A series on the Principles of Christian Community Development
Enjoy this blog, written by one of our current interns, Kallie Linse. ECB
That Side of the Tracks
When I was in high school, a friend and I were driving to downtown Billings. At some point, we took a wrong turn and ended up crossing the tracks and into the South Side. As we drove through the neighborhood, trying to find our way out, I remember seeing the run-down houses and homeless people and thinking, “I am never coming back here.”
Making the South Side Home
Fast-forward a few years to the present day, and I currently live on the South Side! My year here has been a completely different experience than I ever would have expected. Aside from the fact that I feel totally safe in the neighborhood, the biggest surprise has been the sense of belonging that I feel. Several of our neighbors have shoveled our sidewalks and are self-declared “neighborhood watch” – they have vowed to look out for me and my roommates. Additionally, some followers of Jesus who live in the community have truly welcomed me; letting me live in their home, making me dinner, inviting me along on their date nights, letting me cry on their couches; you name it, they’ve done it for me. I can’t express the breath of fresh air this sense of community has been to me. At a time when I was feeling lost, out of touch, and like I didn’t belong, I began to feel grounded.
It’s tempting to think that my friends care for me so well solely because of who I am. I know that they do love me for who I am, but I am also deeply aware of the truth: the love in them is supernatural and unlike the kind we are able to give on our own. In this love, I see the reality of 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” To me, it’s such a clear glimpse of the Kingdom of God.
Relocated into Community
The Kingdom of God is defined as the dynamic rule and reign of Jesus Christ. When it’s present, it looks like people in right relationship with God, others, and the natural world. In humanity’s current state of corrupted relationship with God, we can see the Kingdom only in glimpses–pockets of redemption in a world of brokenness. My experience in relocation is a perfect example. Never would I have expected to encounter this richness of community on the South Side of Billings. I feel loved, like I belong, and it’s happening in the “worst” neighborhood in a town that I never wanted to live in.
Even in light of glimpses like this, we cannot ignore the fact that brokenness abounds on the South Side. Several of the houses around mine are drug houses. Many of my neighbors have lived on the South Side their whole lives and will probably never leave. They may be living in poverty or addiction or have loved ones who do, and there’s not much I can do about it. I can try to be a good neighbor and find ways to show them the love of Christ, but even that has been a significant challenge for me as I struggle to find the courage, energy, or willingness to step out of my comfort zone to build those relationships.
As I feel and see the needs of my neighbors, I understand there are challenges that can be alleviated through the work of CLDI. God can use us to show the South Side youth that they are valuable, which may change the entire trajectory of their lives. He can use us to help women recover from their addiction and restore the families that have been broken by it. He can use us to someday build a healthy, affordable grocery store on the South Side–something that I wouldn’t have realized was a need if I hadn’t been living here myself. These are all things we have been invited to step into as followers of Jesus. At the end of the day, though, there is a perpetual power opposing our efforts to see God’s Kingdom revealed in the community – sin. It is at the root of every broken thing that stands in contrast with the rightness of relationship that God intended. Sin will not be fully destroyed until Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven
Coming Soon – The Kingdom in Full Glory
I believed in the power of the kingdom before I moved to the South Side, but being surrounded by new kinds of suffering has opened my eyes to the need for Jesus to come soon. On the day that He returns, we will no longer see the kingdom in glimpses, but in full glory. Sin and brokenness will be destroyed and we will no longer have broken relationships, suffer oppression, or battle addiction. We cannot ever hope to fully defeat these things without Jesus.
Until the day of his return, we are called as disciples of Jesus Christ to be the hands and feet of God, doing all we can to make space in our communities for God to create pockets of redemption amidst brokenness. For me, that means living in my city’s low-income community and working to step into the tangible needs I see in the neighborhood. For you, it might mean sacrificing your time to serve refugees resettling in your city. It might mean getting to know your neighbor and learning how you can love them well. If you are a follower of Jesus, it definitely means being active in prayer for God to usher in His Kingdom.
Eyes Fixed Ahead
If you need inspiration for what to pray for, Amos 9:15 sheds some light on what God has planned for the fully realized Kingdom: “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them.”
This is the picture we should keep our eyes fixed on as we strive to do the work set before us. How will you respond to God’s invitation to be a part of His Kingdom work?