About Bartimaeus - the Person
and the Community
Who is Bartimaeus?
Bartimaeus is a rather obscure, blind beggar mentioned in the Bible only once in the Gospel of Mark chapter 10:
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.
The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”
52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
In this story, Jesus addresses the need in both Bartimaeus and “the crowd.” They were both needy. With Bartimaeus, Jesus asked a seemly obvious question—“What do you want me to do for you?” Isn’t it obvious? But wait, he could have had any number of answers at that moment, including being sarcastic, asking for wealth, total healing (surely he had other physical maladies as well), that he be accepted again into society, etc. The point is Jesus was looking for the one need in Bartimaeus which was the key to his heart. In this case—his eyesight. We know that Bartimaeus became a believer because he began to follow Jesus. Jesus asks the same of us. He’s not a Santa Claus that we come to with our wish list. He’s THE ONE who can help us find our way with our many needs and who helps us sort through them to find which is paramount and will open our heart to the Lord. He asks us to name it. He will help us name it.
But “the crowd” also had a need. They wanted Bartimaeus to go away. Please, just this once. The marginalized will always be with us and can be so tiresome. Today we have someone important here and we want him to pay attention to us, not to this blind beggar who has been here forever. But their attitude was all wrong. Jesus cares for “the one” crying out on the margins. He hears that cry above all the voices and children and dogs and dust crowding in around him.
Jesus stopped. Jesus stopped. He heard someone. AND THEN HE ASKED THEM TO GO GET HIM. OK, instant attitude reverse! Yeah, Jesus, that really was our idea all along, we’re glad to help him. Jesus confronts our self-centeredness in oh, so pointed but gentle ways. Got it.
Bartimaeus was healed and followed Jesus. We never hear about him again. But he was a real person and was someone’s son.
This story resonates with those of us who choose to belong to the Bartimaeus Community because in it we see ourselves. We are both, at different times perhaps, the marginalized beggar on the side of the road, and we are in the crowd who would rather not bother with the needy today. We are not always good neighbors and need Jesus to redirect our hearts to be more like His.
We are a rag-tag group of people from different churches, different backgrounds, different opinions who have come together to live out our faith in a 24/7 situation. We not only “go” to church, but we “are” the church living everyday lives doing everyday chores. If we can’t learn how to be in community in everyday life, our character isn’t tested and we can so easily become part of the crowd that doesn’t want to bother with someone we think unimportant or too needy for our busy life. When we live in close proximity to one another, we can’t walk away from grievances. We must eventually face each other honestly or live miserably. This is our commitment. This is why we choose to be a part of the Bartimaeus Community. We are asking God to transform our lives, knowing it can be a messy and embarrassing process but is infinitely worth it.
Our story started in the summer of 2001 with a group of women who met weekly for prayer. We prayed about the formation of Christian community where Christians could live in geographical proximity for the purpose of mutual encouragement, prayer, and outreach. We felt so strongly about this kid of Christian community that we started looking for land in the Central Kitsap area, not knowing what we were going to build or how to raise the funds to build it. We were led forward by a strong hand at our back into a seemly ridiculous venture.
In the spring of 2002 We realized we were not housing developers. This idea of pooling resources and buying land to build houses was way too complicated for us. Though a mutual friend, we had lunch with a person who was in the business of helping groups build “cohousing” complexes, a word we were not familiar with. Nationwide, there were only three companies and one was located in Kitsap County. We hired this person on to lead us in the first steps toward our vision.
In the early summer of 2003, our original group of intentional community enthusiasts had dwindled to four committed couples, one of which lived in California. The consultant told us we needed six couples to purchase land. We felt a pressing of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. “Buy land, buy it now, step into the Jordan, step into the Jordan now.” We looked for land and we paused at a seven and a half acre site on a bus line yet with a wetland sanctuary of creek, birds and lush forest. The majority at first said “no” but one voice, an engineer, said “yes”: He could see buildings on the flat land, he could see the rambler and barn remodeled; he could see what others could not. The group, now, “Bartimaeus Cohousing Community LLC” contracted to buy the property, dependent on county approval of the group’s site plan. In the next year the combination of quickly rising real estate prices and greater land use restrictions would have put this outside the group’s financial resources. The Bartimaeus community now had a home.
When four committed households dwindled to three in the late summer of 2003 we were very discouraged. We asked for a sign from God. We would have a small booth at the county fair to attract people to join our venture; if nobody responded, we would quit. The booth, on hot asphalt outside the main exhibit hall, was about as ugly and ridiculous as imaginable. We demonstrated the concept of cohousing with monopoly pieces. The week after the fair, we had a roomful of people excited about the idea. Even though none of those people stayed with the project, at the time it was enough to propel us forward and continue with the project. The next year we had the most beautiful booth at the fair. Nobody responded which made the first year’s response even more amazing.
At a Friday night meeting, our little group unanimously decided to not renew the three month contract with our cohousing consultant. Without the consultant how would be obtain the financing? We were told in no uncertain terms by a banker that no bank in Kitsap County would take us on because the project was too unconventional. We believed God was still leading us forward to build a cohousing community with Christian values, however, we were going into uncharted territory, on our own. In the early fall of 2004 shortly after another providential conversation with a builder, we had a consultant who could secure the needed financing with a local bank that shared our vision, took a risk, and loaned us the needed funds.
By the fall of 2004 we were a group of six households, including a project manager who was experienced in multi-billion dollar projects who became interested in us from Kazakhstan where he worked for an American company. He and his wife were being pulled to become part of this venture as they were going to be relocating to the U.S. within a few years. Over the next year we met weekly, often with our hired architect, to discuss building plans. We also put aside one night each week to pray for the project. We came to countless consensus decisions, spent thousands of our own dollars, and planned the community on faith. In the previous months and years we had seen God move and were convinced that He was calling us forward with this project. Seeing God move extraordinarily in the past gave us confidence for the future. It would be over a year before the next family would join us. The project was indeed a slow-motion miracle.
By the summer of 2006 the first families started moving into the completed buildings, with nothing but dirt and dust all around. By the end of 2006 almost all the units were occupied and we had made a herculean effort to throw in some landscaping before the frost hit.
Part of a common voluntary effort here at Meadow Wood has been to provide a one-year low-rent unit for families transitioning away from life difficulties by living in a stable and caring community. A non-profit organization called "Shepherd's Sanctuary" coordinates these efforts, and has been successful thus far at assisting several families get the break they need to begin a new period of flourishing.
Our journey has not always been easy and has not been without some disappointments and disillusionments. But we are confident that God is not done with us yet and we have seen many people come through this community and be helped in substantial ways.
By 2010 we had begun listening to the concerns of some who wanted to make sure we were not seeming to entangle the aims and distinctives of voluntary membership in Bartimaeus Community with the legal organization and administration of Meadow Wood Condominium. We've taken great measures to ensure that we are in compliance with Fair Housing Law, for example, and can point to a legacy of non-discrimination in our history to date.
We decided, for clarity's sake, to re-form the Bartimaeus Community organization as one which meets at completely different times than the Meadow Wood Condominium Association, with a new charter, to revamp the old website, and to reiterate that participation in any of our activities is purely voluntary, with a careful eye towards being inclusive of others, and respectful of all of our neighbors' differences, while affirming community in a cohousing setting.
We are excited to see what God is going to do with us and invite you to come visit with us, whether or not you live at Meadow Wood Condominium!