honey, we bought a factory: what i learned from a real-life treasure in a field


Ever since I wrote the blog post The Treasure in the Field, I’ve been thinking about treasures and fields.  And all the mud we sometimes have to slog through to get to the reward. As I’ve been processing that, I’ve been staying as the artist-in-residence at The Art Factory in Kandern, Germany.

The Art Factory is owned by Rick and Mary Beth Holladay, an American couple who served as missionaries with an organization for a decade before deciding to pursue their own dream, to build a space where artists could stay, create art and find community.

As Mary Beth says, “a place of prayer, healing and beauty.”

Shortly after they had this dream, a property came on the market in Germany — an old tile factory.

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It’s a really long story that Rick and Mary Beth will have to tell you sometime, but to put it succinctly, while Rick was out of town, Mary Beth found a 27,000 square foot factory at auction for a fraction of the price it would’ve been otherwise.

She consulted Rick by phone, figured out the financing with a banker, and bought it.

That was nine years ago.

Today, it’s a gorgeous place, as well as a gigantic work-in-progress.  There are flats to be built, art supplies to be bought, spaces to be renovated, and food to be bought for all the guests who come through their revolving door.

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All this on a shoestring budget and lots, and lots, and lots of prayer.

As I listened to Rick and Mary Beth explain how they bought the factory, all the dreams they have for this space, and all the obstacles they have to overcome to reach its potential, I laughed as I imagined Mary Beth coming home from the auction and telling Rick, “Honey, We Bought A Factory!”

Or, in the metaphor I’ve been thinking about lately, “Honey, we bought a treasure but it is buried in acres and acres of mud.”  Construction permits, inspection delays, unforeseen expenses, and the gradual process of turning an abandoned factory into the vision of an artist community.

The Art Factory is a good reminder to me of how much mud can come with the field that contains a treasure.  It’s a visible symbol of how much diligence and determination it can take to till a field until the treasure appears.

Rick and Mary Beth are also examples of how to have hope and resilience in the process.  Rick laughs when he says, “Sometimes I think we inherited a big ol’ mess,” and Mary Beth smiles and laughs, too.

I’m sure there are days when they wake up and wonder what they’ve committed to, experience buyer’s remorse and want to go back to that auction and withdraw their bid.  Maybe sometimes they question if their dream of a place for prayer, healing and beauty is more like a nightmare.

And yet, day in and day out, they remain confident that God has given them this factory, this treasure in a field, and they continue to till the soil, exploring the treasure that they can enjoy and share (to date, they've shared it with more than 1,500 guests!)

Living at The Art Factory for a month has been a special and restorative experience — it’s a great space.  It’s also been an inspiration to me to persevere in the fields of my life right now, and with joy, selling everything I have to buy fields of mud because somewhere, somehow, there’s a treasure waiting to be discovered.



Rick and Mary Beth could really use your prayers and financial support as they finish the renovations on the factory.  If you'd like to support The Art Factory (a registered non-profit), click here.