Angela Yarber is an ordained Baptist minister with a knack for saying and doing the unusual.
For example, she describes the size of her new home in Hawaii this way: “This house is huge — which is 500 square feet.”
Yes, she’s referring to the total square footage.
On matters of faith, she also uses seemingly contradictory language.
“I feel staunchly Baptist, while a big part of me does not feel staunchly Christian.”
And now, that very small home, her Baptist identity and her evolving spiritual direction have found equally unlikely expression on the hit reality series “Tiny House Nation.”
The construction of their home on Hawaii’s Big Island was filmed in January and the episode is scheduled to run June 10 at 9 p.m. Eastern time on the FYI network.
‘You’re not the boss of me’
The new home is more than a place to live for Yarber, her wife Elizabeth Lee and their now 3-year-old Riah.
While not a church-based ministry, the project has a Baptist influence — at least for Yarber. That tradition’s emphasis on the priesthood of believers still influences her.
“’You’re not the boss of me’ is the essence of being Baptist, and that still resonates very deeply with me.”
Also still very powerful for Yarber is her original calling to advance social justice.
“It’s a calling to honor the sacredness that dwells in all humanity and in animals and the land,” Yarber said. “I feel a very strong call … to provide ritual and meaning-making space for that.”
‘It is challenging’
But in making the permanent move to Hawaii — which the family fell in love with during volunteer work exchange visits last year — it became evident that space was the challenge.
Even with a parcel in their hands, Yarber and Lee had to come up with the money to build not only a house, but space that could eventually be used as a retreat center.
The family had purchased their land in Hawaii but was uncertain how, when and what to build on it — or how they could afford it.
Then a light bulb went off: reality television.
“While we were in Hawaii in January 2016 we found affordable land, and I said we need to get Tiny House Nation to help.”
Yarber went online and discovered the casting call was open, downloaded the form and applied. A series of telephone and Skype interviews followed and, last November, they were notified they had been selected.
“We filmed in January and now here we are living in our house,” she said.
The experience of being part of Tiny House Nation was fascinating — and not intrusive, Yarber said.
“They don’t film you all the time.”
While it is reality television and unscripted, Yarber and her family were provided a schedule of shooting days, times and topics.
And Weisbarth and Giffin, she said, were a delight.
“How they are on TV is how they are in real life. And they were great with our kiddo.”
One of the challenges was the waiting that is inevitable in television production.
“And when you have a 3-year-old, it is challenging.”
Grappling with a life of simplicity
And challenges remain, even with their 500-square-foot, off-the-grid home in their possession.
One is managing the flaws inherent in living a life of simplicity.
“The whole movement … glorifies simplicity and appropriates poverty,” Yarber said. “For most people in the world who live small and simple, it’s because they have to.”
Another challenge is with the Holy Women Icons Project, which includes creating images — icons — of inspiring women. The idea is to inspire people to uncover and eliminate unjust attitudes not only toward women but toward all marginalized people groups, animals and the planet.
Now that the project is based in Hawaii, Yarber has been expanding her art to include local women and female spirits. And that’s where the challenge lies.
“I paint many different backgrounds and wisdom traditions but don’t want to be appropriating the stories of others. I am a white woman and I never want to take someone else’s story as if it were my own.”
But one challenge the Holy Women Icons Project will likely not have is finding a way to get its name and message to the public.
And for that, Yarber said, she is grateful to Tiny House Nation.
“Entire scenes were filmed in front of the icons,” she said. In fact, it was part of her family’s pitch to the show and one that producers noted in describing the episode.
“Not only will this tiny house be their new home, but eventually it will serve as the center of the retreat and will need to accommodate guests as well,” according to the FYI description.
The philosophy of the project and retreat center will also be presented to millions, Yarber said.
“There is no way I could have done that — any part of it — myself,” adding facetiously: “I couldn’t think of any other way except by becoming best friends of Oprah Winfrey.”