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Abba's House founders open arms to Saxonburg

| Sunday, July 6, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Erica Dietz | Valley News Dispatch
Saint Luke's Lutheran Church Pastor Roger Keller blesses Abba's House in Saxonburg during the grand opening on Friday, June 27, 2014.

Now that their children are grown, Brian and Providence Hartle are offering “mom and dad's hospitality” to the entire community.

The Saxonburg couple's vision for the recently opened Abba's House on West Main Street is that it will be a community gathering space; a place of fellowship and comfort for anyone in the borough and surrounding communities.

“We're just going to be hospitable,” said Brian Hartle.

The Hartles, both 59, hope that Abba's House will be somewhere people can relax, much like a child returns to mom and dad's house and immediately makes himself at home.

Abba means Daddy in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, according to scripture.

They originally intended to call it My Father's House, but that nonprofit name was already taken.

St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church in Saxonburg owns the building and is a ministry partner.

The Hartles are members of St. Joseph Church in Winfield and, by chance, were talking with the Rev. Roger Keller, pastor of St. Luke, after a Lenten service there when Keller mentioned they had a building available.

The effort grew from there.

“As we walked through, each room just fit for what we were talking about,” Brian Hartle said.

He had a similar idea about 15 years ago to renovate a Victorian house in Saxonburg, but with four kids still at home, the time wasn't right.

Then, about three years ago, he felt like God put the initiative in his heart again.

Providence Hartle said she probably still would have nixed the idea, but that morning she attended a prayer service and a woman praying with her turned to her and said “Do not fear; be at peace.”

“I was kind of puzzled. I was like, what was that about?” she said. “Then, that very evening, (Brian) came to me and said, what about My Father's House? I felt like that was God preparing me to be open.”

The Hartles extensively renovated the home originally built by Bob Sarver, who owned the Robert Lee Sarver jewelry store next door.

They got started with some of their retirement money and say they have been blessed with many contractors who did work for the cost of the supplies or donated materials.

About 50 volunteers worked more than 1,300 hours to renovate the space, contributing at least $100,000 in purchases and donations, the Hartles said.

Abba's House held a grand opening on June 27.

The space has a welcoming feel, with high wooded ceilings and a fireplace and two comfy couches in the living room area. It has a full kitchen and an adjacent dining room.

Other rooms have a pool table, Foosball, ping-pong and Wii.

Snacks and drinks are free, just like at mom and dad's.

The Hartles said they're open to ideas for what activities or programs people want to have there. It could be anything from a Bible study to a painting class.

They're also hoping it will give them opportunities to refer people in need to churches or services in the area.

“If we could find a way to plug people into churches and meet their needs, that's an avenue to do that,” said Rob Peters of Winfield, a member of Abba's House's board of directors and owner of Peters Refrigeration Heating & Cooling, which donated the labor to install the air conditioning system. “It doesn't matter what church it is.”

Whether the Hartles' dream will succeed is a matter of faith, they said. They hope to be in the space for at least five years.

The community is pulling for them.

“If we don't have faith and step out and try it, then how do we know?” Peters said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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