Moving on Up!
We are moving on up, by moving down. Can we do more with less?
This Labor Day weekend, with the help of a few generous friends and family, we moved a few miles up the road. The neighborhood we moved into is unique in that it combines the strong family values of newly resettled refugees and immigrants with a predominance of unwed mothers. Some residents have lived here for generations, while others are transient. Although it is one of metro Denver’s most underserved neighborhoods, it is nestled between several wealthy neighborhoods–new and old–and the prestigious Anschutz medical campus. (Click here for more information about the neighborhood.) It wasn’t an enormous change from where we were, but one that we felt God was calling us to nonetheless.
As many of you know, Derek first moved to Aurora in order to live among the refugees he serves, to become a part of their community. He was burglarized and had his car broken into a couple of times, but it’s where we felt God placing us. Despite a few bumps in the road, “their community” became “our community” and it is amazing how many relationships we have both developed in the short time we lived in west Aurora, and how hard it was to move just a few miles away. We will also no longer have our Dominican neighbor peeking in our window, our beloved Congolese family across the courtyard, or a half-naked, hung-over Russian mobster over-watering our plants. But we will be within walking distance of our community garden and all the incredible, new relationships we’ve developed in that neighborhood. As hard as it was to move farther away from many deep friendships we had in west Aurora, we take comfort in the knowledge that many of those loved ones are becoming well-integrated, stable, and thriving members of our city (and we’ll definitely keep in touch with them). The poorer and less-stable but overly generous and loving friends that God has blessed us with are located a little deeper into the city’s struggling corridor, in northwest Aurora. So we felt God pulling us here at this time. He calls us to live on society’s outer limits because that’s where the most loving, resilient, and inspirational people are. And it’s among those people that Jesus loves to walk. And we want to walk with Him here.
An important side lesson we have learned in the process involves a love of “stuff.” We have felt a surprising attachment to many of our possessions and amenities that we had to give up when we moved. It was this realization that helped us to take the step downward to a simpler life in a poorer area of our city. For example, why should we be so upset about losing our carport when many people in our city can’t afford a car to put under a carport?
We still don’t completely know why God has led us here, to this place precisely. We know He is already working in this area and in the lives of our new neighbors. We know we will be confronted daily with the contrast of a new, upscale development separated from our neighborhood by a fence, literally; and abandoned and dilapidated sites surround us. We’ll be drawing daily on the hope only God can give to face the injustices and hopelessness in which the neighborhood seems steeped. We also welcome the blessing of incredible love and hospitality from the people that live here.
A quick summary of our time in our new community so far:
Week one–bike stolen, walking to the garden, Alicia learning to cook Malian specialties, and Derek playing Chin-Lon and soccer with the Burmese men in the park.
Week two–flooding throughout our garden-level apartment, the guy behind the meat counter in the Mercado noticing we were new to the neighborhood, and Alicia teaching four Burmese siblings how to play leap frog.
What will week three bring? We don’t know what to expect here, but we know there is never a dull moment living in communion with God and His people!
Thoughts about Hope – Bible Study Corner
“Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good…Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” – Romans 12: 9-12
“This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people.” – 1 Timothy 4:10
“Hope is the virtue of those who know they are infinitely weak and easily broken, and rely firmly on God with utter trust.” – Jacques Philippe
On our way home from an update meeting about Christele the other week, we found ourselves discussing with frustration how hopeless her situation seems, and how hopeless the fate of many of the children in the neighborhood seems as well. They have suffered unspeakable trauma, have limited mentors and support, and live in a stressful neighborhood and uncaring world. How can we possibly expect people coming from such circumstances to “succeed” or prosper? And if there’s no hope for someone, what is the point of trying to make an impact in their life? But that’s where we make the mistake–we never could make an impact in their life. Only God can bring the healing and change necessary to bring a person out of a hopeless situation. He allows us broken people to join in the work He is already doing to bring other broken people to wholeness, but He is the only one capable of bringing about that wholeness. (See John 11). Who are we, who cannot see the heart, to say who does and does not have hope of receiving love and healing? This reminder, based on the verses above, reinspired us and gave us encouragement to face the darkness that can seem so pervasive at times. We hope it will give you energy and light for whatever your journey or struggle may be.
1 – Kee. Thank you for your generous donations to help our friend Kee pay his rent. He is now back at work making doors. Although, his shoulder has still been hurting him. He is hoping to find a new job that is less strenuous. In the meantime, he is able to provide for his family. Also, he just successfully passed the driving test this past week and can now drive on his own! It was fun to celebrate this small achievement in his life! He had already been driving without a license, so we’re grateful that now he is legal and never got caught!
2 – Picnic. A few weeks ago we were invited by the Myanmar Community Church of Colorado (or MCC) to their church picnic in Colorado’s Pine Valley. It was a great day of fun, friendship, and more delicious food than we could eat, which is a lot. We sang songs using words we had never heard, prayed simultaneously with 100 other people, ran up trails with kids, screamed with everyone else as we all tried to wade into the freezing river, and fished in the rain with the faithful few. We felt so blessed to be included with this group of inspirational people. The highlight of the day was Derek being asked to drive the van with 17 kids inside, nearly half of whom had vomited by the time they reached the picnic site!
3 – Christele. Our dear Christele continues to struggle. She is one of those people for whom we catch ourselves losing hope at times. She has made some advancements over the summer, but her behavior is close to getting her kicked out of her current foster family that genuinely cares about her and wants to love her, if only she would let them. The stories they’ve shared with us break our hearts as we understand what they’re going through like few others could. The alternatives to this family may not be good; the State may be losing patience with her. We are praying hard that God will chip away at her barriers or break them down all together, so the wonderful young lady that she is meant to be will shine through.
4 – National Night Out. Every summer, police departments and cities across the country host a community night out against crime. Our section of Aurora held its festivities in the park where our garden is located. So the garden was on full display for the community. It was fun to be involved in such a positive event. The energy built when we made connections with neighbors goes a long way in helping make the garden a transformative part of the neighborhood. The kids from the neighborhood painted about 100 boards to hang up around the garden. (See the pictures below.) And everyone enjoyed the food served by the Aurora Police. Please keep in prayer the neighborhood surrounding the garden and the closing of the garden season over the next month. We hope to continue to grow the garden community during the off season. Join us in praying that we can keep building on those relationships and make for a better season next year, growing healthy food and community.
With lots of love,
Alicia & DW