people usually move farther away from big cities generally for the comfort and well-being of their families. that’s not a bad thing. some people just need to be there. i guess that’s ok. of course i’d love to see more christians really inhabit the city and live out jeremiah 29.
do people typically think of the city as a place of refuge and sanctuary? as a place to grow your roots and raise your children? no. most likely fear fills our minds when we think about it. lately, the philly news has just been plain depressing focusing on the escalating number of homicides since the beginning of 2007 (104 as of today). this number puts us at the top for homicides in the country among big cities. most of these incidents happen in south and west philly but it has been the top issue for the the mayoral race candidates. it has gotten so alarming this weekend that TD Jakes even came out over the weekend for an Interdominational Citywide Crusade for Peace.
i was encouraged to read this statement from the gathering at Enon Tabernacle, “God is to empower us to shape this city.”
that sounds like a battlecry to me. i believe that God will do something.
i admit that i struggle with living and ministering here in the city. i’m trying to work through these issues of what it really takes to be here and be children of light. i question what’s best for my family, how do i protect them, how to be wise in certain situations, how should i respond to wrongful acts committed to people i know and don’t know. i am trying to live missionally by going to where the most people are. life was easier single. i’ve been sharing with the collegians and young adults in my congregation what a unique position they are in right now and how they can do so much more than i can. we live right on the edge of Philly in a blue collar neighborhood. it’s a decent place. unfortunately a few weeks ago a friend that lives just several blocks away encountered some unpleasant interactions by some locals at a bar and had their car vandalized (possibly racially motivated) parked by our house during their visit to us. i was a mess of emotions that week (it was also during the time when many were responding to the zondervan/youth specialties mess).
Yong Qian Liu is afraid to step outside his Chinese takeout in Southwest Philadelphia.
“It only takes one time to catch you,” Liu, who is 5-foot-4, said of leaving the building. “It only takes one time to kill you.” Since he opened in January, he said, he has been robbed at gunpoint and chased by gunmen. Young toughs who call themselves the Head Huntaz have scrawled graffiti on his shop, declaring it their turf. – from “Crime puts fear into takeouts” article in the Inquirer
one of the most landmark testimonies of a church response to violence inflicted on one of its members is from renewal church in west philly. over a decade ago, a young deacon was shot and killed while waiting for his wife in the church parking lot. perhaps these situations are needed to help us outgrow our ingrown church and move us to finally act in light of what the gospel truly calls us to. my heart is heavy for this widow. she was also recently featured in the news for her musical career post-tragedy, i don’t know what her real personal story is but read her words here:
In a way, everything is resolved, but nothing is resolved. “I still struggle,” she says. “I do miss my husband. Sometimes, just going to Philadelphia is hard. I still don’t know why God had to take Yeong. I have accepted it. But I still don’t know the answer why.”
i’ve also been thinking through what david park had to say about a situation that happened close to home for him. he articulates his thoughts so well and it really makes you think about how do/should/could you respond? he writes,
Let us all carry on the work that God has called us to, for as I am truly learning, tomorrow is not promised to any of us, nor any of our neighbors.
the details of city life, or just life in general is largely one of uncertainty. we do know for certain that Christ is with us even in the darkest of times. no one knows for sure how they will respond when they face their fears.