*The following blog is written by Kaylee Thompson. Kaylee strives to make the gospel known and disciple young people in the South Side of Billings as part of our youth program we refer to as Youth Works.
This winter to spring has absolutely flown by in my world. Drew, a fellow Youth Works staff member, and I got married in late February. I have to imagine that being a newlywed contributes, at least in part, to time zooming as it has. Drew also decided to return to school for a degree in business, so between work, school, and a new marriage all of these factors contribute to a pretty steady bustle in life.
After our wedding, I joined Drew at his current place of residence in the row houses located behind Riverside middle school. We live in a basement apartment of 316, a row house that CLDI renovated several years ago. While the basement has a two-bedroom apartment, the upstairs serves as a place for youth to hang out at various points in the week to play games, do activities, and talk about Jesus. The location for 316 was chosen because of the high density of families with children living in the neighborhood. There is, however, a sometimes poor reputation for the area and on more then one occasion, Drew and I have been asked why we would live there. For right now, the space is quite functional for the two of us, and as part of the Youth Works team we greatly enjoy being in such close proximity to the students that we get to spend time with. Nevertheless, the undesirables exist, including the general lack of curb (or alley) appeal in our neighborhood.
I was reflecting on this reality one day, as Drew and I walked down the alley to a neighboring rental of KMC to repair a loose deck board. I was trying to side step and scoot around substantial puddles, pot holes, and mud while thinking this place really could be so much more beautiful. It does not have to look this way. I honestly think our neighborhood could be incredibly charming, with its own unique flair. I might have even turned to Drew and mentioned something like this before I started praying as I stood there in the alley. I began asking, or pleading rather, with God for revitalization in our neighborhood—for there to be life and hope and joy. For there to be a beauty that sweeps over a place that has experienced neglect.
It was at this point that a friend of ours who does construction popped his head out of a unit on the opposite side of the alley and began chatting with me. Soon into our conversation he asked if we wanted to check out the unit he had been working on. I eagerly responded with a yes, and Drew and I began to tour the renovated town house. Our friend truly does incredible work and we were so impressed to see how far the house had come since the ‘before’ photos were taken. What had once been a dirty, run-down, and ugly space was now a clean, polished, and cozy home. It was truly incredible to see the transformation.
It was not long into our walk back home that I excitedly began to relate to Drew how I had been praying for our neighborhood when we received the invitation to come and see the renovated town house. I was delighted to be reminded in such a simple way that God has given us the good gift of prayer, in part to have the eyes to see the work that He is already doing, and be reminded of His faithfulness.
As I sit and write this blog, I am reminded that God is doing His good work in the lives of the people of our neighborhood, as well as in the newlywed Youth Works staff at 316. Though there are many moments of deep sadness over the brokenness and pain that our friends and neighbors experience, there are also the beautiful moments where we get to see the light shining in the darkness. For example, hearing my six-year-old friend explain the great significance of Easter, or standing next to our middle school friends as we sing praises to God. I am thankful for these windows into what the Kingdom of God will be like when Christ has returned. In the meantime, I am choosing to let those less than beautiful parts of our community serve as a reminder that this world is not our forever home and to long for the return of Jesus. We have a great hope that one day we will live with God in a place where there is no sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4). There will be no neighborhood or community in His presence that has not been made new (Revelation 21:5). This is certainly a beautiful hope that we strive to remember.
– Kaylee Thompson, CLDI-Youth Works Staff