I live and work in Kankakee, Illinois, about 60 miles south of Chicago. It’s a small city of about 25,000 with a mini-metropolitan area (two other towns, Bradley and Bourbonnais, that seem analogous to suburbs). When my fiancée Bethany and I get married in May, we intend to live intentionally a poor neighborhood, engage in both evangelism and service to our neighbors, and participate with (not dominate) our neighbors in changing the neighborhood for the better. I realize that this may sound abstract, but for a more systematic explanation of what we are talking about, you can see the Christian Community Development Association website.
When Bethany and I were on the Justice Journey this past summer, which took white and black Christians from the Chicago area to significant spots in the history of the civil rights movement, we felt encouraged to pursue this course of action. We actually got to talk to the “founding father” of the Christian Community Development Association, John Perkins. Perkins is an old-time gospel preacher who also has done a lot of thinking and working on community development. When we told him our idea, he immediately warmed to it, telling us we needed to get a three-bedroom house with a large living room so that we can host our neighbors and other guests for Bible studies and other things. He also said we should put down a concrete slab for a basketball hoop for children in the neighborhood, and that when choosing a place to live we might want to look for a place near the unspoken boundary that can separate the black and white communities. We were thrilled that he was taking us seriously! (more…)