They knew the task would not be easy due to the continued growth and development in Northwest Arkansas. They were looking for 30-70 acres with natural beauty, ravines, hollows and of course, a stream. And they needed it to be located within a reasonable driving distance of Rogers. They also needed it to be reasonably priced as they had no partners, no 501c3 at the time and no loan, since they believed God had clearly told them not to take on debt.
They eventually found 40 acres of land for a price that seemed too good to be true. The Phillipses discovered that the land had been abandoned for decades. There was a creek that ran through the property and a large hill with a big plateau. In order to make the land accessible, a bridge would have to be constructed and a road put in to allow houses to be built on top of the ridge. The terrain and the cost for the bridge and road meant the property was useless for a large subdivision or other development, but it was exactly what God had directed them to look for. They had found the mountain and stream, and with God’s continued provision, there soon would be a community.
They purchased the land on April 13, 2020, and the plan soon became a reality. Hiding Place Hollow was started as a non-profit 501c3 with its own board. The first thing they did was to raise the funds to build the bridge. Then a strategy map was laid out to show where each house would be located. Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief teams, along with many other volunteers came to help clear the land and prepare the home sites.
The charity was able to purchase a neighboring house along with an additional five acres. The home was originally used to house DR volunteers as well as serving as a temporary community building. This house now serves as the caretakers’ residence. The couple serves on the board of Hiding Place Hollow and per God’s original direction, they receive no salary. In addition, they do not pay rent, but they are responsible for their own utilities.
A second house, Love Home, has been completed and is open and occupied. Phillips says that Cross Church of Nortwest Arkansas provided the funding for most of Love Home and that a third house, Joy Home, will open in early August. A member of Grand Avenue Baptist Church of Fort Smith funded most of the Joy Home, which, when it’s completed, will be occupied by missionaries who were forced to flee Ukraine. Both houses are currently booked through 2024.
Last month, a group of 130 volunteers representing seven states and serving with the Alabama Baptist Builders spent 10 days framing up the fourth and fifth homes called, Peace and Hope. According to Phillips, these homes are not yet fully funded. Windows are in, heat and air, plumbing and electric are roughed in. The tin roof and Hardie board siding on both houses will be completed soon.
Close to $2 million in money and materials has been donated to this point, which has been used to build the five houses, bridge, prayer garden and 1200 feet of road going up to the plateau. In addition, water and electric lines have been laid throughout the property. Of the nearly $2 million that God has sent so far, $375,000 of that has come in gifts of $2,000 or less.
Five more houses are planned, as well as a chapel and a community center with a one-bedroom apartment that will be used to house unmarried missionaries. Phillips points out that the infrastructure is in place, and everything is ready to go whenever the funding comes in. The total cost estimated to complete the project is $4.5 million plus ongoing operating expenses.
Hiding Place Hollow’s purpose is “to provide homes for global workers on furlough.” Its aim is for these families to experience the presence of Jesus and restoration. God has been faithful to carry out His vision, and the Phillipses know that He will continue to provide what is needed to complete the houses.