“That’s YOUR house?!” a young student yelled to me as I opened the gate that separates our backyard from Orchard Elementary’s play area. “Why yes, it is!” I yelled back. Later that week, we crossed paths on a neighborhood walk and was greeted with, “Hey you’re that guy that lives in the house by my school!”
When my wife and I intentionally relocated to the South Side, our goal was to be accessible and available to the children of the neighborhood. Through engagement and proximity, we have worked to become known figures in our community. Kids know they can come to our home to pet our dog “Bruce”, share a meal at our table, or find refuge. The mission of Youth Works at CLDI is to ensure that every youth of the South Side has an opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ and be discipled in His ways. From the beginning, those who serve through CLDI have intentionally chosen to live in the neighborhood. We believe that the strategic location of our homes places us in proximity to needs in our community so we can better recognize and respond to them. We have been afforded so many opportunities to love and care for others simply by being present and attuning to the needs of our neighbors. Living in the South Side neighborhood also provides a shared context with the students we engage with. Some of my closest relationships with students that have led to Gospel conversations, happen outside the confines of an 8-5 work week.
One day, a group of students walked over when we were working on wiring our basement and offered to help. Though their actual contributions to the project were minimal, every time they have been in our basement since and flip on the lights, they each beam with pride. These invitations into the ordinary aspects of our lives have resulted in long-term discipleship opportunities with students.
I am nearly six years sober. As I think back on my journey, I can’t imagine finding recovery from my addiction without a group of people supporting me. The community that has had the most influence on me has been CLDI and the Hannah House. We’re a family at the Hannah...