Asking the Right Questions

by Pamela Stringfield on


What questions should we be asking to partner with God’s heart here as we work towards an equitable mixed-income community?

It’s an admittedly “meta” question that often rolls around in my mind. Many times over my past five months working with FCS as the Neighborhood Engagement Coordinator, I ask God for patience and apologize for my default arrogance. Instead of sauntering into the building, declaring “I’m here!” triumphantly, I try to turn to God, recognize His work, and instead ask “what’s my piece?” At FCS, we want to see more of God’s kingdom, more celebration of our neighbors and what they have to offer, more recognition of the pride and dignity of South Atlanta’s residents.

But that work, which goes beyond managing problems and brokenness and addressing root issues, takes a long time. It’s hard to wait sometimes, and I’m super impatient. When my husband and I moved back into the city from the suburbs, we were responding to our church’s exhortation to say “I’m moving in, and I’m trusting the Lord to show me how to be a good neighbor.” They taught us that in order to be a true change agent, the issues we seek to address in a neighborhood need to affect us, to be our issues, too. If I hear that someone I’m serving has recently experienced a break-in, I react much differently than I would if my neighbor’s house gets broken into. It’s closer; it touches my life directly.

My own family benefited from people who moved into the neighborhood, who didn’t only drive in to see us, but who knew us, had seen our house, and knew about our lives. Still, it’s hard some days to resist the illusion that coming in with money, with more leverage, and saying “we’re going to fix that” wouldn’t be more expedient.

I’ve noticed the best antidote for this antsiness has been to ask God to share His heart with me. “What do you see, God,” I ask, “what is your heart here?” From there, I look for the answer around me, and in the people I meet. Turning to neighbors, to community partners, and asking what they’re good at, saying “I want to be a student” and satisfying myself with quiet friendship. Even in this awareness of God’s long, committed, work, it can still be hard to sit in the timeline. Sometimes, God decides to share the pieces of injustice and hardship that still exist in our neighbors’ lives, and the way those wrongs break His heart. And to be honest, it can hurt a lot when I let myself really feel it.

But we can’t be aloof. Rather, all I can do is walk into work each day and ask again, “what is your heart, and what is my piece?” and seek to follow the answer.


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