It’s quiet around here – too quiet. Three nights a week I run in a nearby neighborhood (just feels a little safer) and in years past I would lament at how much quiet-er and “normal” it seemed from Glenwood. But last night I noticed that my street was equally quiet as this other place, and that was strange. Glenwood is very quiet lately – few police sirens (I don’t even see them quietly patrolling as much), fewer cars with loud bass, fewer people walking by our house yelling and cursing.
As I have seen this place change, it makes me wonder about the Benbow’s future here. I think that I have moved forward a great deal in not placing my personal identity in urban ministry (see Saying Bye to 'Urban Guy') but from a vocational standpoint, I am kind of tied to living among the poor for part of my urban job. One of the ways that GUPY students learn is from the opportunity to see and apply Biblical truths about loving the poor in the place where they live. As the poor move to other parts of the city and landlords buy up properties and rent them to more UNCG-related people, the GUPY experience begins to lose some of its relevance.
As I think about this, thoughts of moving to another poor neighborhood surface, and when they come, I just think that there is no way that I can do that again. Our first year or two here was so hard, scary, and lonely that I wonder if I could go to a new place and face those fears and discomforts all over again. But can I host something like GUPY in a place like Glenwood? Certainly there could be some creative solution, but I don’t see it.
Also as I think about moving and possibly replicating our strategy of reaching children via a tutoring program, I don’t know how that would work either. We have close to 50 kids who could potentially be coming to tutoring next week, and close to ½ of those live more than a mile outside my neighborhood (which is not far, but they are not right around the corner, either). When kids move away from Glenwood, we keep up with them, and continue to bring them to tutoring. So relocating to a new area with new kids would add to the 40-plus kids we are already serving right now.
In short, I am very confused. Diane and I have a dream of having a house near our home for college students to live in year-round, loving our neighbors with us. There is a possibility here in Glenwood, but should we pursue it? Is this neighborhood the place for that dream or is it somewhere else? If we moved somewhere else, would other members of our church go with us from the start this time so that we don’t feel so lonely and isolated for the first year?
Prayers for clarity, patience, and hearing from the Lord, along with a heart to obey despite my own fears and dreams, would be much appreciated.