An Open Table

Mollie writes… 

Since leaving my home in Australia last year and moving to London, I have felt a spectrum of emotions. I prepared myself for all the standard homesick symptoms, but on reflection I have been surprised by how contradictory my feelings are. I am settled yet restless, connected but lonely. In many ways I feel I have conquered this big and boundless city, but a sense of insignificance also filters through. Where do I fit in this puzzle of a place?

The process of establishing myself in London has led me to review how I value and understand community. I transitioned from the leafy suburbs of Melbourne to the bustling borough of Hackney. The landscape and dynamic of the city was more intense than I had expected. All I can say to sum it up is a sensory overload – this is both exhilarating and exhausting!

It has been a relief to establish a number of different friendships, most recently with the incredible people of Matryoshka Haus. My kind housemate extended an invitation to me to attend their weekly community meals held at a home in East London. I’d heard great things about what Shannon and the team were doing here and abroad, and couldn’t wait to spend the evening with others who had a passion for community service and social innovation. I was not disappointed by any means! The night was filled with lots of laughter and genuine conversations.

These dinners have helped me make sense of the wonderful chaos in London. It is really refreshing to hear about how others are living life in such a positive and pioneering manner. For me they are very much a source of encouragement and motivation. It is a safe space for strangers to become friends, and for people from all corners of the world to share their ideas. Most importantly, all who visit the Matryoshka Haus dinners are warmly welcomed and get to experience true hospitality. I always leave feeling relaxed, cheerful, and inspired. During the routine and mayhem of the working week, it is so reassuring to know that there is always a spot for me, and anyone, to sit at their table.

MH Thursday MealWe always make an effort to tweet a photo of our Thursday meals. Unfortunately, that means we don’t have any decent photos of Thursday meals! 

eSports in Cologne

A few weeks ago I attended the StarCraft II World Championship Series season one finals in Cologne, Germany. For those reading the blog that aren’t familiar (probably everyone), StarCraft is the premier RTS eSport, and national sport of the country of South Korea.

Wait… what? What’s an eSport? South Korea?”

An eSport is essentially a highly competitive computer game, capable of being played full time at a professional level. ESports are just like traditional sports, in the sense that they require an extremely high level of physical dexterity, as well as the thought and strategy of a game like Chess. Like the game of Chess, eSports can be played for years and years without being “figured out” – there’s no one trick or best strategy that always wins the game.


But what exactly is an eSport? Well, there are different kinds of eSports, just like there are different kinds of traditional sports. One of the most popular eSports is called “StarCraft”, a highly competitive real time strategy (RTS) game. Real time strategy games require players to think many moves ahead of their opponent, similar to Chess, except the entire game operates in real time with limited information. Physically playing the game of StarCraft requires intense multitasking and exceptional coordination to manage all possible moving pieces on the board. On top of it all, neither player can actually see what the opposing player is doing in real time, which adds another level of complexity beyond other competitive games. In other words, StarCraft requires the mind of a grandmaster Chess player, the dexterity of a virtuoso piano player, and the cunning of a professional poker player. There are other eSports in addition to StarCraft, which all have their own intricacies that I won’t delve into for this blog post.

When StarCraft I was released in 1998, it was so popular in South Korea, it created an entirely new industry. The entire culture of Seoul was practically changed overnight; today South Korea boasts the highest internet speeds in the world, and has a high-tech culture to rival Tokyo. Well over 90% of South Korea’s youth play computer games as part of mainstream social culture.

“My Mom told me, before the game, not to come home if I don’t make it…”


White-Ra, a famous player from Ukraine







So two weeks ago I was in Cologne to attend the American & European World Championship Series Finals. The event was hosted in the Electronic Sports League studio along the river, with people coming from all over the world. I met people from Norway, Sweden, South Korea, China, France, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Poland, America, and Brazil. The entire time I was at the studio, I kept getting mistaken for a famous Polish player named “Nerchio”; thus, people would come up to me to ask for my autograph and to take a picture. Naturally, I didn’t want to disappoint my fellow StarCraft fans, so I signed as “TL.Nerchio” (since I was wearing my TL shirt), and took a picture with them hahaha 😀










I don’t know…. I guess we look a little similar?







MC - Highest grossing player of all time.

MC – Highest grossing player of all time.





Overall the event was fantastic, and the highest grossing player for prize money earned took the European division of the event. MC (short for Min-Chul), is arguably the most successful pro-gamer of all time, and is well on his way to becoming the first StarCraft multi-millionaire at age 23. I was very happy he won, since the last time he took a tournament was in Texas, of all places! 🙂

If anyone is interested in eSports, more information can be found at:


Until next time!

– Brenden

Note: SC2 pictures @ESL

Chateau Duffy Reflections

Coming off a week of travel around Europe, Chateau Duffy was a fantastic way to end my trip. I met up with Shannon, Rachel, and Gwen in Paris a few days beforehand, and we drove down to Limoges that Friday. The French countryside was absolutely beautiful, and I was strongly reminded of the Ohio valley where I grew up in the States.

That weekend was particularly meaningful, not only because it was the start of the Chateau Duffy trip, but because it was Easter. I was especially struck with a sense of dualism between my time in the States and my time in Europe, in how much God has blessed me over the years, whether I’m in the Ohio countryside, or French countryside – which are both amazing. Easter also felt very different, in the sense that it’s not an extravagant holiday like it would be at a Texas mega-church. It really was a day of remembrance and thankfulness, rather than another holiday you take for granted just because it happens.

Lindsay looking devious...

Lindsay looking devious on Easter…

Easter meal

Easter meal

Taking a Sabbath right before starting the week also really helped us all take a breath from our rhythm of travel the day before. Shannon introduced a sort of “communion” at our evening meal with bread and wine, the way it would have been done at The Last Supper. This verse stood out to me, as a sort of parallel to how Matryoshka Haus does community,

“The Son of Man came, eating freely and drinking wine” – Matthew 11:19

Bits of scripture really helped set a more complex spiritual dynamic for the week, encouraging us to take time out for reflection and be responsive to God. However, I especially appreciated that this wasn’t at the forefront of our trip; no morning prayer, no afternoon Bible readings, no evening worship, etc. Everything flowed out of individual conversations taking place throughout the week, allowing different people to open up and share their experiences. Thus, I could really see how different people in the community organically meshed together, regardless of faith or background. Overall, Chateau Duffy was like a little case study in how the Matryoshka Haus community operates relative to its projects. This was particularly significant for me since the only active London MH project is the Transformational Index, which is more exclusive than past ones.

On one hand, “Chateau Duffy” as a project really encapsulates the spirit of Matryoshka Haus; that is, to bring hope, justice, and restoration where there is none. Before I arrived at Chateau Duffy, I was expecting… well, a chateau. But as you can see, Chateau Duffy is really more of an ancient French home and barn, built in the 15th century. When MH first started this project, there didn’t seem to be much hope of justice and restoration, given the state it was in.





In spite of this, “Chateau Duffy” really brings the MH community together in a unique way. For the first time since I arrived in London, our time together wasn’t broken up by the logistics of everyday life in the city. Especially coming off of a week of international travel, the sense of “sharedness” in the experience of Chateau Duffy was very refreshing. At times the worksite seemed almost comical, the way so many different people came together to work on this one construction project, despite the fact that almost none of us knew what we were doing.

The ebb and flow of life during the Chateau Duffy trip also was really reflective of the spirit of Matryoshka Haus. We work hard during the day, bringing our diverse community together to accomplish a common goal for the common good. In the evenings, we have these great hospitable meals and engage in community with others, whether that is within MH, or the other communities we touch with our projects.

Barbecue with the villagers

Barbecue with the villagers

I think a defining moment for this Chateau Duffy trip was the last day, when we threw a huge barbecue at Chateau Duffy itself. We finished work early, cleaned up the worksite, cooked a huge meal, and invited the entire surrounding village to come to the party.

Barbecue in a wheelbarrow?

Barbecue in a wheelbarrow?

As you can see, while it took Cathers us a while to get the barbecue going, we had a great time interacting with the villagers and the food was fantastic 🙂


I think by the end, we all realized that “Chateau Duffy” is actually quite a nice space, and that we’re starting to have an effect on the surrounding community. It doesn’t hurt that we literally double the size of the village when we visit. Overall it’s a great picture of what Matryoshka Haus does best, I think.

Until next time!


Mi Matryoshka Haus es nos casa.

Wayne and his wife Chris travelled from San Francisco to join us at Chateau Duffy. As he reflects, Wayne coins a new term for members of the community – the ‘Haus-keteers’!

It’s hard to believe it’s still not even a year that we’ve known of the Matryoshka Haus community. When we first met Shannon and the team, we were immediately excited with their vision, passion, and impact! Since then, the Vocari community in San Francisco has invited them back for a visit, used the Transformational Index, recommended them to several other non-profit and for-profit organizations, and arranged four speaking events in the Bay Area.

Now my wife and I have taken the next step…
Last month we left our home to join with the Haus-keteers to work on a house – a 400-year old farmhouse out in French countryside! Not knowing more than a few people, we did not know exactly what we were getting involved with! But we were encouraged and excited to be swinging a hammer and pick along with two dozen people who were tirelessly giving their all to reclaim this little patch of countryside.

To me, it was an inspiration about what is possible when we pursue a great vision (BHAG) with a spirit of generosity, creativity, and brie. (;-)

Coming from that experience, we are excited about our son Cameron working as an intern this summer with Matryoshka Haus!

Wayne sleepsIt was very rare to find Wayne NOT hard at work on-site…

Wayne sleeps 2

…well, generally! 

[In all seriousness, both Wayne and Chris were hugely valuable members of the team! Wayne displayed a skill with the pick axe that few could emulate and Chris’ French skills were perpetually useful – especially when negotiating the return of surplus wood.] 

Shedding snakeskins

For Rachel, Chateau Duffy is a place of retreat and reflection – which can lead to some big decisions…

Last week, I changed my surname on Facebook.

This decision was a long time coming. During the first Chateau Duffy, I was in an abusive marriage. The trip was a perfect retreat for me – surrounded by a caring, non-judgemental community, peaceful, luscious countryside, and very little responsibility. I wrestled with the idea that my marriage was nearly on the verge of killing me. I wanted it to last a lifetime and I was scared that a divorce meant I had failed, and I would be judged by the people I respected most.

That first trip convinced me that I needed counselling and medication, that I was not a failure and that there were people who might judge me – but those who truly loved me would not. This, through Matryoshka Haus, was the start of my healing.

Fast forward two years. Now divorced and frankly very happy, spending another wonderful Chateau Duffy with my beloved friends.

However, I became a little grumpy that the community still hadn’t learned to distinguish me from the ‘other’ Rachel – or was it me who was the ‘other’ Rachel? This needled me right in the insecurities. I insisted my friends call me not Rachel but my married name, Nunson, to distinguish us. Annoyingly, they all seemed reluctant.

Much later on, away from the community bustle, I considered why this might have been. Part of me thought I wanted to preserve my battle scars – a name I felt proud of. I liked the fact that it was rare.

But on the other hand, perhaps my church knew I was keeping that name as a last defence against facing the fact that I had failed in my ambition to have a lifelong marriage. Perhaps dropping that name was a final admission that I didn’t want to make. A removal of clothing that resulted in shame.

Then I remembered that the lovely Carl Gordon found a discarded snake skin in the farmhouse, and showed it to us all before throwing it away. Why would anybody hold on to an old snakeskin? It’s served its purpose. The snake is happily snaking away somewhere else with a shiny new one.

A snakeskin from the 'snakeskin loft'

 Snakeskins are discovered in the house every time we visit Chateau Duffy…

Easter time is good for resurrecting things. Coming back to life. So here friends, is the old me that I thought had died, and is now alive.

– Rachel Collinson