Unexpected Gifts

Discovering the Way of Community

Unexpected Gifts

Foreword by: Richard Rohr
In this heartfelt and thoughtful book, Christopher Heuertz writes of the dangers of isolation, the challenges we face when we join together and the struggles and joys that emerge from genuine community bonding.

“Ironically, as much as we yearn for deep friendships and meaningful communities, many of us seem to be unable to find our way into them. Even if we know we’re made for community, finding one and staying there seems almost impossible. Though we hate to admit it, if we stay long enough in any relationship or set of friendships, we will experience failure, doubt, burnout, loneliness, transitions, a loss of self, betrayal, frustration, a sense of entitlement, grief, and weariness. Yet it’s these painful community experiences, these tensions we struggle to navigate, that hold surprising gifts.” —FROM THE PREFACE

IN A STRIKINGLY confessional tone and vividly illustrated through story, Unexpected Gifts names eleven inevitable challenges that all friendships, relationships, and communities experience if they stay together long enough. Rather than allowing these challenges to become excuses to leave, Chris Heuertz suggests that things like betrayal, transitions, failure, loss of identity, entitlement, and doubt may actually be invitations to stay. And if we stay, these challenges can become unexpected gifts.


Betrayal, failure, loss of identity, doubt. If your relationships have suffered from any of these pitfalls, this book will show you that staying together can create something more—even something beautiful.

IN THIS HEARTFELT and thoughtful book, Christopher Heuertz writes of the dangers of isolation, the challenges we face when we join together, and the struggles and joys that emerge from genuine community bonding.

Whether readers are forming a new community, searching for deeper community, or participating in a longtime community, they will find inspiration, caution, guidance, and encouragement as they discover the beauty of pressing in to the ambiguities of growing relationships in this tender and honest testimony about how we are woven together by grace.


Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Unexpected Gifts includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


From sitcoms to reality TV, the portrayal of our collective longing for connection and community is pervasive. The theme song of Cheers echoes in our ears: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” And yet, if everyone wants community, why is loneliness so common, even (sometimes especially) within communities of faith? In his book, Unexpected Gifts, Chris Heuertz describes the counter-consumerism practices and commitments that are necessary for communities of faith to grow and be sustained.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word “community”? After reading this book, would you say you are living in community or are you longing for community? Describe the contrast the author draws in the introduction between “connecting” together at The House of Loom and the necessary commitment of life together as a community.
2. The author describes eleven challenges that often show see more

About the Author

Christopher L Heuertz
Photograph by Hope Jewell + Calvin Smothers @AnchorPhotoCo

Christopher L Heuertz

Christopher L. Heuertz is an activist, author, visionary and public speaker, who has traveled with his wife, Phileena, through nearly seventy countries working with the most vulnerable of the world’s poor. Chris has led the Word Made Flesh community as the International Executive Director since 1996. He and Phileena reside in Omaha, Nebraska.