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Durham couple practices 'radical hospitality'

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Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and his wife converted their home into a hospitality house for anyone that needs it. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and his wife converted their home into a hospitality house for anyone that needs it.
DURHAM, N.C. -

Our homes are where we decompress and have our privacy. But for the last 10 years, one Durham couple decided to sacrifice all of that because of a life-changing experience in Iraq.

At dinner tonight, mom and dad with their two kids, a former drug addict, a former drug dealer, and a divinity student at Duke University all make one unusual family.

"We have a whole lot in common. All of us," said Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-founder of the Rutba House.  

Hartgrove and his wife decided to convert their home into a hospitality house for anyone that needed it.

"Sometimes it's somebody coming home from prison, sometimes it's someone who has struggled with addiction," said Hartgrove.

They were in Iraq in 2003 as Christian peacemakers and said their friends got into a terrible accident, but Iraqis from a town called Rutba came to their rescue.

"The people who were supposed to be our enemies, saved our friends."

That's why they've called their house the "Rutba House," and since then they've helped more than 60 people.

Levern Robinson -- who said he is 7 years clean -- has lived in the house for 6 years and said he's never seen unconditional acceptance like this before.

"First couple of months I felt out of place because it's different. As time went on ... there's no where else I'd rather be," Robinson said. "They say once a drug addict, always a drug addict. He's [Jonathan] seen passed that."

Roy Poteat said he used to be a drug dealer and was one of the original members of the Rutba House. He credits the family to helping him get back on his feet.

"I own a business now, I'm not in the street and I respect myself more," said Poteat. He now runs his own shuttle service in Durham.

The family now has several Rutba Homes in the Walltown section of Durham, where 13 people are currently living.

Hartgrove wrote a book, chronicling his experiences in the last 10 years called "Strangers at My Door: A  True Story of Finding Jesus in Unexpected Places."

Hartgrove will celebrate the release of his new book at Duke Memorial UMC on Nov. 7. 

Eileen Park

Eileen joined WNCN after years of working as a foreign correspondent. During her time off, she enjoys relaxing with her dogs, reading, and exploring the Triangle. More>>

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