last night we went to ivanoe.

many of the buildings along the side of the road were all boarded up. what once used to be a street of thriving business is now hollow. vacant and empty. there are streets that give me chills. and yet there are a few streets that feel peaceful.

we pass many streets. we pull up to 37th and woodland. gardens surround an old building that has been turned into a community center.

there is a children’s playground that sits next to the community center. together the community center, the gardens, the playground feels like a breath of fresh air.

it feels like a lighthouse.

emri immediately wanted to go to the playground. the middle class suburban girl in me was hesitant about that. i pictured a dramatic drive by shooting at the playground where she was swinging… i told her she needed to wait. as soon as i thought it i realized how ignorant i must be. uneducated about the environment that i’m in. totally unaware. full of stereotypes. i’m already judging and i just got here.

the gardens are bursting. the harvest has grown like weeds and so much of it is rotting on the vine because there hasn’t been enough help.

we begin picking peppers, tomatoes, and collard greens. there are three people who live in the neighborhood who are helping as well.

i met a woman who has lived in ivahoe for 32 years and has given her time to serving this community center as longs as its been here.

she is the sweetest.

she shares her story.

and here i am the next morning, and i can’t stop thinking about her.

i can’t stop thinking about ivanhoe.

i can’t stop thinking about the people we met. the little boys who came up to ben who did everything they saw ben doing. i can’t stop thinking about charlese. the other woman we met who told us that kids from all over the neighborhood come to this community center. and how none of them really know what a marriage even looks like. most of them come from single parent homes. i can’t stop thinking about how she told us before we left,

“if God is telling you guys to come down here and help us. don’t let satan keep you. he’s tricky, you know.”

i think we are just trying to be in the places that Jesus might be if he were here. and he is here. in us. and i think its him in me that is consuming my heart with this neighborhood. . .in fact, he’s already there. he’s the one who compelled a family ten years ago to begin prayer walking in the neighborhood. he’s the one that shut down ten drug houses on one street the first year this family started to pray. he’s the one that moved people together to start this community center. this play ground. this garden. he’s been there before us all. and he’s not just in ivanhoe. he’s everywhere. inviting us to join him somewhere. somewhere or someone that needs healing. something that’s broken that needs to be made right.

i have the dream of having a large house one day. for no other reason than to bring people in. i want to have a dining room table that can sit a heck of a lot of people.

and i guess dreams like this get tucked away somewhere and lost if we don’t take the next small step.

well here we are. taking the next small step. today ivanhoe is having a sweet potato pie tasting at their farmers market tonight. and you can be sure that we are going to be there. samuel and emri in tow.


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