In a recent visit to “The Loveliest Village on the Plains,” I had the delightful privilege of touring the Crenshaw Guest House and sitting down with its very warm and personable owner, Sarah Jenkins. Crenshaw Guest House is a B & B located at 371 N. College Street, near the railroad tracks running through downtown Auburn. It is within easy walking distance of the shops and eateries frequented by students and all manner of university folks and is within a REASONABLE walking distance of Jordan-Hare Stadium and Auburn Arena for football games, basketball games, concerts and the like. Not only is it conveniently located, it is also packed with Auburn University history.
It was built in 1890 by Bolling Hall Crenshaw who was a professor at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (which later became Auburn University) and authored several mathematics textbooks. A later owner was Frances Speight Sugg Verma, granddaughter of Cliff Hare (see the reference to Jordan-Hare Stadium above). And, more than 20 trees on the property were planted by former Auburn football coach, Pat Dye, who drops by every year to “check on his trees.” This place screams “A-U-B-U-R-N!”
But, it was a quote on the Crenshaw Guest House website, that really drew me in and made me want to take a closer look. Speaking of owners Steven and Sarah Jenkins: “Their main reason for purchasing the Crenshaw House is to share Christian hospitality and provide a comfortable, clean home away from home for current and future friends visiting Auburn.” I absolutely loved that statement, so my first question to Sarah when I visited was this, “Tell me what Christian hospitality looks like to you.”
Without missing a beat, Sarah said that to her it meant “making sure people feel welcomed, loved and accepted.” She said that their guests come from all different backgrounds — parents of university students, young couples/families, alumni, people interviewing for jobs — and she wants to “invest in them as people, talk to them, visit with them, see what’s going on in their lives.” She said that it could appear that time for such investing would be short, but that actually when guests come in for breakfast, there IS time to talk. She mentioned a couple from India who stayed recently. The husband was interviewing for a job, and they had only been married for a few months. The new wife proudly shared wedding pictures she had on her phone.
Scripture is strategically placed throughout the house, and both Steven and Sarah readily and naturally work into their conversations how God brought them to Auburn and how they became owners of Crenshaw. Sarah said, “We had never had owning a B & B on our radar, yet God kept opening doors, and we walked through them. Even in decorating the rooms, God provided. Guests will remark about various items, and we share how God provided exactly what we needed for that spot. One time I found a vintage suitcase, and it made me smile. God cares about the big things, but He also cares about the little things.” I loved the way Sarah so easily and gratefully acknowledged God in everything she said during our time together.
She said that they don’t blatantly try to evangelize. They just welcome people, and share what God is doing in their lives. She mentioned how important relationship-building is, and that they have a LOT of repeat/returning guests as a result of the relationships that have formed.
As a side note, Sarah said that they don’t ban alcohol on the property (guests may buy their own and bring it in), but they also don’t SERVE alcohol.
I asked her about inspections and health ratings, etc. She said that she was her own personal CLEAN POLICE. I believe it. The place was spotless! In addition to washing all the sheets and towels after every guest leaves, she even washes the bedspreads and shower curtains!! What a way to “go the extra mile!” She’s also a big Chlorox user and goes over every surface that a guest might have touched. This habit comes directly from her previous years as a pre-school teacher at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. She was also well-taught by her mother, who comes for a visit and says, “What can we clean today?” The oft-used phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” is actually nowhere to be found in the Bible, but I’d say that Sarah’s approach to the atmosphere she has created at Crenshaw Guest House is a perfect example of how that saying can be modeled. It is a very clean place to stay, and Sarah is obviously a Spirit-filled woman. Just as a word of explanation, Steven is definitely involved in owning this B & B and often fills in with entertaining guests and serving breakfast, but he’s also a full-time software engineer with a cottage in the back of the property that serves as his office.
Sarah mentioned that in addition to the joy of meeting people through the B & B, she also appreciates the university students they are able to employ during busy times. These strong, able-bodied young people help with cleaning, serving breakfast and yardwork and are a great blessing to the Jenkins family.
As for the future, Sarah says, “We’re here until God tells us to move.” I hope they will be there for a long time to come, touching the lives of all their guests with excellent examples of Christian hospitality.
1 Peter 4:9 “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”
Romans 12:10-13 “ Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.”