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Relocation: a biblical call to live in community

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Last month, Joel shared our vision for the 2020 year out of Colossians 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” We will be spending this year breaking down our values, rooted in the Gospel of Jesus, as well as the teachings of Dr. John Perkins. This month, we invite you into a discussion about the value of relocation, a biblical call to live in community.

Dr. John Perkins is the founder of the Christian Community Development Association, author, and speaker.

Dr. Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, teaches that like Jesus – who traveled from one community to the next to spread the Gospel and lay the seeds of community in new lands — living out the Gospel means desiring for your neighbor and your neighbor’s family that which you desire for yourself and your family. Only by joining a community do a community’s needs become one’s own. Living the Gospel means sharing the suffering and pain of others, and relocation transforms “you, them, and theirs,” to “we, us, and ours.”

Relocation is community based in the very essence of the word. There are three kinds of people who live in the community. First “relocators” are people who were not born there but moved into the neighborhood. Second, are the “returners”. These are the people born and raised in their community and then left for a better life. Usually they return from college or the military. Lastly are the “remainers”. These are the ones that could have fled the problems of their community but chose to stay and be part of the solution, being stakeholders, to the problems surrounding them. We will briefly explore each of these types within our own staff.

Joel and Paula Hamernick are representative of the first category. They both grew up in different communities but decided to relocate to Woodlawn almost 20 years ago in an effort to better connect with the community they were serving through Sunshine. In an article shared last year, Paula reflected on the impact living in Woodlawn has had on their family as well as their ministry. “Over the years, much of the programming and activities at Sunshine have been birthed from our own experiences attempting to faithfully raise our own children in this context. Many of the struggles of raising children in the urban context come from community disinvestment and a lack of resources. As our children grew, we saw and felt more clearly the needs of our kids’ friends and felt the concerns their parents identified.”

Director of our Elementary Programs Marvanna Cash grew up in Woodlawn, left for college and ended up returning. She shares a bit of her experience. “Living in Woodlawn, I saw its beauty and history. I also saw violence, neglect, and disenfranchisement. I remember my mom giving me books to read early on in life that talked about black history, as well as telling me stories about how 63rd Street was once a big Wall Street. I wondered, why isn’t anyone bringing these buildings, businesses, and safe places back to life anymore?- I would. I believe I should be able to shop, to entertain guests, enjoy family, study, and be comfortable in my own neighborhood. If I were rich, there is so much I would pour back into this community.”

Marvanna moved away for college where she attended Lawrence University earning a double degree in English Literature and Dramatic Arts and went onto receive a Masters degree from Columbia College in Interdisciplinary Arts and Education. “I came back home after college to have the chance to delve into the greatness of Chicago. I did not have all the routes mapped out, but always hoped to make meaningful differences with my work. I always felt as if God was bringing me closer to that desire in various ways.”

Lamar Simms, our Director of High School Programs, grew up on the southside of Chicago and has remained to raise his family. Lamar shares his perspective, “Presence is important, proximity is important and are essential to the growth and development of community. Representation is so important so the youth can see a variety of different paths they can take. Seeing only one narrative creates psychological barriers to what they can do or who they can become. Living out the Gospel is essential to how I demonstrate being a follower of Christ.”

He continues, “When I first consciously committed to living on the southside (buying a home), I admit I had a bit of a “savior complex,” thinking I had the power to change this community and they needed me. Through the years, I’ve seen how having an open heart and open ears to listen and learn is essential if you are serving and living in a community. Practicing thankfulness and focusing beyond the brokenness but also having openness to God’s leading, whether that means remaining or leaving.”

As a staff, our value of listening and learning from the community is enhanced greatly when you are a part of the community that you are serving. We invite you to ask questions and process the importance of relocation with us.

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