This line from "The Little Prince" has stuck with me for years, and I feel its truth today. I was at the tax office to look up vacant and condemned properties here in Glenwood. My church hopes to buy one to rent out cheaply to families that we are assisting long-term, and I hope to one day have a house where college students live for the entire school year in order to do ministry among the poor. But the Lord arranged a providencial meeting with a Sister in Christ that I've never met before (I could explain how much it was a God-thing, but that would take too much time), and as she began to help me look for houses on the tax maps, she asked why I was looking for them. As I explained, she looked worried, and she said, "You know UNCG is going to be taking over your neighborhood in the next year or so." No, actually, I did not know that. The land-locked university is busting at the seams for space, especially in regard to student housing and parking, and so developers are capitalizing on this by deciding to take over my part of Glenwood, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from campus. She went on to say that our streets would be rezoned commercial, and houses would be bought at prices that owners could/would not refuse, the houses torn down, and apartments built. The renters of these properties would receive 90 days notice and possibly some relocation help (required by NC Law, but if few of them know that these laws exist, few would exercise their rights).
As I thought about our beautiful house being bought and turned into kindling just shy of its 100th birthday, after all our work and love, I was so sad. As I thought about our friends who don't own their homes here and their probable forced relocation, I was so angry. Money talks and people who don't have it walk.
I figured that Diane and the girls and I would have to move from Silver Avenue in the next 5-10 years due to UNCG expansion, but I did not anticipate the speed with which this may happen.
Questions abound: What does it mean to "do justice" in this situation? Do we need to alert the neighbors? Is there any hope of fighting this? How can we be advocates for our poor neighbors and making sure they receive their rights and protections? What are the implications for our church, which has set its sights on Glenwood as its missions field? Where will we need to move to live out our calling to the poor? Answers will come in time.
But I do have a peace and a confidence that the steady and secure hand of God is part of this whole drama. He has prepared me and my family and our church for great things, and He is leading us to a new chapter. But Glenwood has tamed me, and I will weep to see it changed.