“Where are you going to be living?”
Having just returned from 3 years of living in Americaland, this is one of the more regular questions we have been faced with, after ‘So how long are you here for?’ and ‘What are you going to be doing?’ or ‘So what church are you going to?’ [as if you could 'go to a church', but that's another series of blogs]
And the ‘Where are you going to be living?’ question is a big one for us.
When we moved to Americaland in 2011 to work with ‘The Simple Way,’ we moved into a neighborhood called Kensington [the irony, as i grew up in a place called Kensington in Johannesburg in South Africa so in one way it was like returning home] which was a lower economy area than we are used to, with rowhouses so people living right on top of each other with a lot of life [both positive and negative] happening on the street in each others spaces and a real sense of community in different ways.
Kensington was a more violent area than i had ever lived in, but at the same time i, for the most part, felt safer than i had felt sometimes in South Africa as the violence was always intentional [so you pissed off this drug dealer or your family was fighting this family] and so that was an interesting dynamic to have going around us.
On the other hand, it was so great walking into 15 years of intentional relationship as the people we were working with had been there for so long and so there was a definite sense of trust that had been built up with many of the local residents.
Val and i both loved Philly and we also both enjoyed our time in Kensington in many ways. Definitely lots of stares and question marks when we were in the city and people asked where we were living in the Why-Would-Anyone-Choose-To-Live-There frame of reference. But met a lot of lovely people and some amazing children and were glad to be a part of their lives for the time we had.
When we moved to Oakland [San Francisco] to help oversee the transition of Relational Tithe into the non-profit that Val continues to work for known as Common Change, we also moved into a lower economy area, but one that was quite different to Kensington. We lived in 61st Avenue and i would say it was closer to 80th to 100th avenues where it got a lot more violent and crime ridden. Although we did have our almost nightly game of Identify-The-Loud-Bang with me tending towards “Firework” and Val usually going for “Gunshot” and i’m sure both of us being wrong on multiple occasions.
We lived in a four apartment complex surrounded mostly by houses [with gardens and fences] and one very charismatic pentecostal church service right next to us which served as Val’s alarm clock on a Sunday morning [and not in a good way!]. Most of the people living around us were Hispanic, so while we had friendly neighbourly greeting type relationship with some of them, it was a lot more difficult to have conversations and enter into more meaningful conversation. We knew and loved our neighbour Will from downstairs and his two adorable children, as well as the boyfriends of the other women who lived in our complex. Had we lived there longer, we would have definitely made an effort to learn Spanish so that we could have better connection with the people living around us. And for 6 months we had a really great couple living with us, and shared community in that way.
One incredible way Val connected with our neighbours was through flowers. She transformed the dry dirt patch beneath our apartment into a flower bed and added some barrels and drawers and pots with various plants in them to add some much needed life and colour to the complex. Also she wrote letters to the owners of the five most well looked after gardens that we passed on our cycle to work to thank them for the beauty they had created.
SOUTH AFRICA, CAPE TOWN, ???
And now we’re back and ready for a new season and exciting journey. And we are looking to be intentional about where we land. We want the place we choose to stay in be a more conscious decision than simply one we can afford or one we like or even simply where a place was available.
We are thinking lower income and definitely with a strong sense of diversity. Hopefully a place where people we know are already doing something or involved in some kind of intentional living into the community. And when i put a call out on Facebook the other day, we were given a long list of options, some that we are strongly considering. Places like Obs and Lower Woodstock and Manenberg. Also Muizenberg and Salt River are on that list. Places like Constantia, Meadowridge and Tokai are not so much.
What about you?? Are you living in the place you are living for any specific intentional reason? Or was it just because a place opened up in that area in the time that you needed it.
i am NOT suggesting for a minute that we are better cos we are choosing intentionally and you aren’t because you didn’t. What i am hoping to get some more people thinking about is the idea of choosing to move into an area for a specific reason [and many people do for a variety of different reasons] as opposed to simply moving somewhere because there is an opening. So the next time you move house/apartment what questions might you be asking?
i was probably 33 before i made my first location move for intentional reasons, when i moved into Kayamandi [aka 'The K'] just outside Stellenbosch, eighteen months before tbV and i got married. Just because i had never even thought of doing that before. Up til then it was let me find a place that works for me and go there.
Now that i have met some other people who have made intentional decisions like this – the Viviers who i stayed with at first when i moved into the K, Nigel Branken and his family who moved into Hillbrow [who you can read some more about here] and Pete and Sarah Portal [whose story is going to be shared tomorrow] – i can see just how powerful the decision can be.
i believe that as a Christ follower, my decisions in life need to be more intentional. Not that God will necessary lead me into every decision i make [sometimes there are five good areas i could be living in and He just wants me to pick one and live well there] but i believe it is important to include Him in the decision making and say the prayer, ‘God if there is a specific place you want me to live, please let me know.’
WHAT ABOUT ME?
What DOES this mean for you?
Really about Living With Intents [or for some of you i guess it could literally end up as Living Within Tents?]
For some of you who might be about to move to a different place, hopefully this will cause you to think a little more intentionally. Choose to live in an area for some reason and not simply because it was the one available to you or more cheap or less dangerous. Ask the question and see if God might want to lead you to a specific area, because He has a plan for you in that place.
For some of you it may even mean right now deciding that you need to make a move in the next three months or something like that.
For others it could mean simply looking around where you already live and seeing if there is some aspect of your community God wants you to be more intentional about. Have you met your neighbours? Have you had them around for a meal? What about that old lady that stays by herself – is it possible she has a room that needs painting or a lawn that could use a mow. Is there a family who could seriously use an anonymous envelope with some cash in it inviting them to go on a date night? Could it be getting involved in the local neighbourhood watch? Or writing a letter to the owners of the fife best gardens that make you happy and thanking them for the work and effort they put into them?
And a hundred other possibilities.
This is not something that is only for Christ followers so if you don’t believe in God i think it is still helpful and great if you are intentional in where you live, but for those who are it should really be a part of our DNA – living intentionally. Inviting God to direct and lead. Asking Him for inspiration. Loving our neighbours as we love ourselves.
I would love to hear from you in the comments section. Why do you live where you live?
as a p.s. i guess the decision is made somewhat easier as wherever we live in Cape Town, we are likely to have some kind of a view of this beauty: