A freshly painted white picket fence lined with flowers dressed in red, yellow, purple, and orange hats surrounds a quiet little cottage with green shutters. Apple trees decorate the landscape and provide delicious fresh fruit while a little gate swings happily back and forth as little children come running in and out during their giddy adventures. Next door, the neighbors give a friendly wave from their porch as they rock contentedly in their chairs. Mowing the thick healthy grass is a handsome man with a smile towards his playing children. From a window seat a cheerful mothers sits, her eyes full of wonder at all the beauty around her.
If a five-year-old could describe her visions this was mine, basically a scene from Anne of Green Gables. Also, at this age, my mother read to my sister and me the biography of Amy Carmichael. Her sacrifice of beautiful things and her courage made me think twice about my ambitions. Apparently, I quit talking about my dream house after we finished that book. God had given me a new vision: a one room grass hut with a dirt floor located in the middle of Africa. Oh, I also claimed that I was going to be single for my whole life, like Amy Carmichael. Thank goodness I wasn’t held to my childish word! The part about having a handsome man came true.
After marrying Daniel, we moved to Columbia, SC for medical school. Through our relationship God is once again reshaping my vision to look more like His own. While we lived in Columbia, we were blessed with a beautiful one room apartment. (No, there was no dirt floor and Columbia is no where near Africa.) Though it was small in terms of space, I loved it there. It wasn’t just the beauty of the house; it was the neighborhood. We were surrounded with magazine-worthy gardens and streets. It was a runner’s dream neighborhood. Daniel and I had a habit of taking evening walks together. It’s something we looked forward to at the end of the day because of the gorgeous scenery and fresh scents. And we weren’t the only ones, so many others enjoyed running and walking in that neighborhood that the sidewalks were always occupied. It really allowed me the security to go out running whenever I pleased.
Replacing my dream of a one room hut with a dirt floor is the vision of an inner-city ministry, calling us to live in a setting that . . . well, to be honest, scares me. Daniel and I want to use medicine to introduce the gospel of grace to the underprivileged and physically and financially hurting population, usually found in the inner city. We don’t want to simply minister there, we want to live there. We believe that living among those we are seeking to reach is the most effective strategy of ministry, whether that’s an urban, rural, or suburban setting. I mean, that’s what Amy Carmichael and countless other missionaries have done. They went and lived with the people God had called them to love. They didn’t just send money or resources.
Considering these things causes me to re-evaluate my concept of security. Do I have to have a top rated home security system, a neighborhood crime watch, a guard dog, and be surrounded by pleasant, friendly neighbors to feel secure? Is my security based on my surroundings or based on a God that has promised that He will never leave me or forsake me? (That’s not to say that putting security measures in place is wrong. I just want to make sure that I don’t depend on them to feel secure.)
So when Daniel and I moved to Greenville we specifically sought out a place to live that would help us grow in understanding true security and how to serve in the kind of environment God had called us to. It’s something I’ve really wrestled with because my biggest struggle is fear. Though we’re really not living in a true inner-city context, it is outside of my comfort zone. I’m glad for this chance to grow in trusting God to do what’s best for me.
It’s hard for people to understand why we’re doing this, and we’ve gotten a lot of questions. One thing we’ve really tried to emphasize is that this is God’s calling for us, not our own. Another thing we’re learning is that security is a mindset, not a physical surrounding. This idea became extremely clear to us during the last couple weeks we were living in Columbia. I had been out at the laundry mat and was coming home one afternoon to find that my route had been blocked off. There were a number of police cars and emergency vehicles. When I got home Daniel was reading a news article. I mentioned the road block, and he just handed me the computer and said, “Read this.” I expected the story to be about a domestic fire or something, but as I read, I realized the sad truth, there had a been a shooting just two streets from our house. On one of the prettiest and most peaceful streets in our neighborhood a young man had open fired on police officers and was shot. You can read the full story here. On another occasion we came home to find our neighbor across the street standing in his yard with a pistol in hand. When asked why he had the gun with him, he said that someone had just tried to break in next door. Earlier that month someone had their car broken into on our street.
The point? Where you live doesn’t determine your safety. My aunt and uncle live in Mongolia, 30 hours from the nearest hospital. That isn’t “safe” in human terms, but that’s where God has called them. Yes, “bad” things may happen, but whatever does happen, is in God’s control and part of His good plan. A nearly fatal accident suffered by my cousin in Mongolia was cause for many to question whether Trina and Mickey should reconsider their location. Yet, they are confident that they live right where God wants them to live.
The gospel calls us to make sacrifices. The gospel calls me to sacrifice my earthly sense of security for the sake of the kingdom. Through the sacrifice I’m gaining so much more. God is teaching me to see that my security should be found in Him alone and not in my surroundings. This calling is a good gift from my Father, and I am thrilled to pursue it.