When we moved into South Philly two years ago, I thought we would never leave -- despite the fact that both of our jobs were located 40 minutes away from us in the suburbs.
"But it's so convenient to be able to walk everywhere; maybe we could even sell our car someday!" I reasoned. "And who wants to live in the suburbs anyways?"
Ok, maybe I had a bit of the hipster-snob-itude going on.
So for two years, we lived in South Philly in community with my brother, sister-in-law, and our two nephews. For two years, we commuted back and forth nearly every day, sitting for hours in traffic. It was difficult, but we thought it was worth it. And God definitely blessed us through living in that home. Yet it wasn't until we moved out to the suburbs that we realized how much living in the city was hurting our ministry.
Because of our long work days and the distance, we never had the time or energy to pour into the diverse neighborhood we claimed to love so well. Similarly, we never had the stamina to stay and visit with the students we ministered to and the members of our church. We were always exhausted, and even when we were with people, our minds were wearied by the thought of the long commute home.
Since moving to our new home, we've suddenly realized the community we've been missing out on. We've been able to have people over for games on a whim; we've been able to fellowship day-in-and-day-out with students who have since become our housemates; we feel freed up to linger after church or stop by a fellow church member's house on the way to and from other places. And we no longer feel exhausted out of our minds because of the drive.
In essence, we've actually become a part of our community.
Novel concept, eh?
What we've discovered is that living in intentional community needs to go beyond the walls of that community. If you remain insular and only focus inward, the community is stagnant. If you do not take time to live in the community where you go home to sleep -- to make conscious fellowship with others, to intercede in prayers for them, to share the love ofChrist -- then why do you live there at all?
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."
1 Timothy 2:1-6
And so as we are able to spend more time with the people with whom we've already formed relationships, we also pray for new ones. We pray that God will use our home to give glory to Him -- that we will be able to reach out to our neighbors in significant ways, love them, and pray for them specifically.
As you can imagine, living in the suburbs is a challenging place to foster community. Many people keep themselves isolated by remaining in their air-conditioned homes or staying behind the bushes of their front yards. Even though our neighborhood is still more urban than suburban, it's easy to fall into the temptation of remaining isolated from others.
Here's how we plan to reach out:
1) Prayer - We are praying that God gives us the opportunity to truly connect with at least five other homes on this block by the end of the summer.
2) Community Events - We are praying that God will give us the time and motivation to plan a block party, and invite others on the block to participate in its planning.
3) Food - We want to make food and invite our neighbors to eat with us! The only thing is that we need to get to at least know some first names before inviting people over. Although I suppose another option is to start grilling outside.
4) Lingering Outside - We all have porches on this block, and it's almost summer. It's nicer to sit outside after dinner anyways, and we should be making a conscientious effort to do so. Elliott and I have already met one neighbor (thanks to our dog's outgoing nature) by sitting on the stoop.
Please join with us in prayer for our own community, as well as your own. Ask God to reveal ways in which you may reach out more every day, and pray for opportunities.