When Neighboring Loses Its Luster

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by Sarah Quezada, South Atlanta neighbor

This past Valentine’s Day, my husband greeted me in the morning, holding a sandwich of glue traps with a still squirming mouse caught inside. We’d been tracking this uninvited house guest (we named him Lester) since at least last summer. I’ve never been happier to see a dying mouse in my whole life.

But it also amused me that this discovery was made on Valentine’s and would turn out to be the only gift my husband had for me. After all, we’ve also been together eleven years now. It’s not that the romance fades exactly, but it changes. And our acts of love look a lot less like candy and flowers and a lot more like taking off work to sit with a sick kid so the other can make a meeting, packing lunches every morning, and spending countless evenings hunting a stubborn mouse who just won’t leave.

The honeymoon may have ended, but the love continues.

It may be a weird comparison, but I think the same is true in intentional neighboring or urban ministry. My husband and I bought our house and moved into South Atlanta eight years ago. We couldn’t wait to paint the walls, build a firepit, and invite our neighbors over for a potluck. It was engaging, exciting, and fun.

Then time passed. What do you mean no one will deliver pizza to this neighborhood? Why are school-aged students walking the streets during the school day? A kid sold us a stolen bicycle. A neighbor’s party kept me awake for hours two nights in a row.

Small annoyances, really, but they can wear on you sometimes. But other times there are more difficult circumstances like break-ins or gunfire. Pretty soon the idyllic visions of neighboring fade into the ins-and-out of daily life lived in close proximity to other people. People who may be different than you. People who may live differently than you. And the honeymoon of intentional neighboring soon comes to a close.

It’s then that we lean into Jesus’ example: “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” He came to live among us - not for a couple weeks or to complete a pre-planned mission - but to share those ins-and-outs of daily life. For years. He experienced all the indignities of being human, and he nurtured meaningful relationships in all circumstances.

Yes, sometimes living in a neglected neighborhood can be hard. Sometimes it’s tempting to imagine the ease and convenience of a far off location that’s not right in front of you. The grass is always greener, they say. But living in the neighborhood - similar to marriage - continues to teach me about commitment to solidarity and enjoying the joys.

I believe the Bible invites us to live in solidarity with those on the margins. We see Ruth and Naomi, walking together through loss, bitterness, and the unknown. We see David and Jonathan staying committed to each other in the face of death. Jesus suffers the lonely walk to the cross because of his love for humanity. When we face challenges in the community, we experience frustrations and sorrows together, as neighbors.

Our shared life means we can also celebrate the joys together. A new grocery store. A reduction in gunfire. Community events in the local park. A neighbor who brings over cookies to share with your kids… just because. It’s a joy to live these ins-and-outs of daily life together, even if sometimes we get too busy to recognize it.

I’m grateful for the eight years I’ve lived on my block. I’ve seen transformation in the community. I’ve watched neighbors’ lives change over time. I’ve witnessed playful boys becoming kind young men. It’s a joy to go the distance. The romance doesn’t fade exactly, but it does change.

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The Transformation of a Home

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by Cynthia McNeal

When housing is unreliable, it affects every aspect of a family’s life. Children may need to switch schools when an address changes or may take unexpected breaks from education while new housing is secured. Location, coupled with access to transportation (public or private), may cause a parent to miss work or need to find a new employer. Evictions and being on-the-move often means a family can maintain few possessions. And of course, the ever-present threat of homelessness is stressful and is felt from adults down to small children.

But the story does not have to end here. A quality, affordable place to call home can stabilize and support a family for their future.

We at FCS believe in this transformation. And it’s why we are so committed to mixed-income housing, which we believe is the foundation of a thriving neighborhood. One of the best parts of buying and renovating abandoned properties is seeing that restoration happen right before our eyes.

Here’s a peek at some of our before and after renovations!

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Every time I hand over a key to a new renter or new homeowner, I am excited about the possibilities this place can hold for a family. A stable living environment can boost a child’s school performance, positively impact family health and stress level, and create improved conditions for consistent employment. That’s a before and after transformation worth celebrating!

Note: To keep up with our properties for sale, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where we post up-to-date listings. We are currently at capacity for our rental properties, but you may call our office (404-627-4304) to be added to the wait list.

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What Can We Not Even See?

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by Shawn Duncan

We are thoughtful, thorough, and thinking people, are we not? We read the Bible and we scour the Scriptures, paying close attention to how God calls us to live in the world. We study Jesus’ example and explore practical ways we might follow his lead in our own day-to-day experiences.

This may not seem related, but I promise it is. Take a look at this short video because it blows me away every time I think about it.

Did it fool you? I would like to let you believe I noticed all the changes immediately as they happened because I have such keen awareness and sharp perceptions. But the reality is that all of us focus in on something, and that attention often means we’re missing something else.

The same is true when we read the Bible.

For years, I was tuned into the verses about sin and salvation, about beliefs and behavior, about worship and witnessing. But I failed to see - after years of preaching, after hours and hours of being taught - was perhaps the biggest, hairiest gorilla in all of Scripture - solidarity with the poor, justice for the marginalized, and sacrifice on behalf of the “other.”

In our Reimagining Charity Seminar, we unpack the unintentional consequences or sheer lack of results by our well-intentioned efforts. Often participants are shocked! It’s a natural reaction. Many of us are so used to paying attention to the details and the logistics and relationships, that we failed to noticed a gorilla walked through the middle of the room!

Our blind spots are one reason it’s so helpful to come together as a group and to invite and outside voice (and eye) who can facilitate conversations about gorillas and missing teammates and curtain colors. (Okay, we dive into much more ministry-specific practicalities as well!)

It’s a difficult shift to realize we may have missed something so obvious. But the sooner we can collaborate and reimagine our charity efforts, the quicker we can see meaningful results that make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Our Reimagine Charity Seminar is a distillation of 40 years of on-the-ground, hard-won wisdom. We would love to come and share with your church or organization! For more details, reach out to our team today! (Contact: pearilya@fcsministries.org)

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