You can live missionally anywhere.
I am confronted with this fact as Natalie, friends and I try and figure out what to do now that we are up in this community. It’s the realization that the move can’t be the end. Now that we are up in Albany Park, we actually have to do something – meet people, change habits and go out of our comfort zone. There are two ways that I am clinging to right now that is helping me navigate this idea of living missionally…in this neighborhood.
First is we can’t do this alone. We don’t want to be an island up in Albany Park – “no man is an island” as the poet John Donne wrote. We need community and like-minded souls who want to go on this adventure. We have been blessed with some friends who are already doing this. Please pray God joins us together to encourage each other, give each other ideas, invite one another to meet people, and pray together. We also are looking for ways to serve this community. Right now, it’s the little things like shopping at our local grocery store and going through the same check-out line so we can keep meeting the same check-out girl, or frequenting the same restaurants, on the same day, around the same time, so we can keep talking to the same waitress. We don’t have much more complicated vision than that right now.
Second, part of the adventure is the crazy situations God has planned for you. Case in point: A couple weeks ago, I came home, walked in my backyard and was welcomed by a full on light show, dance party in my neighbor’s backyard. I hadn’t met them yet, and this was the perfect chance. I was tired though and was running in a race the next day, so I had a little conversation with God and knew I needed to do this. Not for my neighbors but more for me – in hindsight. The problem was that no one spoke English and when I went over to the fence that separates my backyard from theirs, the first person I met thought I was complaining about the music. When I tried to communicate that I liked the music and I just wanted to meet the people throwing the party because I was a neighbor, they thought my “two thumbs up” gesture (which was meant to say, “I’m not complaining about your party. I am nice and I want to say hi”) was interpreted as a “turn up the music; this is awesome” gesture. Whoops. Long story short, they invited me around to join them in the backyard. I met their 1-year-old son, the dance party’s honored guest, met some women who spoke English, took pictures of them, ate cake and laughed with them as some people danced and others ate. I left to get some sleep for my race the next day, but as the dance music kept going, I couldn’t help but be thankful for how just an act of showing interest in people’s lives means so much and how sometimes we get the added bonus of it being really awkward and funny.
We don’t have it figured out. We never will. I get discouraged at my busy schedule and lack of really being able to invest – every other day…if I really think about it. But we all have neighbors and the opportunity to get to know them and love them, telling and showing them that the love we demonstrate is because we were first loved by the only One who is perfect, beautiful and wonderfully holy. That is the truth I can hope in.
“I still can’t believe how perfectly you provide!”
A simple statement of pure joy I said (yes, aloud and by myself) as I was sitting on my bedroom floor for the second night of being in our new apt in Albany Park. Thinking of the way my roomie, Natalie, and I received the exact apt we prayed for. Exact. Perfect.
Lest you think this blog is about scoring an awesome apartment, I should explain “Adventures in Albany Park” is about God directing, providing, loving and orchestrating for His glory and for His name to be worshipped among the nations. And we’ll say this blog’s story begins with a move and an apartment. And two girls (plus other friends) who are just along for the ride – because sometimes obedience should be an adventure – thrilling and scary all at the same time.
We just moved to Albany Park – a neighborhood many sources list as the second or third most diverse neighborhood in the nation. To get here has been all God – lots of doubts and fears and waiting on my end…perfect timing and prodding on His. Why did we move almost to the end of the brown line, away from many of our friends, work and Whole Foods? Because God loves the nations and we want to live intentionally – me: I want to reach out to Muslims and have been making the trek up here
for the last year and a half to hang out with the coolest girls from Iraq ever (they are a part of my refugee fam) and Nat: she loves
people and frankly has this amazing gift of making people feel welcome in her home. It’s a pretty good team if I do say so myself.
That’s a bit of background on us. In celebration of the move, I couldn’t help but reflect on what God has been doing and how He
Actually getting us up here: I was so scared of going alone and, about a year ago, Natalie lovingly exclaimed she would go; flash forward about a year, Natalie maybe needed to move from her apt and both of us
prayed and heard clearly from Him over the BASIC retreat (through music, words of friends and strangers) that the time was now; the loft I bought a year ago is rented by a dear friend and her husband; found the perfect apartment that is close to my refugee family as well as in the heart of the neighborhood so we can meet people; another friend, Patrick, made the move in Sept; began meeting regularly with a group of passionate people who are or are looking into reaching out to Muslims – some who already live in AP.
Now that we’re up here: our prayer is to meet people and open our home, have a gospel-centered friendship, equip and encourage others to join in the adventure and just be obedient to what the Lord is doing. So…we had dinner with our neighbors last week – from Thailand to Connecticut. They said they had never done that before – we hope to make it a tradition; met Sayda who was the cashier at our grocery store; ran into my refugee fam (from here on out, I’ll refer to them as the “fam”) on the sidewalk, talked and somehow shared why believers fast and how Christians have their sins forgiven. Hello!!! That wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t living in this neighborhood.
We could use your prayers as we meet our neighbors, get acclimated and have conversations. Pray that this all leads to truth and making God’s name great. Thanks for reading – it’s already been so cool to see God doing more – WAY more – than anything we could ever imagine. Check back here every couple weeks as we share more.
The adventure begins…